More than 30 tenants in Prince Rupert face evictions during a housing crisis

More than 30 tenants of two apartment complexes in Prince Rupert, B.C. are being told they have until the end of April to move out.

First Nations elders in one apartment agreed their building needs repairs – but there is no place for them to go while they’re being made.

“It’s a tough world to live in, you’re OK, and all of a sudden, you have to find a place, you know, it’s tough,” said Ronald Shaw, a Tsimshian elder and survivor of Kitkatla Indian Day school. He said he’s lived with his wife in an apartment complex on 6th avenue in Prince Rupert for 20 years.

He said his wife is in an electric wheelchair, and it is vital that they are close to the hospital.

In December, they got a phone call from the new owner of their building informing them they were being evicted.

Deborah, who didn’t want her last name used, said apartments in Prince Rupert range between $ 1,500 to $2,500 – unaffordable for a senior.

“It’s impossible for an elder on their income to get a rental here, it’s totally impossible. There is no way, there’s no way, ” she said.

Evictions in Prince Rupert
Sheila and her sister Deborah say they’re having trouble finding rent they can afford in Prince Rupert. Photo: Lee Wilson/APTN

In 2021, the province of B.C. passed legislation to stop illegal “renovictions.” The province required landlords to prove the repairs would need extensive work or vacant property with the residential tenancy branch.

It was to stop bad-faith actors from ending tenancy agreements for minor repairs and increasing rent.

Another apartment complex, Harbour View Apartments, is undergoing renovations in one section. Twelve tenants are also facing evictions.

Since December, Prince Rupert Unemployment Action Centre, a legal advocacy organization, said it’s been working on more than 30 eviction cases.

Correct process followed, says legal advocate

Paul Lagace, a legal advocate working with the tenants, said landlords in both of those apartment complexes have gone through the correct process with the residential tenancy branch, but the buildings need repairs.

He sees positive changes in the provincial government around housing but believes more can be done.

“The branch and the act is moving forward with the current government, but I think there needs to be a little more; we need some stop gaps in place,” he said.

Lagace said the landlords also agreed to compensate the tenants between $2,000 to $4,000 which was not required.

No affordable alternative

The evicted tenants are still in a problematic situation – Prince Rupert has no affordable rentals.

John Wilson, a retiree who has lived in the 6th avenue apartments for eight years, explained how difficult it has been to find a new place.

“I have been looking since the building went up for sale, that’s over a year ago, and there has been nothing,”  (space) he said.

“I phone real estate people, Tinker Reality, and she has nothing, I have got friends that are looking for me, and there is nothing and if there is something, I can’t afford it by myself. “

In an emailed statement to APTN News, the Ministry of Housing said they empathize with tenants in Prince Rupert and across the province during the housing crisis.

“To help address the housing needs of the Prince Rupert community, BC Housing is working closely with its partners to bring new affordable rental [townhouses] and apartments through the Harbour View Gardens redevelopment, “ the statement said.

The ministry added that the Harbour View repairs would lead to new affordable housing in the city.

“The redevelopment aims to replace older housing stock with newer housing units that are up to modern standards of accessibility, sustainability and building best practices,” the ministry said.

Evictions in Prince Rupert
‘They should start right now instead before evicting people first, build a place and ask people to move in, it would be way calmer,’ says Elder Ronald Shaw. Photo: Lee Wilson/APTN

When asked, the province didn’t answer the question about where these tenants are supposed to go while their apartments are being renovated.

But according to BC Housing,  Harbour View Gardens will create 192 new affordable homes, and they are partnering with the Prince Rupert Indigenous Housing Society (PRIHS) to build 20 family-oriented housing units on a separate lot on the same site.

Construction of the complex is scheduled now to 2024.

Shaw wishes affordable housing was in place before they faced these evictions.

“They should start right now instead before evicting people first, build a place and ask people to move in, it would be way calmer,” he said. “We wouldn’t have to feel sad, we hurt or anything. We would just pack up and move.”

Shaw said staff at Prince Rupert Unemployment Action Centre are working to find a place in a senior care home in the city.

“Help us fill in papers to get a place at Sunset Villa. That is the only suitable place for us somewhere here in town,” said Shaw.

The evicted tenants in Prince Rupert all want the same thing, an affordable and safe home to move to.

Deborah wishes there was housing in place as well to handle situations like emergency repairs or renovictions.

“A safe apartment, a safe building complex to be available for a situation like this because it happens,” she said.