Rent increase on hold at Pioneer Cottages

Senior residents at Pioneer Cottages have a temporary reprieve until final decisions are made on an impending rental increase.

Senior residents at Pioneer Cottages have a temporary reprieve until final decisions are made on an impending rental increase.

In early October, tenants of the cottages were advised of taxes owed to the city beginning July 2016 in the amount of nearly $40,000.

Prior to this year, the property had been statutorily exempt since its construction and replacement of the older cottages in 2010.

At that time, BC Assessment did not remove the statutory exemption classification and the error was not discovered until 2015, which hit the Alberni Valley Senior Citizens Homes Society with the unexpected bill.

In an effort to efficiently raise the money, the Society gave tenants notice of a $100 rent increase effective January 1, 2016.

Tenants were invited to discuss the controversial request prior to the Society’s board meeting on Dec. 21. The invitation came from former Society president, Ernie Bigelow after they expressed concerns about the increase.

At noon on Dec. 21, Bigelow announced his retirement from his longtime position and was not present the meeting.

Patty Edwards, on behalf of MLA Scott Fraser, has been acting as mediator between the Board and its decisions and the residents of the cottages.

“(The Board) is feeling broadsided because they have a good history of providing good housing for seniors and out of nowhere get this bill that they never knew they would get,” Edwards said.

Edwards encouraged both sides to go through the proper process of the Residential Tenancy Act, which includes serving notice on legal forms, giving three months notice and implementing an increase of no more than 2.9 per cent.

The landlord can also file an Application for Additional Rent Increase.

“It was a wild meeting,” said resident Glad Doyle. “But they conceded they will do everything according to the Residential Tenancy Act.”

Doyle continued to question the use of the contingency fund.

“Now, this is an emergency to pay the taxes,” she said. “I also suggest (the Board) go over the expenses and see where they can cut down.”

The Board explained that the fund is set aside for upkeep and a priority in the near future is to replace the elevator in Pioneer Towers.

Following the meeting, a schedule was offered to allow residents to meet on an individual basis until Thursday, Dec. 24 to discuss any concerns.

Edwards said some feel intimidated by the entire process.

“Some of them had their adult children with them and are feeling very terrified,” she said. “

Edwards said the residents are not obligated to meet by themselves and she will still accompany anyone who wants her to when they hand in their rent next week.

“Most are planning to bring three post-dated cheques for the recommended amount,” Edwards said. If a rent increase is implemented, it will not be until April 2016.