‘We’re ruined by this’: B.C. tenants forced to leave closing trailer park

With vacancy low and affordable housing hard to come by tenants have nowhere to go

Ken Kushner and Verna Myers. This photo was taken while Kushner lived in Moberly Manor. Soon after Kushner suffered a series of falls and is currently in the acute care wing of the Revelstoke hospital. Kushner has lived in the trailer park since 1994. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Ken Kushner and Verna Myers. This photo was taken while Kushner lived in Moberly Manor. Soon after Kushner suffered a series of falls and is currently in the acute care wing of the Revelstoke hospital. Kushner has lived in the trailer park since 1994. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

In a trailer near the end of the lane, a 71-year old Verna Myers thumbs through a towering stack of paperwork. Her eyes have difficulty reading the fine print. She hasn’t slept for days and is sick with worry.

She’s about to lose her home.

“When the ski resort was announced, everyone went land crazy. We’re at the bottom of the mountain and all they saw were dollar signs,” says Myers, a long-time Revelstoke resident.

Myers says some of the previous landlords who have owned the trailer park at 1679 Arrow Drive called Crescent Heights Mobile Home Park in Revelstoke, B.C. have also tried to close it –so many times she’s lost count. However, last year the current landlord “won”. Myers and five other tenants must leave the park by May 31, 2019.

The trailer park is owned by numbered company 0545094 BC Ltd.

Myers’ back garden. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

The sole director of the company is Garry Gregg, a local developer. Gregg has numerous developments in Revelstoke, such as the Rivendell Townhomes on Centre Street and sub-divided land in Arrow Heights for laneway homes.

READ MORE: Revelstoke council approves sub-division with laneway homes

There are 15 sites in the trailer park, but six are vacant. The landlord claims the park loses up to $24,000 per year. Its infrastructure is old and failing.

Gregg has consistently declined to speak to Black Press. His wife, Dorothy Gregg says the documents from a B.C. Residential Tenancy Branch hearing last summer speak for themselves.

Gregg has referred Black Press to a Daniel Jackson, someone Gregg claims to be a spokesperson for the company.

However, Jackson has the same phone number the tenants use to reach Gregg, and when contacted by Black Press, the individual answering identifies himself as Jackson. The tenants have never heard of Jackson, even though Jackson insists that they have. The tenants also identified a recording of Jackson’s voice as Gregg.

Rivendell Townhomes, another Gregg development in Revelstoke. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

When Black Press knocked on the Gregg’s door and spoke with his wife, Dorothy Gregg, more verification was requested on Jackson.

“Who is Daniel Jackson?” asked Dorothy Gregg.

“Garry has responded to you by phone,” she added.

The Review then played a recording of Jackson’s voice. Dorothy Gregg said she recognized the voice and knows a Jackson, but won’t say if the two are connected.

Jackson told Black Press that,“We want to turn it [the park] to bare ground. We currently have no plans for it.”

“Nothing lasts forever. If you live in a spot where you don’t own the land, then you’re at the mercy of the landlord.”

Last summer, six tenants disputed the end of tenancy agreement and took the case to an arbitrator at the B.C. Residential Tenancy Branch in hopes of keeping their homes. However, the tenants lost. According to B.C. Tenancy documents, the park will close in two phases, with everyone leaving within a year or two.

Myers says her life is in boxes as she sorts through belongings and gets ready to leave. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

The landlord served the end of tenancy notice to Myers weeks before new legislation came into effect last year that would have required the landlord to pay a minimum of $20,000 to each tenant, plus provide 12-months free pad rent, and the tenants may have been eligible for more compensation on top of that.

READ MORE: Horgan proposes changes to protect residents of B.C. trailer parks

Instead, the landlord is providing cash equivalent of 24-months pad rent, which is 12-months more than previously required under old legislation. Myers pad rent is $245.00 per month, so in total she will receive $5,880.

According to B.C. Residential Tenancy documents, the tenants are required to remove their trailers, however the Active Manufactured Home Owners Association (AMHOA), says moving trailers can cost up to $50,000. AMHOA is a province-wide association that promotes and supports ongoing partnerships between federal, local governments, tenants and landowners of B.C.’s mobile home parks. According to their website, since 1971 they have worked towards keeping “housing on rented land” as an affordable housing option.

Myers says she may be forced to leave her trailer behind. She will be getting nearly $6,000 in compensation from the landlord but 2018 B.C. Assessments valued the trailer at just under $23,000.

The B.C. Residential Tenancy Branch says if the tenants leave trailers behind, they can become the property of the landowner.

“The landlords have the upper hand and they are abusing it,” says Joyce Kline, spokesperson for AMHOA.

Trailer parks across the province are closing. Since 2010, AMHOA says roughly 3,700 people have lost their homes.

Myers’ home companion. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

“The reason people don’t know much about this is because our people are afraid. We haven’t spoken out because the directors didn’t want to affect the sales of existing homes,” says Kline. “But we have to tell people what’s going on. It’s so terrible.”

The Manufactured Home Owners Alliance of B.C., which represents trailer park owners, says trailer parks can disappear when land values increase.

In the last five years, according to Royal LePage in Revelstoke, a quarter-acre empty lot in Arrow Heights has increased roughly from $125,000 to $200,000. Apart from the financial crisis in 2008, ever since the Revelstoke Mountain Resort opened in 2007, homes and land have increased in value.

“Trailer parks are being replaced with higher density developments,” says Terry Barton, urban planning manager with the City of Kelowna. He says trailer parks are disappearing from Kelowna as well.

Destitute and homeless

“Our trailer is our nest egg. It’s our only asset. We’re ruined by this,” says Angelina Desgagnes known locally as Rainbow. She and her husband, John Todds are tenants in the doomed trailer park.

The couple say the cost of living in Revelstoke is too high and having a trailer made it possible.

Angelina Desgagnes and John Todds. The couple say their trailer is their only asset and they have nowhere to go. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Todds owns Revelstoke Wall Finishers, which has worked on multiple projects in the city, such La Baguette and the public pool.

“There’s barely a street you can drive down in Revelstoke without seeing my work,” says Todds.

What angers the couple is that not only will they lose their home, but the government is powerless.

“Someone’s ripping it all away. And that an agency [B.C. Residential Tenancy] lets them, that’s even worse,” says Todds.

Even if the couple find another home in Revelstoke, they don’t know if they’ll stay.

“I don’t know if I want to see what our homes will be turned into,” says Desgagnes.

Myers on the other hand says she hopes to stay in Revelstoke with her husband.

In lighter times and better health, Kushner would sit in this chair and relax after a long day. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Her husband, Ken Kushner is in the acute wing of the hospital in Revelstoke. In 2007, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. When a space opens, he will be transferred to Mount Cartier Court, a long-term care for individuals with complex health needs.

Kushner has lived in the trailer park since 1994. He worked for Canadian Pacific Railway for 42 years and was president of the local flying club.

“I can’t leave town or I’ll never see him again. For 71 years I’ve known the man. I just can’t,” says Myers quietly. Tears stream down her face.

Nowhere to go

Even if Myers could afford to move her trailer, there’s nowhere to go.

“There hasn’t been a vacancy in Revelstoke for years. All the trailer parks are full,” says Conrad Cumming, owner of multiple trailer parks in Revelstoke.

Myers hopes to get accommodation at Mount Begbie Manor. In a previous story the Black Press was told the waiting list can be up to two years.

READ MORE: Seeking shelter: Revelstoke mother can’t afford to stay and can’t afford to leave

According to the City there are 353 mobile homes and 16 mobile home parks in Revelstoke. Roughly nine per cent of residents in Revelstoke live in trailers.

“Housing is a critical issue in Revelstoke, bordering on crisis,” says Daniel Sturgeon, city planner for Revelstoke.

The Revelstoke Community Housing Society says the vacancy rate in the City is hovering just above zero.

“Existing mobile homes are a valuable form of affordable housing,” says Sturgeon.

READ MORE: Seeking shelter: Landlord takes over living area in rental whenever visiting town

However, the city provides little protection for trailer parks being rezoned for other developments.

There is a city policy that says council intends to place high importance on the impact rezoning will have on affordable housing within Revelstoke and the displacement of current tenants.

“Unfortunately, with policy documents there is no requirement for the directives to be followed,” says Sturgeon.

The inside of Myers’ trailer is filled with a life time of memories. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

The landlord for the trailer park at 1679 Arrow Drive has not applied to have the property rezoned. The City of Revelstoke would not comment on whether the property would be easier to redevelop once all the tenants leave. It’s up to city council to approve applications for rezoning.

According to B.C. Residential Tenancy documents, the landlord of the trailer park claims the City of Revelstoke would like all trailer parks to close.

However, Michael Brooks-Hill, new councillor for the City of Revelstoke disagrees.

“This is not something we would like to see happen.”

Jill Zacharias, Social Development Coordinator for the city says the landlord’s decision to displace the tenants “is highly insensitive.”

“Allowing this sort of thing to happen tears communities apart.”

Zacharias says the city desperately needs a new housing strategy as the last one hasn’t been updated since 2006.

Sturgeon says the city hopes to have one sometime this year.

Revelstoke’s Future

Behind a clump of trees near Myers’ trailer is one of Revelstoke’s latest developments. Phase 1 of Mackenzie Village was completed last January. According to city data roughly 65 per cent of the units are owned by out-of-towners. Beside the development there’s an empty lot with large signs announcing, “Phase 2”. There are 12 phases planned in total.

Meanwhile, beyond the village there’s a faint rumble. Cars speed past with skis and snowboards strapped to their roofs, heading towards the mountain. The mountain that towers over Revelstoke.


 

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One of Gregg’s subdivisions for laneway housing on the intersection of Airport Way and Nichol road. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

One of Gregg’s subdivisions for laneway housing on the intersection of Airport Way and Nichol road. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Rivendell Townhomes, another Gregg development in Revelstoke. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Rivendell Townhomes, another Gregg development in Revelstoke. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Ken Kushner and Verna Myers. This photo was taken while Kushner lived in Moberly Manor. Soon after Kushner suffered a series of falls and is currently in the acute care wing of the Revelstoke hospital. Kushner has lived in the trailer park since 1994. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Ken Kushner and Verna Myers. This photo was taken while Kushner lived in Moberly Manor. Soon after Kushner suffered a series of falls and is currently in the acute care wing of the Revelstoke hospital. Kushner has lived in the trailer park since 1994. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Myers and Kushner’s trailer. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Myers and Kushner’s trailer. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

In lighter times and better health, Kushner would sit in this chair and relax after a long day. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

In lighter times and better health, Kushner would sit in this chair and relax after a long day. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Myers’ back garden. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Myers’ back garden. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

The inside of Myers’ trailer is filled with a life time of memories. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

The inside of Myers’ trailer is filled with a life time of memories. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

(Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

(Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Myers says her life is in boxes as she sorts through belongings and gets ready to leave. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Myers says her life is in boxes as she sorts through belongings and gets ready to leave. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Myers’ home companion. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Myers’ home companion. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Myers thumbs through documents that tell her she must leave her home by May 31, 2019. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Myers thumbs through documents that tell her she must leave her home by May 31, 2019. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

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