VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Grassroots housing activists in Vancouver are declaring victory over a developer who forced renters out of their homes to make way for a new mixed-use development.
Vince Tao, an organizer with the Vancouver Tenants Union’s Mt. Pleasant chapter, said PortLiving had reached a settlement with tenants it evicted from their apartment at Carolina and Broadway.
Developer gave ‘substantial’ settlement: tenants union
Tao believes Nelia Guevarra received a “substantial cash sum – and one that she is happy with.”
“It’s a good conclusion to a long community campaign,” he said.
Tao said the settlement terms prevent Guevarra from speaking publicly about the deal or the company.
PortLiving initially denied demands from Guevarra and her husband Wilfredo for an extension to their Sept. 30 eviction date and a $250 monthly “rent bridge” to help them afford a new apartment, according to Tao.
But a persistent campaign, including a protest and a media blitz, forced the developer to settle, Tao believes.
“If there’s abuse you have to speak up or you’ll be stuck in the same situation,” Guevarra says as she speaks to the crowd. pic.twitter.com/J48esLIhyC
— Arvin Joaquin (@arvinjoaquin) September 30, 2020
“It really took a whole community to come together around her for us to win this,” he said.
The Gueverras have found a new apartment near Main Street at 50th Avenue.
Mervyn Bamutay, who was evicted from her apartment in January to make way for the same development that displaced the Guevarras, said she was happy to see tenants fight for their rights and prevail.
“I am so pleased that the VTU helped Nelia out because there [was] an unfair treatment among us,” she said.
Guevarra’s story has inspired more renters to follow Guevarra in standing up for themselves, Bamutay said.
In an emailed statement, Tobi Reyes, the president and CEO of PortLiving, said, “I think that we’re all very happy that the tenants were able to locate alternative accommodations for which we would like to thank the City and everyone involved.”
“I am not aware of what the [Vancouver Tenants Union] is suggesting, but I think the more we can all work together the better to find solutions involving housing at various levels for the community, it’s a great thing,” he said.
Activists plan for ‘higher level of struggle’
Tao said this campaign was unique for the tenants union because it was focused on representing the Guevarras, rather than trying to organize tenants in a larger building against an eviction or mistreatment by their landlord.
He said the union’s Mt. Pleasant chapter is focused on fighting displacement as the neighbourhood gentrifies in anticipation of the coming Broadway subway line.
That’s why city policy needs to change to better protect renters, otherwise, he said, “We’re going to have to do these tiny fights over and over again.”
Tao said the tenants union is pushing for an evictions ban, rent controls when tenants turn over, and a right-of-first-refusal that would allow evicted tenants to move into the projects that displaced them.
“We have our sights set at a higher level of struggle,” he said.