VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The fight is over for former tenants of Berkeley Tower. The building stands at the foot of Davie Street in Vancouver’s West End.
It was bought by Reliance Properties for $43 million in 2016.
Shortly after, the new owners informed residents their tenancy would end to allow for major building-wide renovations. A course of action tenants had hoped to reverse.
In September of 2018 NEWS 1130 spoke with Andre Duchene, a six-year Berkeley Tower resident and local lawyer who’s done some work in tenancy law. He’s since relocated and says Berkeley Tower was a special place.
“It was the end of a community really…it was people lived there for up to 40 years and knew their neighbours like family…that collection of people have been displaced and dispersed…”
That’s what happened to Catherine Lau, who lived with her family in the building since 2004.
“We just couldn’t afford to live in the city anymore so we had to leave the area entirely and have moved to the Island.”
But she adds, having so many residents commit to the community for so long gave the building a sort of magic you might expect to find in a sitcom like Seinfeld or Friends.
“Oh ya like this one time I needed three ovens and I only had one so I literally said on the first floor, ‘Hey William, can I go here?’ ‘Robert, can I go to use your oven?’ They said, ‘what are you making?’ I said, “I’m making a big turkey dinner, I need to vegetables here, and I need a full-size oven, not an apartment size.”
But not all stories are so fun, Lau describes how the renoviction impacted a third floor resident named Rod. He had been at Berkeley Tower since 1978 and found himself being forced to move into a new home while battling cancer.
“He couldn’t even move in because he was admitted to the hospital and he was in there for a week then came out for three days. He got admitted again, back in August for a week. He was admitted a third time for more cancer treatments but he passed away in September. He never even got to move to his new home, he was just worried he was going to be homeless.”
After a years-long battle, a long-time West End landmark is empty and renovations are well underway. @DavidZuraCityTV hears from residents and experts. https://t.co/xM2FZYmCFd pic.twitter.com/dKmydMAGfm
— CityNews Vancouver (@CityNewsVAN) December 3, 2020
Andre Duchene believes, while difficult, the process was conducted legally.
“I do think the law is pretty broken with respect to renovictions and I think it’s rife for abuse. I’m not saying that’s what happened here but I do think that needs to be revisited,” he explains.
Speaking to possible changes, Robert Patterson with the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre says it’s a complicated process but could be made much simpler if tenants can reliably be welcomed back once renovations are done.
“Whenever a renoviction notice is issued. It is difficult for both parties to figure out whether on not it’s going to be valid if a tenant challenges it. The way to solve all of those problems is to amend the right of first refusal so the landlords may allow the tenants back into their tenancies at the rent they were originally paying, potentially with a minimal increase,”Patterson says.
Those who used to live in Berkeley Tower have been negotiating individual agreements with landlords for resettlement.