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‘Not going anywhere’: Tenants defy order to leave unsafe New Westminster building

A group of New Westminster tenants ordered out of an unsafe apartment building are vowing to stay put until they’re provided permanent housing elsewhere.

“I have no place to go and we were given three days to vacate the building,” Clifford Dorosh told Global News.

“Three days is not enough to pack our stuff and actually find a place to live.”

Last Week, New Westminster’s fire chief issued an evacuation order for the building at 325 Agnes St., warning of severe life-safety issues.

The city says the building doesn’t have a working fire alarm or smoke detectors, and that its electrical and gas systems don’t meet safety standards.

Residents were initially given until Friday at noon to vacate, but were offered an extension to Monday.

Of the 11 people who were living there, about six remain.

Occupants Global News spoke with Monday said they had been offered food and support with storage and moving, but nothing in the way of replacement housing.

“At least here we could afford it. We can’t afford $2,100 a month for a one-bedroom, we can’t do it,” Shelly Bryer, a tenant of four years, told Global News.

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“We can’t leave our homes to go to a shelter, leave our homes to go live in a tent outside, that’s not fair. We didn’t do anything, it’s all the landlord’s doing, all of it.”

Bryer said residents have had little in the way of communications with the landlord, whom she described as absent for months at a time.

She said she didn’t understand the sudden urgency to vacate the building days before Christmas, when there had been no recent fires or changes in the condition of the building.

“We live cheque to cheque, we don’t have extra money to do this,” she said.

“(I’m) not leaving here. As long as I stay in my suite they cannot remove me and I am not going anywhere until I have a permanent home to go to.”

Dorosh said residents were told there was space available for them at a nearby building called The Russel, but that when residents went to investigate there was nothing available.

New Westminster Mayor Patrick Johnstone said city officials were working to try and address the residents’ concerns.

“Right now we are trying to find alternate housing for the folks — many have relocated from the building,” he said.

“Until we can get the folks who are there relocated, we are going to have a 24-hour fire watch on the building to make sure the building remains safe.”

Johnstone said there have been ongoing issues in the building, and that social service agencies have been working with the residents.

“There were some earlier residents in that building who did decide to move out and found alternative accommodations, but then some other people ended up coming and moving into the building in probably not a legal way,” he said.

“So at some point we had to figure out a way to secure the buildings so more people couldn’t move in.”

City officials told Global News last week the building’s landlord has been in and out of compliance over the last two decades.

In July 2022, problems at the building became serious enough for the city to revoke the landlord’s business licence and issue tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

Records from BC Assessment show the building is owned by United Revenue Properties.

Despite the evacuation order, power, heat and water remain active in the building, and it appears those who are still on site remain committed to staying.

“I will stay here until I am forced to leave or camp out on the front lawn,” Dorosh said.

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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