Rent increases squeeze seniors

Over at SunRise Village on Gordon Drive the houses are lined with beautiful gardens and manicured lawns.

But those residing in the manufactured home park fear they won't be able to afford their homes much longer.

Following a recent rent increase, the Local Homeowners' Committee decided something needed to be done.

The problem? Landlords are permitted annual rent increases that build in an extra two per cent above inflation, this means rents are rising faster than income levels.

Chairperson Casey Vanstaalduinen says ten years ago the rent increase averaged approximately five to six dollars a month, but now through compounding interest that amount has shot up to nearly $18 a month.

"Our concern is just what is going to happen in the future, are we going to be looking at 20 to 25 dollar a month increases?"

Resident Ken Gillis says he loves his home at Sunrise Village and that he moved to the community 11 years ago after realizing the potential garden he could have.

"It will eventually drive us out of this beautiful little place here," he says. " I really like the way it is, it is just the increases are going to cause us some grief and we would like to see that change."

A petition, with nearly 400 signatures, will be taken to legislature in the hopes of amending the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act (MHPTA).

The committee would like to propose the MHPTA split the monthly rental free into a land rental of two per cent and maintenance cost of 1.8 per cent inflation rate.

      eg. If land rental would be $250.00 at 2 per cent increase would be $5
            If maintenance cost would be $200 at 1.8 per cent increase would be $3.06
            For a total increase of $8.60 per month

"The way it works now is combined total of the maintenance and land fee, because that is the way the legislation was set up," explains Vanstaalduinen. "They charge one fee for all mobile home parks, they don't separate it. We feel it is too one sided, too rich for the land owner."

The owner of Sunrise Village is the family of MLA Ben Stewart, as owners they could decrease the annual rent, the residents here say that is not the issue.

Instead according to Vanstaalduinen it is an issue that goes well beyond the gates of  Sunrise Village and extends to all mobile/ Manufactured home parks in the province, which mostly house seniors on a low or fixed income.

"We are dealing with an average of four per cent a year increase in these mobile home parks across the province as the government allows it, and it's just beyond most people's ability to pay it."

Vanstaalduinen and the committee took their petition and proposal to Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thompson in the hopes he will bring the issues up with the appropriate minister once the cabinet is chosen.

Thompson says he understands the issues at hand, but hasn't looked at the proposal in depth until he meets with the chosen minister for a discussion.

"The current formula is designed to create a balance, but it's also designed to ensure people who own manufactured home parks receive a reasonable return on their investment," says Thompson. "It is about 3 to 4 per cent of the housing stock in the province in manufactured parks  and there is always pressure to do something different with them, so people will get a high return."

Thompson says it will be the government's job to make sure they get a balance for the manufactured home park owners and residents.

"We have to make sure we can get a return of park owners investments so that we we can continue to have those (manufactured home parks) available. So there is no pressure to do something else with that land."

Where Vanstaalduinen believes the committee's proposal is fair for both the resident and the owner.

"We just want the government to look after their people."

While Gillis worries if the costs of living in the community out weigh the benefits there could be problems.

"It may start getting run down, and that will drive people away as well."


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