Hiawatha mobile home park residents anxious they will not be able to find affordable place to live once evicted

'I am homeless in 4 months'

Residents of Kelowna's Hiawatha mobile home park are anxious about being able to find an affordable place to live after receiving an eviction notice for the end of February.

Development company Westcorp purchased the 18-acre park in 2007 with plans to build a large, multi-phased housing development. While residents knew eviction was coming, many of them are struggling to find new affordable housing options. Come February 28, they will be asked to leave Hiawatha. 

"We just received our notice in the mail now and its our four-month notice, but on Oct. 6 they gave us a notice saying that it would still be 'a few months' until we actually got our four-month notice and yet they've given it to us in 20 days," says resident Robert Nicolson, who has lived at Hiawatha for nearly 10 years.

"I've got a broken back and its really hard for me to do anything in the cold, so moving is going to be really really tough. I can't afford obviously to hire movers because I'm on disability."

Nicolson says he's started searching for a new affordable place to rent with his son, a task he describes as "impossible."

"What I'd like to see happen is them (Westcorp) postpone the evictions, at least until spring, beginning of summer, so we have a better opportunity to look for places."

Resident Nicole Major, who has lived in Hiawatha for nine years, says she is going to be homeless in four months.

"Westcorp management has always treated me with respect and very well, I might add, and so I have no conflict there," she said. "What I do not understand, is why Westcorp is willing to throw us all out in the winter. February is still winter."

Major says despite the information provided by Westcorp to help the residents relocate, BC Housing applications take a very long time to process.

"If Westcorp would be a decent company, as they have been in the past, they would make sure that we are relocated properly. If not, it is a stain on their reputation," she says, adding there are many disabled, low-income families and single people who are not going to find new housing by February. 

"I am homeless in four months, in winter and as are so many others. I cannot express that point more clearly...please feel our hearts. This is dire."

Another resident, Victoria Fox has lived at the park with her son for three years. She says she is out of work due to COVID-19 and cannot find anywhere that fits her budget.

"I can't find housing, I've applied to all the low-income housing. I'm not working right now due to COVID so this is the worst time for them to be evicting people, especially when we have no where to go," she says.

Fox and Major recently filed a dispute with the B.C. Tenancy Board to extend the eviction notices until spring and have started a petition with the residents.

Gail Temple, vice president of operations with Westcorp stated in an email to Castanet that "all of our current renters were made fully aware of impending development intentions at the time of entering into month-to-month leases with us. With the development application expected to proceed forward to council soon, we sent out a letter a few weeks ago to notify our tenants that their four months' Notice to Vacate as per provincial rules would be coming soon."

"We understand the people need time to figure out alternate housing arrangements prior to March first and in that regard, we have prepared an information package for residents which contains contact information for all of the affordable housing agencies and affordable housing projects in the city."

Temple says while the remaining units at Hiawatha have provided affordable housing for many years, they are all fifty or more years old. 

"With those mobile homes at the end of their viable lifespan, we are happy to say that we will be replacing them with much needed rental product for families," she said. 

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