REID: Surrey council has its work cut out for it on Park Mobile

A manufactured home park in Whalley seems to find itself stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea.

No matter what its fate, somebody loses.

The park – which has faced flooding and other sorrows for years – is up for redevelopment.

Surrey council has, for the second time, delayed the application over concerns about where the park’s tenants will go.

Proposed is a $250-million state-of-the-art seniors facility with more than 400 units of varying levels of care as well as a research centre and offices. It’s much needed if Fraser Health projections are even slightly true. The health authority predicts the seniors population in Surrey will jump by 70 per cent in the next decade.

Meanwhile, residents of the park ask, "Why here? Why on this property?"

Well, the reason many of the tenants chose the park is the exact reason it’s enticing for this particular project – it’s across the street from a hospital.

I took the time to meet with residents of the park last week to hear some of their stories.

Many that I talked to visit the hospital regularly.

Chris, for example, fell off a roof and is permanently disabled. He regularly has appointments at Jim Pattison outpatient centre up the road.

Morris has had an operation on his leg and often goes for ultrasounds, he says.

Then there’s Tina, who lives with cerebral palsy and has two children. She sells Avon and has dozens of local customers. Relocation would mean she couldn’t reach her clients anymore.

Now that I’ve told you about the residents of the park, I want to tell you about a man whose situation is nearly identical to many I met.

The difference?

I met 84-year-old Cliff at the Surrey Urban Mission during a lunch service last week. He has been homeless since March, he told me, after being evicted from a rental.

He’s recently found a basement suite to share with a roommate – they each pay $350 a month. But after paying for rent, he said, he doesn’t have much of his pension left over. He told me it’s hard to find – and keep – housing that he can actually afford.

If Park Mobile is redeveloped, 45 units of affordable housing will be lost. Pad rentals average $560 a month, residents tell me.

Can Surrey take this in a housing market that many already struggle to live within?

Park Mobile tenant Cory Schmipf did a survey of residents and said 80 per cent of those in the park are on a fixed income, like pension or disability, just as Cliff is. Many rely on public transit and regularly need the hospital, just as Cliff does.

Let’s hope this situation unfolds in a way that doesn’t leave any of the park residents in and out of homelessness like Cliff.

Schimpf said he feels like "Surrey is being pushed out of Surrey.

"Building this, people from Surrey aren’t going to be able to afford to live here."

He has a point. But so does the developer, in that they will be serving a massively increasing seniors population with their development.

Dr. Andrew Webb, a Surrey resident who once served as VP of medicine for Fraser Health, said it is much needed due to the "exploding" seniors population. And this generation is living longer.

"They’re not going to be in residential care facilities like we know today," he noted.

He said a facility like WestStone’s will also help reduce hospital congestion, as patients can often be treated where they are, instead of taking up hospital beds. At the same time, there’s still an "umbilical cord" back to the hospital, said Webb.

Kudos to city council for delaying the public hearing to give time for Surrey to update its 20-year-old bylaw relating to compensation for such tenants.

But a decision still has to be made.

And it will set precedent for the rest of the parks along the King George Corridor as development pressures inevitably descend as LRT is built along the road.

This one isn’t looking easy.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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