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COSTLY LIVING: Housing headaches for residents forced out of Surrey manufactured home parks

‘It’s super affordable living here, and we don’t want to leave, but we’ll have to’
Diana Brum outside the manufactured home she shares with two daughters at Newton’s Crispen Bays park. “It’s so very sad that the only form of actual (home) ownership is now being taken away from us,” Brum says. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Second in our COSTLY LIVING series of stories about the rising cost of living in Surrey and how people are coping.

CLICK HERE to read Part 1 (“Housing in Surrey is expensive, even for BC Lions players)

Two more manufactured home parks in Surrey are sold and slated for redevelopment, triggering fear and stress among several hundred residents, some of whom say they can afford only that type of housing.

The Crispen Bays and Bear Creek Glen properties, located for decades in the 7800-block of King George Boulevard, were recently bought by a construction company, Dawson & Sawyer, which envisions a “high-density, transit-oriented community” on the property.

Residents of the two Newton parks were told of the “ownership change and redevelopment notice” in early April, and for some the news is still a shock.

“It’s super affordable living here, and we don’t want to leave, but we’ll have to,” said Diana Brum, a single mother of two who moved to the 192-home Crispen Bays park five years ago, after her marriage ended and their house sold in Cloverdale.

“I walk around this place and people are usually cheerful and smiling and happy, and now some of them, their heads are down,” Brum added. “They’re shuffling along, walking their dogs, because they’re deep in thought and wondering what they’re going to do.

“A lot of people here are pensioners, and quite a few have families, and this is what we can afford,” Brum continued. “But with the economy the way it is, how are we going to find somewhere else that’s so affordable? Definitely not in Surrey.”

Brum bought her singlewide for $92,000, and her monthly pad rental is around $1,000.

“It’s about 800 square feet, with three bedrooms,” Brum said of her mobile home. “The rooms for my two daughters don’t have any closets, but we did some modifications and it works for us, there’s room enough for the three of us. We enjoy living here.”

PICTURED: An entrance at Newton’s Crispen Bays manufactured home park, which recently sold and is slated for future redevelopment, along with the neighbouring Bear Creek Glen park. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Next door, Brum’s parents also live at Crispen Bays, which attracted them with a clubhouse, pool and convenient location.

“We looked everywhere,” Brum recalled. “My dad’s in a motorized wheelchair and stairs are non-negotiable, so townhouses were out of the question. It took awhile but then I came upon manufactured homes.

“It’s so nice here, and clean,” she added. “There’s a shed for gardening – my mom and my dad are big gardeners, veggie gardeners, so this was absolutely ideal, and we had cash from the sale of the house to buy this. It was fabulous.”

Now, Dawson & Sawyer has offered to buy Brum’s home for $250,000 – a tidy profit on Brum’s investment over five years, but still not ideal for her.

Meantime, owners of doublewide mobile homes at Crispen Bays, including Larry and Susan Foulds, are offered $300,000, with options to rent a new condo at the Newton project site or in Fleetwood at current rates, or receive up to $2,500 a month in rent “for the rest of your life, to assist with all future housing needs.”

With the clock ticking on decisions, residents won’t have to vacate their property for at least two years, probably longer.

The timeline isn’t ideal for the Foulds, retirees who moved to Crispen Bays in 2018 with plans to live there for 20 years.

“They’re telling us that the earliest they’d pay us out or get rid of us is 2024, and the latest is 2028. It all depends on building permits and their finances, all kinds of stuff,” Larry Foulds said. “Right now we’re not sure what we’re going to do, which option we take, and when we’ll be leaving. By 2028 we’ll be in our late 70s. Hopefully we still have our health, but who knows, it might be moving into a seniors home at that point.”

PICTURED: Susan and Larry Foulds at the Crispen Bays manufactured home park. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

For nearly 35 years the couple lived in a house across King George Boulevard, on 134A Street, according to Susan.

“There’s a real community here,” she raved. “When we decided to downsize, I’d never driven in here over all those years. We were looking around and, wow, who knew all of this was here? But people know Crispen Bays, and it’s been here since the 1970s. Some people have been here from the start. The people who owned this home before us, they were here since the beginning.”

Now, the stress of finding a new affordable home is sinking in.

“There are many people here who are very, very stressed due to circumstances different than ours,” Susan explained. “We’ll be relatively OK, and it’s not the Ukraine where we have to pick up our two bags and flee. We have options and will figure out a place to live, but others here will take quite a hit. You can’t rent anything for $1,100 a month like here, which is actually quite high for a mobile home park. It’s going to be very, very hard for a lot of people.”

Brum wonders what the future holds in two years, when a deal is finalized to vacate the family home. Until then, no money will change hands.

“There’s some pressure,” Brum acknowledged. “I went looking for rentals of two-bedrooms, and it’s over $2,000. I recently got back into the workforce, and I still have debt from the bakery closure, I can’t afford $2,000 and on top of that, everything that goes with it. That’s painful.”

Brum now works 12 minutes from home, and her daughters still go to school in Cloverdale.

“I don’t mind commuting, but for me my biggest concern is my kids, because I want them to stay in their schools,” she said.

In an April 5 letter to residents of Crispen Bays, a Dawson & Sawyer rep named Taylor outlines future plans for the site, and promises to work with tenants to minimize the impact of their transition out.

“The rezoning will supply large amounts of housing at some of the most affordable rates in the Lower Mainland,” Taylor wrote. “The current density of this property is too low to support planned transit improvements. Building for sustainable and higher density communities along important transit corridors is supported by the goals and policies of the federal, provincial and municipal governments.”

When she got the letter, Brum says her heart sank.

“I felt so sick, because I thought, ‘Now what am I going to do?’ It’s just one more thing to worry about in this pandemic. I’ve cut so many things out of my budget, I’m not sure what else to cut out. The pets need to eat, we need to eat, and I’m stretching that out as much as I can. I’m buying less groceries and making them stretch further. We are all vegan right now, because meat is so expensive. Rice is cheap at the dollar store, pasta, you have to choose different things now.

“With one of those granny carriages, I now walk to the Superstore to get groceries, with gas prices the way they are,” Brum continued. “I’m walking around a lot more to get things done, and that’s another reason we like living in this area. Things are within walking distance, like banks and the stores. And if I drive I combine things and get a bunch of things done in a small area, closer to home.”

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Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news for Surrey Now-Leader and Black Press Media
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