Will manufactured homes and trailers become a thing of the past in Surrey?
Along Surrey’s King George Boulevard, the city estimates there’s more than 1,000 of these homes. But with light rail planned along the major artery, will they remain?
Surrey’s Community Planning Manager Don Luymes predicted many will fall.
“As the city grows and transit investments are made along King George, it’s probably inevitable that many of these sites will be redevelopment candidates,” said Luymes.
While he noted the city is not actively pushing densification along the route at this time, he said the “natural evolution of the city makes it likely” many will face such pressures.
“Part of the reason, of course, is they’re fairly centrally located, they’re on good transit corridors and these are well-located properties,” said Luymes.
“Whether a light rail stop or even rapid bus transit is nearby, at some point the value of those properties for higher density developments may lead these property owners to redevelop the site.”
Luymes noted when that does happen, the city has created requirements for developers to compensate the tenants in such sites when they face redevelopment.
He said city policy “goes beyond” the provincially mandated compensation.
“What council is essentially saying is anybody wishing to redevelop their property from a manufactured home park to another use would have to come with a relocation and compensation plan that’s acceptable to council,” he explained.
This was the case last year at Park Mobile, along King George Boulevard at 96th Avenue, across from Surrey Memorial Hospital.
Surrey City Council sent the application back to staff to better work with the tenants there on a transition plan.
WestStone Group plans to build a $250-million state-of-the-art seniors facility there, with more than 400 units of varying levels of care as well as a research centre and offices.
Twice, city council delayed the plan over concerns about where the park’s tenants would go.
A city report dated Dec. 5, 2016 noted all 47 mobile homes had been acquired by the developer, with all tenants due out by the end of June, 2017.
Luymes acknowledged this is a style of housing that’s “a very viable affording housing option that’s very attractive for many people.
“You have your own four walls, it’s a small house right on the ground, you’re not living in an apartment building.”
Luymes guessed that parks away from major transit corridors may remain.
“I think there will be pressure on a number of them in certain locations, but I don’t think every manufactured home park in every part of the city will face development pressure.”
Luymes said it’s important to note that there are a few different types of parks: the meant-to-be temporary RV-style rental pads, those where the homeowner also owns the land, and then there’s the homeowners who rent pads from someone who owns the entirety of a park.
The latter are the ones with most to worry about, he said.
“They have less security of longterm tenure because they don’t own the land it sits on,” noted Luymes.
Roz Bailey has lived in the 55-plus Green Tree Estates along Fraser Highway in Fleetwood for about a decade.
As the name suggests, there are many old growth trees on the manufactured home park’s property.
Bailey, who is the president of the Surrey Manufactured Home Owners Association, boasts that it’s one of the most affordable parks in all of Surrey, in terms of pad rentals, which is just shy of $500 a month.
Some pad rents have risen in other parks to almost $1,000 a month, she noted.
It’s a style of housing she adores, said Bailey, mainly because she’s not up in a tower somewhere but instead has her own ground-level home and can garden and visit with her neighbours with ease.
“The government is always, always saying they want seniors to age in place,” said Bailey.
“It’s best if you can live safely and independently in a community and you’ve got a lot of informal supports, which are more important than formal ones really. There’s a lot of community here.”
One of her neighbours, 89-year-old Annabelle Bentley, whose friends describe her as “feisty,” cherishes many of the same benefits of this style of living.
“I don’t have to climb stairs,” said Bentley, sitting in her Fleetwood home, “and I have so many informal supports.”
Bentley, who is blind in one eye, needs eye drops four times a day. Her daughter helps, but so do her neighbours.
“I can’t do it myself,” she said.
Dianna Weys, a director of Green Tree Estates, moved into the park with her husband from a condo she owned.
“He wanted his own piece of grass and I wanted a garden,” she said.
Weys cherishes her neighbours, whom she said she couldn’t have survived without after her husband’s death.
“They helped me out a great deal,” she said.
“As a woman I can’t repair anything, physical work, so the neighbours helped me out a great deal. I don’t see that happening in an apartment or a condo.”
These residents are not immune to what seems to be ever-increasing housing costs in the Lower Mainland.
They fear they may be facing a rent increase of 40 per cent soon, as new owners come in.
It’s a scary thought, they all agreed, because many in the park are on fixed incomes.
A Colliers International ad touting the sale of the property called their park a “development opportunity.”
It is now marked as sold.
The ad stated the approximately 10-acre Fleetwood property had “significant development potential” and “municipal support for rezoning” and highlighted its proximity to commercial developments; access to major routes such as Highways 1, 15 and 10; as well as several medium density residential developments nearby.
Where would they go if their park ever faced redevelopment?
“I have no idea,” said Bentley, as the others nodded in agreement.
“There’s nowhere to go,” added Bailey.
Surrey-Newton NDP MLA Harry Bains vows to advocate for this demographic, and has done so for years already.
His fight began, he said, back in 2006 when Seacrest Motel and RV Park residents in South Surrey were given eviction notices, so that a new land owner could develop it into condos.
“We met with the homeowners and what really got me moving on this was I sat across from a couple, they were in their late 80s…. and they had tears in their eyes looking directly at me saying, ‘Harry this is our home. We’re told we will be made homeless.’ What had they done wrong to deserve this?” recalled Bains.
“That really got me thinking that these people, many of them serve our country and build this country and province.
“These are seniors and these are the last years of their lives and they’re being told to pick up their house and move.”
Bains said there was no place for the seniors to move to.
“And even if they found a place, their house is old, it might not last a move. They were right that they would be homeless. I thought something’s wrong with this picture. We must do better.”
They won that fight in 2007 when Surrey council, led by then-mayor and now-MP Dianne Watts, rejected the plan.
But the developer changed plans, and following rules laid out in a city bylaw, found a way to make it work.
In March of this year, the last remaining residents of the Seacrest Motel and RV Park agreed to move off the property.
While officials with developer Lark Projects Ltd. said “everybody was happy,” others disagreed, and faced the challenge of finding an affordable place to live.
“We are human casualties of Surrey’s fast development, closing down beautiful communities for homes we can’t afford,” said Nancy Malloy, one of the last residents to accept a financial settlement package from Lark.
She said she’s been searching for a nearby, affordable trailer park that will accept the two, however, that search has proved to be fruitless.
“It’s becoming a dying way of living and with the rents the way they are, it’s insane,” Malloy said.
Malloy said she’s encountered several barriers when searching for a new trailer park.
The area parks are either too expensive, at capacity or don’t accept trailers that are older than 10 years.
Another issue, she said, is that some people pay to rent a lot year-round, but only use it for a portion of the year.
“I don’t think that’s fair,” she said.
Bains vowed to fight to have rules changed to better protect and compensate people like Malloy.
Under the current Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act, tenants receive 12 months notice if a site is to be redeveloped, with moving expenses capped at $5,000.
“There’s no way to move a house for $5,000,” said Bains. “They’d be left with big bills, no place to go and no home left. In this case they have to actually unhook the services, move their entire home, find a new place to go. All the decks and siding have to be moved as well.
“It’s a costly, costly exercise.”
Bains said he has twice introduced a private members bill to see that compensation increased significantly.
When he first introduced it, he sought a cap of $25,000 and a transition plan developed together with owners and homeowners so they had somewhere to go.
That bill was shot down, he said.
He reintroduced a bill before the provincial election on May 9, and now seeks $30,000 for the moving expense cap.
In the House on March 16, Bains said the “Liberal government has refused to protect the manufactured home people…. In my own community, Surrey, we have hundreds, if not thousands who are worried right now that if they are evicted, they will be made homeless.
“These are our seniors, many on disability and on fixed incomes, and they have no place to go when they are evicted. We, on this side, have introduced bills numerous times in this House. This government, each and every time, has refused them.” In response, then-housing minister Rich Coleman replied that the province has an act for such tenants and pointed to things cities could do.
“Real estate prices are going up and developers are looking at these lands to develop and make more money. No one is thinking about these people and what happened to them,” Bains told the Now-Leader, adding he worries about LRT and what it will mean for the people living along the King George corridor.
“There’s so many manufactured homes along that strip. They’re all in danger. Developers will be looking at them for higher density developments and I’m worried that city hall will be in favour of that in order to make LRT more successful,” he added.
Bains said with ever-increasing housing costs in the Lower Mainland, this style of housing “should be considered part of our affordable housing strategy, both at the provincial and city level.
“These are really nice, small, little communities. They look out for each other. We need to preserve these,” he added. “This will be a huge loss to our affordable housing stock.”
With files from Peace Arch News