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Surrey seniors face relocation as manufactured home park eyed for redevelopment

One resident says financial offer is ‘garbage,’ but developer claims majority are happy with deal
Surrey’s Dennis Noel, 71, is one an estimated 200 residents of West Villa Estates who are facing relocation due to redevelopment. Kandas Hufsmith, with the Lower Mainland Manufactured Home Park Association, left, has been meeting with some of the uncertain residents to help them make a decision. (Photo: Amy Reid)

Dennis Noel shakes his head as he holds up a stack of paperwork that outline his options now that his manufactured home park is being eyed for redevelopment.

“It may be legal, but it’s grossly unfair,” he says, sitting across the kitchen table from his wife of 51 years in the home they’ve resided in for nearly two decades in West Villa Estates, at 8560 156th St.

The couple has lived here since moving out of the nearby Fleetwood home they raised their two daughters in.

Noel, 71, says the deal now on the table for West Villa residents is unfair “because everybody got offered the same, regardless of what their home is actually worth.”

And because he says the company, Estkin Developments Ltd., has given residents two weeks to sign an agreement. An agreement that is too vague and lacks details, according to Noel.

“Fourteen days,” he laments. “They’re now expecting 114 homes, which equals over 200 senior citizens, 14 days to make a decision about the fate of the rest of their life. These kind of people only have a one track mind: money.”

The news for this park comes as developer Dawson + Sawyer is in the midst of tearing down manufactured homes in a nearby park, Green Tree Estates, to build townhouses and apartments.

That park was also home to dozens of seniors, almost all of whom have relocated.

READ MORE: Dozens of Surrey seniors relocating after city OKs manufactured home park redevelopment, May 17, 2018

VIDEO: Surrey residents still living at manufactured home park during demolition, April 13, 2019

Now, West Villa residents like Noel are weighing the financial options outlined in the documents they’ve received.

If residents don’t sign the documents soon, their payment will default to “Option A,” which entails a payment of $20,000 or the assessed value of the manufactured home, whichever is greater, or relocating their home.

Under Option B, residents would receive the greater of $160,000 or the current B.C. assessed value of the home plus $60,000.

Option C involves receiving a monthly payment of up to $1,500 for life, and Option D involves moving into a new condo on the neighbouring Green Tree property (once built) at $750 a month.

To Noel, the offers are ludicrous.

While Noel’s home is assessed at $78,000, he says it’s low.

“I’ve known for years it’s been under assessed. I never worried about it,” he says. “Five months ago, we were told by a realtor selling other homes in here, he would list this home for $279,000 to $289,000 and he had just sold one in the park to the west of us for $256,000. So we know we’re up in the $200,000 range and they’re offering us $160,000.”

If you ask Noel, the residents’ homes should be appraised and their compensation should reflect what their homes were worth prior to a developer eyeing it for redevelopment.

“The only thing I think a great many of us would really like is to be treated fairly and compensated what our places are worth. That, I think, is the bottom line.”

(The entrance to West Villa Estates. Google Maps image)

Noel also wishes to dispel misconceptions about his manufactured home park.

“It’s not a trailer park, it is not a modular home park or an RV park,” he says. “All the homes meet the same qualifications as an on-site home.”

Noel says what irks him is the fact he’s worked in Surrey most of his life, always held down a good-paying job, and feels he has contributed to what Surrey is today. And, he noted that’s the same story for many other residents in the park.

“We have contributed all our lives and we’re the ones who are getting thrown out,” he says. “We have to get out of here and go somewhere else. We have no idea what we’ll do.”

He adds: “What they’re really crushing is homes, in the true meaning of the word home. They’re crushing homes. And they’re crushing lifestyles.”

Kandas Hufsmith, with the Lower Mainland Manufactured Home Park Association, has been meeting with some of the residents.

Hufsmith agrees with Noel that residents should have the option to have their home appraised. It’s something she says Langley Township policy permits in such situations.

“I live in a mobile home in a mobile home park,” says Hufsmith. “I bought my home for $18,000. We put some upgrades into it, so maybe it might be worth $60,000. If this happened to us, both my husband and I, we’d take the $160,000 and run.

“We know we will never get $160,000 for our home. But a home like this that we’re sitting in right now, I know for a fact it’s more than $160,000.”

READ ALSO: ‘Inevitable’ demise for many manufactured homes in Surrey

Hufsmith notes that under the previous Surrey First civic government, the city established a new policy that increased mandatory compensation for park tenants when a property is redeveloped. But, she said it doesn’t go far enough.

“I feel the Surrey city council really needs to take a look at what fair compensation is,” she says. “I understand redevelopment is going to happen in any community whether it’s a mobile home park, townhouses, row houses, whatever it is.”

In the letter to residents, the developer highlights the fact that the property is located along the Fraser Highway SkyTrain corridor and that the city’s vision is to densify this corridor. The park is a stone’s throw away from Fraser Highway.

While Hufsmith says that development is inevitable, she says “when you’re taking affordable housing away from people it’s going to hurt a lot. You’re going to see more seniors fighting to stay healthy and housed. Rent is expensive.”

In an email to the Now-Leader, the developer noted their offer “far exceeds the combined provincial and City of Surrey protection requirements,” and say it is, on average, $79,795 higher than those policies require.

And, it says “no tenant is required to sign anything in order to receive the provincial and City of Surrey tenant protection assistance and compensation.”

The company wrote that they are “asking for a commitment in the next few weeks” but after receiving feedback from residents have made changes, including “providing tenants with additional flexibility and time, until Sept. 1, to choose one of the options.”

Further, the statement claims “no manufactured home has ever sold at this property for anywhere close to what we are offering.”

“The vast majority of residents are happy with the financial compensation and it sounds like a few tenants may have an inflated idea of their home’s value,” the emailed statement notes.

But not all are happy.

Park resident Douglas Davies called the offer “garbage.”

“The thing people are upset about is the two weeks you’ve got to sign it. It’s like putting a gun to someone’s head,” said Davies. “Everybody will take $160,000, but how do we know you’re not going to stab us in the back in 21 months when we’re supposed to get our money?”

To proceed, the project needs the approval of Surrey City Council to rezone the property, at 8560 156 St.

Also required are amendments to the Official Community Plan and Fleetwood Town Centre Plan.

In phase one, 189 townhouse units are planned.

City council has yet to consider the proposal, and the application is in the “initial review” stage.

Meantime, a petition has been launched urging the provincial government to step in.

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