Sunday, June 23, 2024
June 23, 2024

Seabreeze services downgraded

Some services at the Seabreeze Inne have been shut off, at least two residents are seeking regulatory orders, and the provincial agency tasked to administer supported housing there is no longer paying rent.

Work crews last week disconnected internet, cable and telephone services at the Seabreeze, as well as part of a laundry facility.

A late Friday response from BC Housing said the agency was not involved in that decision, and was characterized as being inaccurate by Lady Minto Hospital Foundation (LMHF) executive director Roberta Martell. LMHF finalized purchase of the property earlier this year, with the intent of renovating it — once vacant — to provide housing for hospital staff.

While several Seabreeze residents said on Thursday they felt intimidated and threatened by the service disconnections, which were performed by contractors hired by LMHF, Martell said they were done to reduce its ongoing costs — and in coordination with BC Housing.

“Negotiations coordinating the transition of all people, goods and services to Kings Lane have been happening for months with BC Housing,” said Martell, adding that LMHF’s understanding was that BC Housing would be in direct communication with Seabreeze residents this week to expedite a move out.

“As part of the coordinated transition, BC Housing has told us they will be on site Tuesday to meet with the occupants and explain the need for them to move to Kings Lane by Friday. They have let us know there will be moving trucks and teams on site all week.”

For its part, BC Housing declined to comment on whether the service shutoff was part of a transition process. In a statement directing questions regarding the disconnection of “some non-essential services at their property” to LMHF, BC Housing said on Friday housing and services will be available at the temporary modular homes it recently completed at 154 Kings Lane. Those units have been characterized as an “interim solution” to the needs of Seabreeze residents by the agency, who entered into a nine-month lease there in June with landowners Gulf Islands Seniors Residence Association (GISRA).

“We have 20 new temporary homes with support services, including laundry and internet, ready for people to move into at 154 Kings Lane,” said BC Housing Friday. “We continue to encourage people to move to this new, safe housing.”

But at least two people living at the Seabreeze believe they are not part of any agreements with BC Housing, and have made applications for dispute resolution to B.C.’s Residential Tenancy Branch. Vancouver-based lawyer Julia Riddle, who said they are representing multiple clients, confirmed those applications have been filed, naming LMHF as landlord.

They are seeking orders, according to Riddle, “confirming that the Residential Tenancy Act applies to their tenancies at the Seabreeze.” That hearing is set to come before an arbitrator in December.

The legal filing highlights a central dispute: not everyone at the Seabreeze agrees they are clients of BC Housing, while LMHF’s position is that BC Housing is its only tenant — as it has been leasing the entire building since the foundation took possession.

The Provincial Rental Housing Corporation — the property-holding entity administered by BC Housing — entered a short-term lease with the hospital foundation in February, and renewed that lease at the end of June as the term was about to expire.

At the time, then-Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing David Eby thanked LMHF for “generously extending the lease at the Seabreeze Inne, providing people with a safe roof over their heads.”

Terms of the lease and that extension permitted BC Housing, as the hospital foundation’s tenant, use of Seabreeze rooms to provide services — including housing — to individuals living there, in exchange for rent paid from BC Housing to LMHF.

But that lease ended on July 15, without a request for renewal, according to LMHF. BC Housing has not remitted rent for August or September. LMHF said despite this, the foundation had continued to cover costs for telephone, internet and cable services while residents remained. With the disconnection of those services, LMHF continues to cover costs of still-connected water and hydro.

Regardless of the outcome of disputes with the Residential Tenancy Branch, those at the Seabreeze face an uncertain future. Like all such laws, those protecting the rights of tenants cannot be circumvented or negotiated away by contract; but at whose expense those protections are implemented might be.

In negotiating the June extension of the lease, the Provincial Rental Housing Corporation agreed to indemnify the hospital foundation against any claims arising from residents pursuant to the Residential Tenancy Act. The lease amendment, reviewed by Driftwood staff, specifies BC Housing’s obligations would include indemnifying LMHF against claims made by residents who were present at the Seabreeze prior to Feb. 20 — when the original lease took effect.

BC Housing acknowledged they were aware of the Residential Tenancy Board filings, but declined to comment on residential tenancy laws, or the application of the Residential Tenancy Act with respect to the individuals residing at the Seabreeze, letting stand a Sept. 9 statement reiterating their commitment to the Kings Lane property.

“Everyone staying at the Seabreeze Inne has been offered a home at Kings Lane,” according to BC Housing, “and will be able to stay there until construction at the new Drake Road supportive housing building is complete.”

The 161 Drake Road project is a planned 28-unit purpose-built permanent supportive housing endeavour, to be built on land owned by the Capital Regional District. The project is described by a BC Housing factsheet as being in a “pre-development” stage.

GISRA has indicated openness to renewal of the Kings Lane lease with BC Housing beyond March 2023, if its own plans for the land — construction of a new seniors’ housing development — have not commenced by that time.

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