Surrey, B.C., council votes to redevelop affordable apartments

Council in Surrey, B.C., has voted to redevelop an affordable-housing complex into two high-rise towers, despite opposition from residents and neighbours.

On Monday evening, protesters rallied outside the public hearing at city hall where the decision would be made to rezone 13265 104 Ave., currently the site of Elizabeth Manor.

"If we are moved out of the building, we have nowhere to go," said Arun Mulackal, an Elizabeth Manor resident and member of housing advocacy union ACORN. "This is our last chance to protest the redevelopment."

The three-storey complex is home to about 50 families, many of whom are on low or fixed incomes, according to ACORN.

"We need city council to not allow these developers to kick all these people, low to moderate income people, out of their homes, just to build these big fancy high-rises," ACORN member Kayla Watson said.

"That leaves these people with nowhere to go."

Protesters also criticized the format of the council's public hearing, which requires people to call in.

"The term public hearing here, it's meaningless," Mulackal said. "They're not even letting us in."

 Arun Mulackal, an Elizabeth Manor resident and member of housing advocacy union ACORN, said the rally was his last change to protest.
Arun Mulackal, an Elizabeth Manor resident and member of housing advocacy union ACORN, said the rally was his last chance to protest. (CBC News)

Several advocates, residents and neighbours called in to ask council to vote against the redevelopment.

"I'm disappointed this proposal has even gotten this far," Tabitha Naismith, chair of Newton ACORN, said over the phone. "All these families are being displaced. Where are they supposed to go?"

Residents to get 'right of first offer'

Despite the opposition, council voted unanimously in favour of the redevelopment, which will feature two residential towers planned to be 25 storeys and 35 storeys tall. They are slated to have 561 housing units, including 157 affordable rental units.

Coun. Linda Annis told CBC News Tuesday that the province is demanding more densification, and the redevelopment will vastly increase the number of rental units at the location.

But she also acknowledged the current residents' concerns.

She said she voted for the plan because the developer's planning report includes financial compensation for residents based on the length of their tenancy and relocation assistance upon request.

The developer will also give current residents "the right of first offer" to the 57 below-market units in the new development, according to the document.

"We need more housing in Surrey, but we have to help existing tenants that are being displaced temporarily," Annis said.

CBC News contacted other Surrey city councillors for comment, but has yet to receive a response.

ACORN is asking the city to help residents relocate in the meantime.

In the same meeting Monday, Surrey councillors voted to rezone a block near 12666 72 Ave., where Kwantlen Polytechnic University and the Métis Nation British Columbia plan to build a child-care centre.

It also voted to proceed with the design of an extension to 72 Avenue, between 152 Street to Highway 15, and to allow a new mural at the Surrey Nature Centre.