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Non-profits struggle to keep space in Richmond

Location is important because non-profits need to be near clients, explained the head of Richmond Food Bank.
Volunteers-FoodBank (Dave Elvis)
Richmond Food Bank director Dave Elvis helping the organization pack hampers.

Almost half of the non-profits surveyed across the province said their rental agreements are expiring within a year.

Furthermore, one in five are renting month to month and 50 per cent of all evictions were a result of their rental property being redeveloped or demolished.

The survey results, which included responses from 66 Richmond non-profits, were presented to Richmond city council on Monday by Jacqueline Gijssen, project director with the Social Purpose Real Estate Collaborative.

Tenure is a “critical issue” for non-profits, and the threat of being evicted is a “huge vulnerability for the sector,” Gijssen explained to council at its committe meeting.

“Without long-term tenure, it’s impossible to invest in your community and in the space,” Gijssen said.

But just increasing supply is not enough, location and long-term control over the space are other important considerations, she added.

Richmond Food Bank executive director, Hajira Hussain, said, although other locations might be cheaper for the food bank, being located in Richmond’s city centre means they can serve their clients.

“We want to be in city centre because most of our clients find this accessible,” she said.

The food bank’s lease ends next March, but she said their landlord plans to renew it, which is good news for them.

But, non-profits are always “at the mercy of our landlords,” she added.

Many Richmond non-profits operate with leases that have a demolition clause, which means if the building is planned for redevelopment, the lease would be terminated. (Hussain said the food bank doesn’t have a demolition clause in its lease.)

Gijssen pointed out, during her presentation to council, Vancouver is the second most unaffordable housing market in the world and that ripples into Richmond as well, and it has an effect on the non-profits sector.

“We’re facing some very significant losses of community spaces – space where we find the services and programs that we as citizens and visitors and employers need for our resilient communities,” Gijssen said.

The organizations that participated in the survey were from around B.C. and included non-profits, social enterprises and artists.

City staff said they plan to look at the Richmond specific data in the survey and report back to council on it.

The study was done in collaboration with the Real Estate Institute of British Columbia.