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Not a lot of options for Richmond renter in the face of redevelopment

The Azure Road development was opposed by a large group of single-family homeowners, but city council still approved it.
Wendy Torris has lived on Azure Road in a rental building for 30 years.

Some people don’t want 330 rental units in their neighbourhood while at least one housing advocate doesn’t understand why there’s such opposition to a rental complex.

But stuck in the middle are 50 families currently living in a townhouse complex on Azure Road who will have to pack up and move out when the property is redeveloped.

Wendy Torris moved into a two-bedroom unit at Sun Valley Terrace 30 years ago when she was married and expecting her first child. A few years later, she moved into a larger unit in the same complex where she raised her family and still lives there with her daughter and son-in-law.

Four years ago, she started hearing about the property being redeveloped, and that set off concerns about where she will go when the complex is eventually torn down to make way for three towers of apartment buildings.

Given the current housing crisis and lack of rentals, there's "not a lot of options" for the 50 families living there.

Just scanning through Craiglist doesn’t give her much hope of finding an equivalent home – especially at the rent she’s currently paying, which is less than $1,200 a month.

Basement suites in Richmond listed on Craigslist are going for $2,000 per month.

Torris doesn’t want to leave Richmond where she’s lived since elementary school.

“I do love it here – I like the community,” she said. “It’s where my roots are.”

While the current tenants will get the right of first refusal, they will have to live elsewhere in the meantime, she pointed out.

The developer has agreed to let current tenants move to the new complex and will give the equivalent of four months rent to those being displaced – this was part of the agreement with city hall to develop the property.

Three apartment buildings to replace townhouse complex

The townhouse complex is situated on a three-acre lot surrounded by trees and bushes. Two-storey high townhouses are arranged around courtyards with greenspace, children’s play areas and parking.

The plan is to replace the entire complex with three apartment buildings, two four-storey ones and one six-storey one with parking on the ground level. When fully built out, there will be 50 affordable rental units, 110 moderate income rental units and 170 market rentals.

When her children were young, Torris spent a lot of time in the courtyard with other parents watching their kids.

“We knew each other, we looked out for each other,” she said.

An apartment complex, like the one proposed, or even a single-family-home area wouldn’t necessarily have the same neighbourly support, Torris added.

The new management company gave them a written notice four years ago that this development was coming down the pike, but since then there hasn’t been any communication on the subject.

Just a few weeks ago, city council gave the go-ahead for the 330-unit development after a public hearing where many residents from the single-family homes in the area spoke against it, worried about the scale of the development, intrusion on their privacy, parking and traffic problems as well as the risk of increased crime in the area with that many renters.

This last remark didn’t sit well with Torris, who attended the meeting – suggesting crime goes up with renters was “off-putting,” she said.

“I take a lot of pride in my house… whether I’m renting or not,” she said.

She does agree, however, there are traffic and parking problems in the neighbourhood, including one “hairpin turn” on Azure Road.

Also, with the reduced parking for the complex, she doesn’t see how that will accommodate the number of people moving in.

Azure Road is a “handy” location near two malls and the Canada Line, Torris explained, so she hasn’t had much need for a car.

But that doesn’t mean those moving into the new apartment towers won’t have cars, she added.

Torris has been keeping an eye out for rentals in Richmond, but she doesn’t have high hopes to find anything equivalent – especially for what’s she’s currently paying for the three-bedroom townhouse.

Torris attended a public hearing about the redevelopment – after which city council approved the project to move ahead. Listening to the speakers, mainly against the development but one speaking for it, she felt the voices of those currently living in the complex weren’t heard.

On the one hand, she is concerned about where she will move to, on the other hand, she realizes nothing can stay forever and redevelopment is inevitable.

“I understand change is not easy,” she said.

In the meantime, she is enjoying her backyard, her “oasis” in a growing city.