UPDATE: On Monday, July 11, the Westwoods were on the verge of moving into a motel when they found a temporary housing situation to move to in James Bay through Jim Westwood’s employer.
A family who live in a house bordering the Galloping Goose is running out of options in the face of the McKenzie Interchange.
Jim Westwood was given notice on April 30 that his family needed to be out of the home they rent at 3220 Admirals Rd. by July 1 to make room for the upcoming $85 million project. The house will be razed and the rebuilt Galloping Goose will run through the property where the house currently sits, as the new HOV lane will sit on the current section of the Goose, Westwood was told.
As of Friday (July 8), however, the family was still there. They’ve been unable to find a new place in the supremely competitive Greater Victoria rental market.
“We’ve been looking feverishly to get out of here, we’ve been to so many open houses, it’s madness how many people show up to them,” Westwood said.
Westwood is not at his wit’s end yet, but he could be soon. He was given a July 11 extension by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure but it came with the threat of losing their compensation, three months worth of rent.
“When they first gave us notice I thought, OK, no problem, we’ll find a place in two months, but obviously that hasn’t happened,” he said. “The government is just doing its job, I don’t blame them, but I don’t know what we’ll do.”
The 51-year-old courier, his wife Roberta, and their three-year-old boy Jackson have lived at the acre-sized property since Jackson was born. They’ve applied to more than a dozen homes but with a vacancy rate of nearly zero in Greater Victoria, the rental market is too competitive for a family with two dogs and a toddler.
The expropriation is also displacing Roberta’s older son and a friend of the family who lives in the house as well.
“One Saanich landlord was taking photos of everyone who applied to remember who was who,” Westwood said. “Mostly it’s open houses and we don’t have a chance. We can barely even get to the places to see them, they are rented so fast, before I can get home from work.”
Westwood’s family is currently paying $1,750 for the three-bedroom home. Father and son built a tree fort in the large back yard, but Westwood knows his son will likely lose the freedom of roaming the natural space of yard and trees at whatever their next home is.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation wouldn’t confirm what addresses will be affected by the McKenzie interchange and highway expansion project, but they did confirm that there are a few residential properties that will be affected, along with the properties of Marigold elementary and Spectrum Community school.
Westwood’s mother Jackie lives in Colwood and is supportive as best she can be.
“Everyone who meets Westwood likes him, he’s a truly good person. It’s a shame the rental market is like this, and that this has to happen to a good person, a hard worker,” Jackie said. “Why can’t the government can build another house on the edge of the property and rent it to (Westwood’s family), the way the government is finding and building homes for the homeless, and finding homes for Syrian refugees. It’s ironic.”
In the meantime, Westwood has moved several of the family’s belongings into a storage facility and they are ready to move quickly.
“We’ve been out as far as Rocky Point Road [in Metchosin] but still couldn’t get a place,” Westwood said. “I’ll do whatever I have to, if I have to drive in from Shawnigan Lake, then that’s what I’ll do.”