Over 100 tenants in James Bay apartment buildings owned by Starlight Investments are banding together to file complaints with the Residential Tenancy Branch, claiming their lives have been significantly impacted by ongoing construction.
Although tenants in the four apartment complexes haven’t been given eviction notices, they say they’re being pushed out by years of construction. Not only that, they say, they’re exhausted by constant drilling of jackhammers, and have had their privacy compromised due to crews using scaffolding by their windows.
Because of Victoria’s low vacancy rate, tenants are desperate for housing, said Paul Mitchell, who organized an event at James Bay New Horizons on Saturday to help fellow tenants through a dispute process with the branch. Tenants are asking for a 50-per-cent reduction in their rents, retroactive from the start of the construction period, and a guarantee they will not be evicted once renovations are complete.
While some tenants have already moved out, others stayed despite being exhausted by the construction process.
“Tenants really try to hang on, suffer through it regardless of these conditions … because they want to hang on to this housing,” Mitchell said. “Every now and then you forget, and you think you’re going to take a day off, and you wake up in the morning and the grinding of the construction starts.”
Bill Appledorf has lived at Regent Towers in James Bay for two years. He said disruptions such as the noise and vibrations from workers using a jackhammer have made his life and those of other tenants miserable.
“They drive you out like insects. They vibrate you out,” he said.
Although conditions have improved recently, Appledorf said at times his water has been turned off without notice, and living on a construction site can be overwhelming.
“We’re dealing with really intense, extreme, industrial-grade demolition equipment that is very, very disruptive, very, very loud,” he said. “It goes on week after week, month after month, year after year. It’s just making your life horrible with noise and disruption.”
Coun. Jeremy Loveday also attended the event. He said residents told him their lives have been significantly disrupted, that they did not feel adequately informed by their landlords, and that they were scared of being “renovicted.”
“Sixty per cent of residents in Victoria are renters,” he said.
“I think the City needs to do more to help renters, and we need changes in provincial law to make sure tenants have protections.”
On Saturday 64 new people signed up for the joint effort to ask the properties’ management company Devon Properties Ltd. and Starlight Investments to compensate renters.
Neither company could be reached for comment by deadline.