Green Acres Lodge is slated for demolition this summer, leaving several seniors scrambling to find new, affordable living arrangements.
The seniors complex, located at 531 Queens Ave. East, was originally built to house veterans in the late 1960s. It since opened its doors to other seniors, and was operated by a non-profit group until it was sold to a private developer in 2011.
Alvin Hartel just moved into Green Acres Lodge last fall.
"I like this place very much. The rent is cheap, it’s a good building, we got a good landlord," he said. "I’m upset because I had a good place to live. I don’t know where I’m going from here. Sokol Manor won’t have anything till September. I guess I’ll have to go down and buy a tent and live by the river."
The complex has 21 bachelor and one-bedroom suites, with a monthly rent of $239-$293. With the non-profit owner, the rent was subsidized, however that couldn’t continue when the private owner, Van Bi Le, took over.
The rent was increased to $350-$450 per month, however it was brought back down to the original rent after the Residential Tenancies Branch caught wind of the increase, as proper protocol was not followed.
Hartel said he believes other residents complained to the Residential Tenancies Branch and is convinced that is what led to the demise of Green Acres Lodge.
"They refused to pay the rent until they got the makeup of the $350, and that’s what caused the whole problem," he said.
"You can’t blame Mr. Van Bi. He tried every angle but people wouldn’t cooperate … You’re not going to find anything in Brandon as good as this for $350 dollars a month."
When reached by the Brandon Sun, the owner refused to comment about the complex or his future plans for the property.
Coun. Jan Chaboyer (Green Acres) doesn’t want to see the building demolished.
"People in my ward have always loved this facility, esthetically, and they still think that it should be there and I agree with them," Chaboyer said. "I know there’s repairs that have to be done to bring it up to certain standards, but I think that there is still a lot of potential to keep the lodge as a seniors residence … It’s just a jewel in the ward."
Chaboyer said she has received a lot of calls from residents of Green Acres Lodge, as well as people advocating on their behalf.
"They’re extremely worried," she said. "Some of them are looking for other places. They don’t have a choice here now, they were kind of hoping that the tide would change and it would stay open."
Residents originally received three months notice to vacate, however that was extended to five months. They now must move out by June 30. The demolition permit is posted in the lodge hallway, and residents say they received notice the building would be demolished in early July.
"It’s unfair, it’s an injustice because he promised us when he bought it that he would keep it as a seniors residence," said Joyce Nelson, who has lived at Green Acres Lodge for more than six years. "And he’s now changed it. We have to move … I think all of us in here are on a fixed income. There’s no way that anybody would be able to rent anything for $1,000 per month."
Keith Buizer has been advocating for residents, including his mother-in-law, Jean Campbell.
"What I was trying to do was to encourage the politicians to review this, and try to encourage them to see whether there was some other solution to try and save this building," he said. "Yes it does need a bit of work, but I don’t think it’s a building that should be destroyed … in this day and age where we’re trying to make the best use of our resources, does that make sense?"
Ada Roman has been looking for affordable, accessible housing to no avail.
"It’s hard to look for a place," she said. "I’ve been trying. I’ve got my name in everywhere."
Sandy Trudel, the city’s economic development director, said the demolition is expected to happen this summer. As for what the plans are for the property, Trudel couldn’t say.
"At this point in time, there isn’t a public application filed," she said. "Until he either files an application, or until he chooses to disclose it, I really can’t discuss what his concepts are."
Trudel said the city’s goal was to keep the property as affordable housing units.
"The challenge is you have a building full of tenants that are faced with the daunting challenge of finding new accommodations in a very tight rental market," she said. "I know that there is a great push amongst those individuals to try and have that building remain as affordable housing units, so we’ve had those discussions with the property owners, on numerous occasions … my understanding, in our latest conversations is that he is opting to proceed with demolition."