LINDSEY ENNS/BRANDON SUN
Kingsway Kort homeowner Lisa Halter manages to garner the support of local area resident Robert Creasy while taking her petition to save the local trailer court to the streets in Brandon’s Downtown Hub on Tuesday.
Evicting more than 140 Kingsway Kort residents to make room for apartments is a "devastational tragedy that’s happening to humans," according to one homeowner.
"This is just devastating. These are people, it’s no different than someone in their family being killed and people just standing by and doing nothing," said Lisa Halter, who purchased her trailer court home in December 2011. "I was told (by the owner at the time) that this court was staying, they were actually building a fence around it to isolate the area and they were going to improve the roads and people were going to fix up all of their trailers.
"I certainly would not have bought if I knew this was happening."
Residents started receiving eviction notices from Brandon Evergreen Developments last week that said they have until March 2014 to find a new place to live after a Vancouver-based developer announced plans to build four apartment buildings and a number of townhouses on the land.
More than 50 families are now another step closer to eviction after an application to rezone the land received first reading at Monday’s city council meeting.
Council voted in favour of the first reading. Coun. Garth Rice (South Centre) was the only councillor to vote against the rezoning.
With Halter and a few other trailer court residents in attendance Monday, Rice said he hopes his vote showed them they have his support.
"I thought the people that live in that trailer park deserve at least somebody to say, ‘I’m feeling for you and I’m with you on this,’ but unfortunately those of us that know, know that developer can go right ahead and develop that property and not even come to us to rezone it," he said. "They have the Residential Tenancy Act to fall back on and I do think it’s good that they’ll let the school age children finish the school year, but that may be the only victory they get."
Even with the support of every councillor, he warns there’s not much else that can be done at this level, so he suggests they contact their MLA.
"To lobby council for a change isn’t really the proper level of government in this case," he said. "Even if council were to go the way that I wish them to go, it wouldn’t change much for these people."
Halter bought her home at the local trailer court, located in Brandon’s south end just east of 18th Street, with the intention of renovating it. Her son is currently living there while improvements are still being made.
She said she bought the place under the impression the property wouldn’t be up for sale anytime soon.
"I was personally told, if ever it was bought out, that they wouldn’t allow it to go forward for five years so that the residents wouldn’t have anything to worry about. they would have five years to make a plan," she said. "That would be much more reasonable."
With the help of a petition, Halter and other concerned residents are vying for changes to the Residential Tenancy Act to prevent something like this from happening in the future.
"You can’t just tell people to get up and get out, give people five months notice because you own the land ... there has to be warning beforehand and people have to have information that things are going up for sale," she said.
A copy of the petition to save the trailer court is online at Change.org and is being circulated throughout the city.
Halter had her copy in hand while walking through the Downtown Hub Tuesday hoping to garner the support of local businesses and community members.
"A lot of people they’re behind us, some think it’s a lost cause but they are behind us, they are just blown away," she said. "This is going to not just impact us, students are going to be impacted because once other people secure those houses, where will they live? And that will stop people from coming to Brandon University. Is this a city that only wants the very rich and the very poor and no in between?"
Rice, who also sits on the city’s poverty committee, said rezoning this trailer court is another indication that affordable housing in the city is ceasing to exist and is an issue that needs to be addressed.
"Unfortunately when you look at the affordable housing situation … not nearly enough has been done to address that level of income."
To get the word out, Halter and two others created "Occupy Kingsway," a Facebook page with nearly 160 members. The page is a place for residents and owners to voice their concerns and share their ideas, she said.
"We started with an open group but then quickly had to make it a closed group because it’s for the residents to share and their families, people that are immediately affected and for supporters of ours. Not people who are trying to tear us apart and take cheap shots at us."
There is also a group organizing a closed meeting locally for residents and owners on Friday. Halter said she couldn’t disclose any additional details about the meeting, but those invited have already been informed.
"They will be able to discuss their feelings and thoughts and how it’s impacting them and ways we can deal with it and what actions should be taken."
During the meeting, they will also be electing someone from the trailer court to represent their committee.
"We’re looking to set up our own committee of a group to represent us and we plan on standing in solidarity, we are going to go forward together," she said. "We are residents of Brandon, we are residents of Manitoba, residents of Canada and we live in a country that allows people to be heard."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 21, 2013