James Bay tenants still looking for housing after fatal fire
Tenants displaced by a James Bay apartment fire are banding together in an increasingly desperate search for affordable housing.
“There’s been a lot of difficulties that we’ve faced as a result of the fire and being displaced so suddenly,” says former Village Green Apartments tenant Jason Rempel.
The group figures about 10 people are still looking for more permanent accommodations after the deadly fire forced them from their homes at 118 Menzies Street.
While some of them are taking legal action over a dispute related to the habitability of the building in hopes of returning soon, the landlord says the building isn’t safe and those affected will need to find somewhere to live for at least 10 months to allow for restoration work.
“The fact that the housing search is coming up with no leads is making things that much more difficult and adds to the uncertainty and anxiety that we’re all facing,” says Rempel.
Every person’s situation is different. Rempel is a hospitality worker who says income has been tight with fewer tourists, so he can’t afford to pay more than $900 a month.
He’s on the last few days of a temporary stay through the help of strangers in Oak Bay.
Rempel says he’s also helping his 71-year-old neighbour who doesn’t want to be identified. He says she doesn’t have family in Canada and calls to affordable housing agencies are coming up empty.
“My main concerns are with her right now,” he says. “She’s had a very difficult time.”
Another displaced tenant, Neil Kingswell, is also a senior on a fixed income.
He’s been staying in a hotel with the help of the province, which has been assisting some people on income assistance and disability assistance.
Kingswell’s stay is supposed to be running out in a few days, but the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction says the stay can be extended if other housing options aren’t available.
“I would like to know that I’m not going to have to be concerned about leaving a place on a certain date,” said Kingwell in an interview prior to the province’s response to CTV News. “You know when you walk into a place and think: ‘I’m home?’ I don’t have that anymore.”
The tenants say they’re grateful for the support they’ve received so far – and are hopeful a lead on something more permanent will come soon, as they rally to support each other in some newfound friendships.
Unfortunately, their plight is shared with others. Greater Victoria’s tight rental market hasn’t made their search easy.
“Just today, I’ve seen about 15 new listings. Everything is about $1,800 to 2,000,” Rempel said.