Pioneer Cottages rental dispute settled

Residents of Pioneer Cottages are happy with a settlement on the rental increase controversy that began last fall.

Residents of Pioneer Cottages, the senior non-profit housing on 10th Avenue, are happy with a settlement on the rental increase controversy that began last fall.

Beginning April 1, tenant’s rent will only go up about $16 per month, instead of the proposed $100 per month that was announced at the beginning of October.

When former president of the Alberni Valley Senior Citizen Homes Society, Ernie Bigelow found out at the end of September that the society faced a $40,000 tax bill from the city from the on-site cottages because they had been renovated, he thought the quickest way to raise the money by the July deadline was through the tenants. After he announced a significant rent increase on his office letterhead, rather than legal forms from the Residential Tenancy Branch, several residents fought back.

Just prior to a board meeting in December, to which tenants were invited, Bigelow announced his retirement and board members agreed at the meeting to go through the legal process. The result was an agreement to increase the rent by only 2.9 per cent on April 1.

After Bigelow’s retirement, George Rogers, a board member for the past 10 years, stepped up to take over the position and faced his first big decision. He said the board decided the right thing to do was to go through the proper channels.

“It is provincially regulated, what else are you going to do,” Rogers said. “$40,000 is a big bill.”

“I was very happy to see that the Alberni Valley Senior Citizen Homes Society are complying with the Residential Act,” said Patty Edwards, who was mediating on behalf of MLA Scott Fraser, in an e-mail.

Rogers said the board intends to pay the tax bill on time, but does not yet have a viable means.

“The rent increase is nowhere near covering it, but we will find it somehow,” he said.

During early discussions last winter, Edwards suggested fundraising.

“Patty Edwards might believe that would work but it wouldn’t very well for us as a non-profit,” Rogers said. “Santa Claus is great if you believe in him, but I don’t.”

Glad Doyle was one of the first tenants to speak out about the proposed rent increase and is happy that her monthly rental bill will not be going up a significant amount. She was also the one to make initial suggestions of using the property’s contingency fund to help cover the cost of the tax bill.

“I also made suggestions that they must cut down on expenses that are not necessary,” Doyle said. “I noticed they have done little things here and there. In past winters when we had an inch of snow, the plow would be there and that could be expensive. I said we could get by with one inch so this year I noticed it wasn’t plowed. I hope they will still use the contingency fund, though, because it can be built back up over time and this is an emergency.”

“What will the city do if someone can’t pay their taxes?” he asked. “If you don’t have the money, you don’t have it. We’re a non-profit.”

“I would like the community to assist this vital, long-serving group in finding funding for their tax bill to enable them to continue offering affordable high quality seniors housing,” Edwards wrote.

 

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