Trailer park seniors fear development will uproot their homes

Elderly residents in the Garden Village mobile home park at 1881 McCallum Rd. are concerned that they may have to move out in the near future. - Neil Corbett
Elderly residents in the Garden Village mobile home park at 1881 McCallum Rd. are concerned that they may have to move out in the near future.
— image credit: Neil Corbett

The residents of an Abbotsford mobile home park for seniors are worried that their days in their homes are numbered, and they may lose their investments.

Garden Village, which is located at 1881 McCallum Rd., near the Highway 1 overpass, is an oasis of calm in a busy city, where everybody knows their neighbour – and their dogs – by name.

All the gossip is about how much longer they have in their homes.

The residents, all 55 and over, have been told by their property manager that the company will take no long-term leases, and all tenancies are month to month. They have also been offered two years’ pad rent to leave.

However, they’ve not yet been told to pack up.

“We’re under a lot of stress, and we don’t know what the future holds,” said resident Myrtle Young.

She sold her condominium in Clearbrook Village and bought a trailer in which to retire. Last April, she obtained $16,000 under a government program to update her trailer. Now she is concerned that if she is forced to leave within five years of the grant, the government will make her repay the funds – as per the terms of the program.

“I never expected that I would have to move,” said the 70-year-old. “There are quite a few moved out already, but they got nothing for their trailers.”

In her case, a two-year buyout would be about $11,000. That would just cover the cost to move the trailer, she said.

Residents of the park are also finding that they would be forced to move into the Interior if they want to keep their mobile homes. Most parks in the Lower Mainland will not accept trailers older than 10 years.

Myrtle’s granddaughter, Crystal Young, points out that nobody is going to buy a trailer in a park that is not allowing long-term leases, and where they may only have two years or less. She fears her grandmother will lose $40,000 she has invested in her place at Garden Village, and notes that virtually all of the residents are on fixed income or low income – people who can least afford to take a financial hit late in life.

“She’s going to end up having to rent an apartment somewhere,” predicts Crystal.

Residents are willing to talk about the situation, but most prefer to remain anonymous. The stories are similar, but the numbers change. One person spent $60,000 buying and renovating a double-wide five years ago; another spent $79,000 a year ago, and would receive only $12,000 to leave.

Some cities have bylaws that stipulate residents in their position must be compensated fair market value for their trailers, and they would like to see that made a provincial statute.

Financial concerns aside, they simply don’t want to leave. One man points out that he gets pad rent with garbage pickup and television included for $500 per month.

“You can’t ask for better – and it’s peaceful and the people are friendly.”

The land is owned by Karen Matty, a high-profile Abbotsford developer who made headlines for her Brio high rise project, which is currently on hold.

With their trailers sitting on approximately 13 acres near the highway, and walking distance to both the historic downtown and the planned university district, the residents speculate there are bigger plans for the trailer park.

However, park manager Paul Hague said there has been no official announcement, nor is there a plan to develop the site.

He said due to the age and condition of the 55-year-old park, management is allowing no long-term leases, but is offering buy-outs.

“We just put the word out – if you want out, here’s an option.”

Abbotsford South MLA John van Dongen has been contacted by several Garden Village residents asking for government help. His advice is to sit tight – none of them has been served notice yet. Once they do, they have two years.

“It’s inevitable that this is going to be stressful for people,” he said. “They fully expected to live out their lives in this situation.

“I have all the sympathy in the world for the people living there.”

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