Repairs come hours before media tour of probems
In a surprising move, renters at a New Westminster apartment block owned by the Sahota clan got quick and timely repairs.
The ink was barely dry on a press release announcing a Thursday rally and tour of the run-down Waterfront Developments property on Cameron Street when workers descended and fixed the most obvious of the building’s shortcomings.
“They were working here until midnight patching holes in the walls, dabbing paint around, and returning our water,” said renter John Dykema, who joined other ACORN members with a rousing call and response — “Who are we? ACORN! What do we want? Healthy homes! When do we want them? Now!”
Rather than a tour of a trail of neglect renters instead showed media where the water wasn’t working Wednesday, where the holes in the wall were Wednesday, where the painters repainted Wednesday — all fixed in time for the media tour.
Gurdyal Singh Sahota and other family members run Waterfront Developments, which has been a high-profile target of government investigations and crackdowns over the years.
The latest official action was a $115,000 fine from the Residential Tenancy Branch — the first handed out — for chronic problems at the Kwantlen Park Manior in Surrey.
Sue Collard, a Kwantlen Park tenant, said the government needs to do more to pressure landlords like the Sahotas from mistreating tenants.
Collard said the problems with the Sahotas are so chronic that new generations of Sahota tenants are fighting for needed repairs just as their parents and uncles and cousins did before them.
“You’re talking about multi-generational abuse,” said Collard. “It’s almost impossible to get repairs done.”
Unless, apparently, you announce a rally and building tour and the Sahotas catches wind of it.
The family traditionally doesn’t discuss its landlord-tenant relations, but in 2009 it granted a brief interview to the Vancouver Courier about its properties in Vancouver’s troubled Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.
Gurdyal Sahota said the family has been in business for a long time and gives housing to those in need.
“We’re OK with everybody [down there],” Sahota said. “Many people benefit from us.”
Sahota said his family is a part of the Downtown Eastside because it provides low-cost homes to impoverished people, no matter what the media reports about them.
“We have to do what we have to do,” Sahota said. “We run rooming for poor people.”
Tom Page of ACORN — the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, called for stricter enforcement of bylaws.
“We need the local and/or provincial government to enforce laws,” said Page. “Everybody should be able to live in a safe and healthy environment, especially children.
“This is our goal — this is what we’re after, and we won’t stop until we get it.”