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Mobile home park residents take Songhees to court over eviction

Songhees have told residents that land must be cleared to make way for affordable housing project for First Nations people

Facing eviction, homelessness and, in some cases, loss of their life savings, residents of a Greater Victoria mobile home park have decided to take a stand and fight for a chance to stay in their homes or at least be compensated for vacating.

Residents of E. George Estates, in the 1300 block of Craigflower Road, have taken their fight with their landlords, the Songhees First Nation, to B.C. Supreme Court.

Heather McEwen, a resident of the 39-unit mobile home park, said she and her husband, Alan, are devastated at the prospect of having to leave their home of nine years, a place they saw as an affordable slice of Victoria where they could retire with low overhead. “Our first reaction was shock and disbelief,” ­McEwen said of the eviction notice they were given last year by the Songhees First Nation, telling residents they had until the end of June 2024 to vacate.

McEwen said the Songhees have indicated they intend to build affordable housing for First Nations. She has no problem with them making the most of their traditional lands, but she takes exception when it means “treating their neighbours and taxpaying residents as basically disposable trash.”

In June last year, the Songhees delivered eviction notices saying residents had to move from the site and remove their homes and all improvements by June 30, 2024.

The residents, who McEwen described as older, many retired and some with physical and mental disabilities, also received a new tenancy agreement with a fixed term of three years and with a clause stipulating the removal of homes and possessions by the 2024 date.

McEwen said many residents have lived at the park for decades and have, since the Songhees took ownership in 2019, paid both rent and property taxes to the First Nation “as though we owned the land we have lived on.” McEwen said now they are being told their homes are worthless, they have no equity in them and they have to move on.

To add insult to injury, she said, Songhees requires all residents to either move their homes or pay to have them demolished.

Claire Truesdale, Songhees’ legal counsel, said she would not comment while the matter is before the courts.

However, in its response to the claim, Songhees said it has given residents more time than required by the province’s rules and the tenants ought to have known their tenancies were on no more than a month-to-month basis as the residents have been able to terminate tenancy with 30 days notice and have been paying pad rent on a monthly basis.

The First Nation notes, in its court filing, that it does not have “a sustainable land base to meet its current and future needs for cultural, residential, recreational, commercial, and community land use. With respect to residential use in particular, there is a shortage of Songhees Nation public housing for members in need.”

It points out that, in order to develop the site for community housing, it would need to spend time and money to remove the mobile homes and would not be enriched by the homes being left on site. “The failure of the plaintiffs to remove their mobile homes from the mobile home park lands would impose a commensurate financial burden on Songhees.”

Songhees has also filed a counter claim for outstanding pad rental fees and, in some cases, unpaid property taxes.

According to court documents, many of the homes were built in the 1970s and, due to their age and improvements made to them, any attempt to relocate them would be costly or result in destruction of the home. The filings also note “there are no manufactured home parks reasonably available to which the homes could be relocated.”

“The three years in the mind of the Songhees is a generous gift, but [for us] it just means three years of increasing rents and mortgages in the general market. It doesn’t help,” said McEwen. Their homes have been deemed worthless because they have to be moved and there’s nowhere to move them and no market in which to sell them, she said.

She said residents face trying to find rental accommodation or trying to qualify for mortgages.

In the McEwens’ case, there is still a mortgage on the manufactured home, which they had hoped to pay off before Heather retires in nine years.

“This is absolutely devastating for everybody here. A lot of the folks are retired and on a fixed income and they had planned to have an affordable housing situation for their retirement years. And now that’s being taken out from underneath them.”

McEwen said the group taking the Songhees to court aren’t sure if they will be successful, but they felt they have to try.

“We feel like we can’t just let this continue,” she said, adding there are other mobile home parks in the area that may soon face the same fate as property values continue to soar and the land becomes more attractive for denser housing stock. “They’re going to evict everybody. And they’re putting people out into a place where rents are high and rentals are very hard to find.”

It has already happened at Triple Oaks mobile home park, which was next door to E. George Estates. In 2017, residents at Triple Oaks, many of them retired seniors, were given eight months notice to move out by Songhees.

A large rental development was built on the Triple Oaks site.

Because Triple Oaks and E. George Estates are on First Nation land, the province’s Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act has no jurisdiction.

The Act, changed in 2018 to provide compensation for tenants of manufactured home parks facing eviction, requires a 12-month notice to end tenancy, landlords to pay tenants when a park is closed, additional compensation if a manufactured home cannot be relocated and says tenants are not responsible for disposal costs.

A government spokesperson confirmed there is nothing in the legislation that can be applied on Songhees land.

McEwen hopes there may be a middle ground. Some residents have come to realize they may not get to stay, but they are holding out hope they may be at least compensated for their homes so they have something to get back into the housing market.

Michael Drouillard, counsel for the residents, said he hopes there’s room for negotiation. “But that’s not where this is at right now.”

The residents have started a Gofundme campaign to pay legal costs at

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