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New lease on life for evacuated Terrace tenants

Local non-profit to share hotel costs with BC Housing
Tarea Roberge of the Kermode Friendship Society speaks at a town hall meeting she organized at the society’s downtown location on Jan. 14. (Michael Bramadat-Willcock/Terrace Standard)

Tenants at the Coachman Apartments complex who evacuated after pipes burst amid freezing weather on Boxing Day will have places to stay until Feb. 19 thanks to a local non-profit helping foot the bill for hotels.

The new lease on life was announced during a Jan. 14 town hall meeting at the Kermode Friendship Society led by outreach coordinator Tarea Roberge between tenants, Terrace Mayor Sean Bujtas and Fire Chief John Klie.

Roberge tapped a surplus in her budget at Kermode to share the cost of hotel rooms for one month with BC Housing, starting when current funding runs out Jan 19.

Whether tenants should return will depend on the results of air quality inspections over black mould, Klie told the crowd of worried residents. Bujtas added that will depend on the volume of mould.

Water to the Coachman is shut off since Dec. 26 with a 24-hour fire watch in place since alarms aren’t working.

Three tenants remained in the building with no plans to leave and evacuations were still optional as of Jan. 14.

Environmental public health staff also expressed concern about the lack of access to drinking water and for the sewer system. They’re making sure any public health risks are found and dealt with, a spokesperson said.

Bujtas urged tenants to apply for housing in the meantime. Some have already managed despite the long waiting list due to the urgency of their situation.

“We’re going to get as many BC Housing applications out because there are many options through BC Housing as a whole,” said Roberge, adding that tenants will be helped with paying rent to stay housed.

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross has urged the province to buy the Coachman and convert it into affordable housing. That could save tenants from renovictions, he said, adding that a long-term solution is needed.

The Dec. 18 death of the building’s landlord and point of contact for repairs further complicates things, with B.C. Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon pointing to “a challenging situation with legal implications”.

Having won some more time to sort out the crisis, it’s still a long haul for both tenants and frontline workers like Roberge, who has advocated for tenants since mid-December.

“Everyone involved is doing everything they can to support the tenants and it would be really great to see some landlords come forward with some vacant units that they can make available,” said Roberge.

“When we have the opportunity to house someone we don’t just throw them into it, we help them maintain tenancy by being good tenants. These tenants could really use their help and they will be backed by supports.”

READ MORE: ‘Feeling like we’re drowning’: Tenants of rundown Terrace building fear for future

READ MORE: Crisis at Coachman Apartments as water pipes burst amid freezing weather


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