For residents of Kitimat’s two manufactured home parks — Vista Village and Jed Stumps — a new policy of the District of Kitimat means better protection should the fate of their homes become blurred.
Residents had wanted a policy that gives assurances of the process of redevelopment of mobile home properties. Those assurances include the required timeframes for a park to be redeveloped, as well as established buy-out rates a park owner could offer to the tenants to assist with moving.
The move comes after a number of stories of concerned residents of local trailer parks worried about things such as if their manufactured home park will be closed by the owners, and if they’ll end up on the street in a housing market that’s significantly higher than in year’s past.
From the public discussion of the policy at the November 23 Committee of the Whole meeting some residents still indicated there is hard feelings among some for their park’s owners. While issues such as trouble selling individual trailers was mentioned to councillors at the meeting, this town policy wouldn’t specifically address these concerns.
Rather, the policy sets out rules for redevelopment. Even so the town was praised for making efforts to protect the town’s citizens.
The core component of the policy is a requirement for a communications plan by the park owner to tenants explaining any anticipated changed.
Under the BC Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act, owners can redevelopment the properties but must give 12 months notice once all permits are in place and provide compensation equal to 12 months of rent too.
The new policy requires notices to tenants be increased to 24 months from time of the council’s receipt of application.
A reasonable relocation plan also must be offered to tenants under the policy.
Tenants appeared quite happy with the policy, although comment received from the parks themselves were more mixed.
The lawyer who represents Vista Village owner Lee Ann Wolfin, Michael Gemmiti, said the policy as drafted shouldn’t be adopted, “because it is not needed in Kitimat,” noting the community doesn’t have the same land redevelopment pressures as other areas such as the Lower Mainland.
Meanwhile the Manufactured Home Park Owners Alliance of B.C. said council should work to discourage any redevelopment of parks at all.
For Jed Stumps Estates the town received a letter from the lawyers representing that property, which sided largely with the opinion from Vista Village and further asked the town to defer any decisions until full consultation is made.
The town’s planning department said there has been consultation with all affected stakeholders, including discussions with the park owners directly even if the opinion of their lawyers arrived late in the process.
Council adopted the policy at their meeting, but there is still a detail to work out ahead of the turn of the year, and that’s how much of a buy-out needs to be offered to residents.
The options are payment under the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act, the appraised or assessed value of the home, or a straight dollar amount.
Councillors tried finding consensus but suggestions ranged from as low at $10,000 to as high as $25,000.
Councillors ultimately felt unprepared to make a final decision though and included in their motion to adopt the policy that they were going to refer to staff for suggested buy-out amounts.