Residents of evacuated Langford, B.C., building vent concerns with council over lack of support, transparency
Tensions were high Monday evening as residents of a Langford, B.C., apartment building deemed structurally unsafe voiced their frustrations to city council about an ongoing lack of transparency and support in the wake of the building's evacuation last month.
Among the concerns aired at the city-hosted forum were the lack of details about the specific structural issues at RidgeView Place, concerns over unequal access to emergency grant funding, and questions around whether the city will make policy changes to its occupancy permit process moving forward.
"I'm absolutely shocked by what's happened, [and] how you've replied to us," Dennis MacDonald, a resident of the 11-storey building at 2770 Claude Rd., told council Monday.
"You haven't given a single concrete bit of information."
The city held the forum to allow RidgeView Place residents to ask council questions in person. While around a dozen residents attended the meeting in person, as many as 100 joined the meeting online, though it's unknown how many of those were displaced residents of the building.
Langford Mayor Scott Goodmanson and city staff said they haven't been able to get much information from the building owner Centurion Property Associates — not even a list of who lived in the building. A couple of residents said they haven't been able to contact the property owner to get answers to their questions.
Still no information on exact risks to safety
Residents had been previously told to leave the building in 2019, when it was just a year old and known as Danbrook One, because it was deemed seismically unsafe.
Work was done to upgrade the building and the city issued a new occupancy permit in April 2022. But a second evacuation was announced April 24 after Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia (EGBC) notified the city and Centurion of more potential structural issues.
Goodmanson told residents that there's still no new information on the exact risks to the building's safety, and that an investigation by EGBC is underway.
A statement from Centurion said third-party structural engineers have been assessing the building over the past week, and that a "phased and controlled move-out" has been executed.
It said that as of Monday, 84 per cent of displaced tenants have found permanent accommodation, 13 per cent have found temporary accommodation, and three per cent are unknown.
Emergency funding a 'slap in the face', says resident
Tara Davies said the city's emergency grants program is a "slap in the face" to displaced residents who make more than the low to moderate income eligibility requirements, and argued the only requirements for tenants to receive funding should be that they live in the building.
Davies, a bus driver, said she can't work right now because her life "is turned upside down," and expressed concerns over handing over bank statements to prove she's eligible for funding.
The grant program to help residents was launched by the city's Community Social Planning Council (CSPC), supported by donations from local businesses and individuals.
One-time grants of up to $2,000 are available to help with rent and other costs, with priority given to applicants with disabilities, seniors, families with children, and those with low to moderate incomes.
The CSPC says nearly $28,000 has been raised to help affected residents and the city has promised to match donations up to $75,000.
CSPC executive director Diane Gibson said a housing navigator has been hired to help displaced residents find appropriate long-term housing.
Another displaced resident, Tyler Sansom, asked council if it would look into any policy changes to the city's occupancy permit process in the future. Goodmanson replied it was "definitely something we will be following up on," but added that council is currently focused on getting immediate support for struggling residents.
When asked about whether council would provide financial support to residents to take possible legal action against Centurion Properties, Goodmanson said he couldn't comment.