Single mother fights eviction from Vancouver co-op housing where she’s lived for 10 years

“I am preparing to live in my car and I can’t let myself think negative — I already have depression.” — Lenlen Aixendora Castro

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A single mother who has a subsidized rental unit in a Vancouver housing cooperative is fighting eviction to get more time to find “safe and affordable” housing.

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If she fails to get more time, she fears she will end up homeless because of extreme rental housing costs in Metro Vancouver.

Lenlen Aixendora Castro has lived at Rishon Housing Cooperative in the Marpole area of Vancouver for 10 years, but was given an eviction notice of Sept. 15.

Castro lost an appeal to the general membership of the 20-unit housing co-op and is now fighting in B.C. Supreme Court for more time to find adequate housing.

A hearing was scheduled for Oct. 14 in court in Vancouver but has been delayed until Nov. 4.

“I am preparing to live in my car and I can’t let myself think negative — I already have depression,” said Castro, who is on disability and works seasonal and contract jobs.

“I just need time to find safe and affordable housing.”

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A lawyer representing the Rishon Housing cooperative in the court action did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Castro believes the eviction notice was precipitated by her planting a garden this spring in a common area without explicit permission, although she noted that some other residents had gardens. Court filings show the request to remove boxes from the garden escalated to a notice of termination in April.

Castro has alleged in court filings that her unit had been entered without consent and that racist messages had been posted on her door in the past.

In court documents, the housing cooperative have accused Castro of “harassment.”

Castro says she realizes she cannot stay at the co-op because the tenants don’t want her there, but is anxious and fearful about finding a home because her search so far for affordable housing shows wait lists as long as two years.

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Castro’s court filings say B.C. Housing placed her at the cooperative housing, which she says happened after she fled an abusive relationship when she was pregnant.

The rent for a two-bedroom unit at the co-op is about $1,000, of which about half is covered for Castro by a B.C. Housing subsidy for a person with a disability.

Castro has moved her daughter, in Grade 7, to her mother’s house so that she can avoid the stress of witnessing the dispute.

Stephanie Fung, an organizer with the Vancouver Tenants Union, said Castro’s situation is just the tip of the iceberg of what’s happening to tenants across the Lower Mainland.

“At a time like this, no one should be forced out of their home. We urge Rishon Housing to cease their harmful actions and give Lenlen time to find safe and secure housing,” said Fung.

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A report released last week by Zumper, an online site that helps people search for rental units, ranked Vancouver as the most expensive rental city in Canada.

A one bedroom goes for an average of $2,130, higher than Toronto at an average of $1,800. A two-bedroom apartment, the size of unit Castro would need for her and her daughter, is on average $2,900 in Vancouver, according to the Zumper survey.

The Vancouver Tenants Union has been demanding immediate action from the B.C. government to deal with what they call an “eviction crisis.”

The union has called for immediate public release of all data the province has on evictions and the creation of a system to track all evictions in the province while preserving tenants’ privacy. It has also called for the province to implement “real” rent control that ties the cap on rent increased to the unit and not the tenant.

ghoekstra@postmedia.com

twitter.com/gordon_hoekstra

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