Amanda Turner and her youngest child

Fraser region native housing society sells properties, displacing tenants

Money from selling the houses will be used to help build a new multi-family residence, society says

The three-bedroom rancher at 4601 Tyler Street in Yarrow was a little small for a family of six, but Amanda Turner and her husband were managing.

The house, one of several operated by the non-profit aboriginal Mamele’Awt Qweesome Housing Society (MQHS), had an open-plan kitchen with room for two freezers and a living room that did double duty as a fourth bedroom.

The subsidized rent was $450 a month.

Just over two months ago, Turner said the housing society told them they would have to move out becaquse the house was being sold and the family began searching for new accommodations.

As far as she knows, there was no issue with the way the family was looking after the house and they had received no complaints.

They were unable to negotiate a transfer to another MQHS unit, Turner said.

“They said our family was too big (to accommodate elsewhere).”

Last month, the couple and their four children moved into a non-subsidized two-bedroom townhouse in Chilliwack that costs $650 a month.

“It’s a run-down place but it’s what we can afford,” she said.

The Turners aren’t the only MQHS clients to be displaced.

Another tenant, who asked not to be named, said she was told her family would have to move from her house because it would be sold.

She said one manager told her the non-profit society needed the funds from the sale to cover a funding shortfall.

“They said they had no more money for upkeep and maintenance,” the woman told The News.

She was relocated to a smaller MQHS housing unit, a townhouse.

Managers at the Mamele’Awt Qweesome Housing Society did not respond to repeated requests for comment from the News.

When Simon Gibson, the MLA for Abbotsford-Mission, looked into the matter at the request of The News, he forwarded a written response via email to The News.

It said the society was selling three properties it owns in Yarrow, Chilliwack, and Mission and the money from selling the houses would be used to help build a new multi-family residence.

“Proceeds from the sales will be reinvested in the building of new affordable housing in Chilliwack,” the statement said.

The new housing project was described as a “mixed-market urban village.”

One of the three houses was unoccupied at the time of sale, the society said.

“All tenants at the (occupied) properties were given substantial notice that the properties would be sold, and offered several options for suitable relocation,” the statement said.

The houses were among a number of low-income “older single family houses in rural and remote areas” that were transferred to MQHS from another housing agency, the statement added.

“The intention in transferring ownership of these properties was to have them assessed for their long-term sustainability, and their usefulness in serving MQHS’s client base … it was understood the properties may be sold or redeveloped, and the revenue repurposed for other MQHS projects.”

While the statement did not directly refer to the Turner family, it identified one of the three houses as being located on Tyler and said the tenants of that house were “given 18 months notice, and offered several housing options, including the choice to stay at Tyler and pay sliding rate/near market rental rates, or move to other suitable subsidized housing.”

Turner said the option of paying a higher rent was not raised when she spoke with the society.

The MQHS website said the non-profit urban aboriginal housing society currently owns and manages 122 rental units for “low and moderate-income aboriginal elders, special needs individuals and family clients, predominantly focused on support for aboriginal people” in Abbotsford, Agassiz, Chilliwack, Harrison, Hope, Mission, and Yarrow.

The registered charity declared $2 million of revenue in 2015 to the Canada Revenue Agency, 72 percent of it coming from government funding.

It reported spending slightly more than it took in, with total revenues of $2,019,540 against total expenditures of $2,093,199.

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