As eviction deadline looms, Casa Loma residents face uncertain future

The owners of homes at the Casa Loma trailer park are less than a week away from eviction. After a year of scrambling, many of them still have nowhere to move their homes.

The owners of homes at the Casa Loma trailer park are less than a week away from eviction.

After a year of scrambling, many of them still have nowhere to move their homes. They’re supposed to be gone at the end of the month.

Among the dozen trailers that have been standing in Porter Creek for decades, a demolition crew is tearing down one home. Another is already up on blocks set to be moved out of the city. A few renters are in the process of packing up boxes.

Others are on the verge of panic.

“My one neighbour, he’s a man’s man, he doesn’t cry. We cried together on Sunday,” said Colette Devigne, who owns a 50-foot, two-bedroom trailer where she lives with her 16-year-old son and their two dogs.

“We don’t know what to do, we’re confused, we’re lost, we’re all up in the air because we don’t know what to do.”

The Casa Loma trailer park is not breaking any laws by evicting its tenants. Ross King, Casa Loma’s general manager, hasn’t said why residents are being evicted and isn’t legally required to. Homeowners were given a year’s notice to pack up and move their homes off the site.

The question for most of them is where to go. Right now there are no approved rental pads available anywhere at any of the trailer parks in Whitehorse.

That could change soon. In June, after working through all the paperwork, the City of Whitehorse approved an application by the owner of the Lobird trailer park to build new rental spaces.

The City has been working with residents since they got their eviction notices, said Pat Ross, manager of planning and building services.

After reaching out to all of the trailer parks in town “Lobird is really the only park that had the ability to do an expansion to create new pads,” he said

Residents at Casa Loma say they’ve been told there will be room for them at Lobird, but it will take a month or two to get new pads in order. Last month they asked that their eviction be put off to September. Last week that was denied.

On Tuesday, King said the eviction is still set for the end of the month. Today, he added the trailer park is doing what it can to help residents. He wouldn’t say if that meant the deadline was being extended.

*****

Residents say they’ve been hunting for a solution since the moment they found out about the eviction.

“We have looked at every avenue and every angle that we could possibly look at,” said Ann Rudniski, who has owned a home at the park for the last two years.

People have considered buying land. With nothing available in Whitehorse that means looking at bare land outside of the city, she said. That’s just not financially viable for most people.

“You’ve got to put a road in there, you’ve got to put septic in there, you’ve got to put a well and you’ve got to put power, so you’re looking at an extra $20,000 on top of the $150,000 to put your trailer up,” she said.

To be approved to move to Lobird, Rudniski will have to apply to city council for a zoning amendment. That’s because her trailer has an addition built onto it. The addition was allowed at Casa Loma because it had been grandfathered in ahead of the current regulations.

Moving a trailer to a new park means having to meet the current standards. The process to approve an exception for Rudniski’s trailer will take city council two months, Ross said.

Rudniski said she’s been told the power and water to the trailers will be cut off at the end of July.

She’s not living in the trailer she owns. She rents it out, but right now it sits empty. She’s now looking for a way to move it to storage until Lobird is ready.

Residents who live in their trailers are in an even tighter situation.

Devigne has been living in her home for nine years and said she never imagined having to move.

Buying land is out of the question for her. As a single mother who is living on disability, she said buying her $50,000 trailer and paying pad rent is the only way she can house her family affordably.

“I still have a mortgage on it and it’s affordable housing. Even with my mortgage and my pad rent I pay pretty close to $700 a month for two bedrooms and a large backyard, enough for two big dogs,” she said.

“In Whitehorse can you get that? No. I would be lucky to find a one-bedroom place for $1,000 that wouldn’t accept two dogs.

“What am I going to do with my son? Does he sleep on the couch or do I?”

As the eviction deadline approaches, Devigne said she is praying the owners of the Casa Loma trailer park will change their mind and grant the extension.

Without it, she doesn’t know what her next step will be.

“If I can’t go to Lobird, I’m homeless and so is my son,” she said.

Devigne said she could live for some time in her home even after the power and water is cut, if it comes to that.

“If I had to move it right now, I would have to walk away from it.”

*****

Lobird is approved for about 30 new pads, Ross said, but it’s unlikely they’ll all be built at once.

They certainly won’t be done by Monday, he said.

How fast pads get built is a business decision left up to the landowner, he said. Creating new pads can be expensive and getting that money back through rent takes time.

Lobird’s owner Blake Battersby did not respond to an interview request.

There’s no water and sewer established for the new sites yet and some still need road access.

Even after a new pad is created, there’s no guarantee the tenants at Casa Loma will be allowed to move to Lobird right away. The trailer park owner has to approve trailers and the city has to give the thumbs up that the home meets all codes and bylaws.

The city has begun looking at the Casa Loma trailers to give owners a basic estimate of how much upgrades might cost, but it’s difficult to know for sure until a trailer has a new home, he said.

“The reality is that these folks at this point really need to find an interim storage location for these trailers until they can find a place for them to go,” Ross said.

Devigne said she is hoping for loans from the Yukon Housing Corporation to help cover the cost of moving her trailer to Lobird and doing any of the required upgrades.

It’s unclear if the department would help pay for a move to storage.

“YHC is currently in discussion with several tenants residing at the Casa Loma trailer park to assess how current YHC programs may be able to support the residents with portions of their individual circumstances/needs,” spokesperson Christy Westropp said in an e-mail.

*****

Devigne said she’s concerned about what would happen in Whitehorse if one of the larger trailer parks in Whitehorse decided to shut down.

It’s a concern echoed by Takhini-Kopper King MLA Kate White.

White called what has been accomplished in the last year by the City, Yukon Housing, the residents and Lobird a “Herculean effort.”

She bristles at any suggestion that things should have been done faster.

“After everything was said and done this was the only workable solution we could figure out.”

White estimates that there are seven or eight homeowners left who haven’t found a place to move their home.

“If we think this is complicated with seven people, what would it be like it if was Northland or Takhini?”

There needs to be a conversation about what would happen if a large trailer park, with hundreds of people, decides to shut down, she said.

“Landlords are entitled to having a business that is profitable. They’re allowed to make decisions about their land. But where does that, and the responsibility of government to housing, cross? That’s my question. I don’t know what the answer is.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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