By Dave Diewert
Originally published in The Volcano
Residents at Park Mobile, a manufactured homes park in Surrey, are facing eviction. Many have lived there for years and have formed a close-knit community of friendship and support. Recently the Weststone Group purchased the property under their manufactured homes. Since the land is adjacent to Surrey Memorial Hospital and the expanding Surrey “Health Campus,” Weststone plans to market the project within a private corner of the health industry that the city calls “Innovation Boulevard.” Here the interests of private developers dovetail with those of the market-oriented medical establishment, educational institutions and governments in forming a powerful wave of development … and displacement.
The residents living at Park Mobile have been completely excluded from the discussions and decisions that would significantly impact their lives, and they are deeply distressed and demoralized by this looming eviction. The community consists of blind, deaf, and wheel-chaired individuals, many living with disabilities that have left them unable to work, homes with businesses attached to them that will be left without income, low-income families, families with developmentally disabled kids, and many seniors. Over the years they have built networks of mutual support and community safety, and have come to rely on important services located near-by. The Skytrain is only blocks away, and their homes are a short walk from the hospital and other medical services.
Park Mobile is unique for an urban site. It’s home to two salmon creeks, migratory songbird nesting, abundant wildlife, flora and fauna, and numerous tagged heritage trees. Those who moved in recently were told that development could never happen on this land because of the protected environmental status of the site. But the Harper government’s persistent gutting of environmental laws, especially Bill C-45 which eliminated the protection of most rivers and lakes from damage caused by development projects, means that Park is no longer safe from machinery of gentrification.
For decades, Park Mobile’s landowners and the City’s engineering department have failed to install adequate drainage systems on the site. So every year residents face regular flooding in and around their homes. This past year the site flooded more than two dozen times, with water creeping up to the doorways of their homes imprisoning people with walkers and wheelchairs inside. Damages have never been addressed, and adequate repairs have not been done. Residents wonder whether the City’s urgent push to develop this site is a way to avoid dealing properly with the flooding issue for which they are ultimately responsible.
Now the residents are organizing and fighting back. They have the support of MLAs Harry Bains and Sue Hammil, who have been trying to amend the provincial Manufactured Home Act to protect them and others in similar situations from eviction, but these laws have been stuck in legislative process for many years. On June 15th residents held a rally at Surrey City Hall to protest the proposed development and fight against their displacement. They are connecting with other manufactured home sites along King George Blvd where thousands of people face similar pressures of displacement.
Most importantly, they are raising their voices and putting a human face to the anger, pain and fear produced by the threat of being pushed out of their homes and community. And they are calling on others to add their voices to the growing choir of resistance that refuses to surrender to the lords of wealth and power who destroy people’s lives for the sake of acquiring land and profit.