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Troubled apartment building sold

An apartment building New Westminster’s licensing manager said was the city’s top bylaw enforcement priority in April has been sold.

But that doesn’t mean the many concerns about the building will be taken care of, says one of the complex’s residents.

The city levied fines and issued compliance orders to fix several maintenance deficiencies at 1210 Cameron St. three months ago. That’s when Acorn Canada, an advocacy group, organized a media tour of the building to demonstrate problems with the plumbing, pests, elevator, safety and the cleanliness of the building.

The apartment block was owned by the Sahota family’s Waterfront Developments. Last week, Mainstreet Equity Corp. of Calgary took over ownership of the building, along with another Sahota block across the street at 1211 Cameron.

New Westminster licensing manager Keith Coueffin said the previous owners provided reports on the work that was being carried out, and also hired professionals to do it, at 1210 Cameron. Coueffin said the new owners have indicated they will be carrying on with the program and will submit a detailed remediation plan in a couple of weeks. He added there are also some issues with 1211 Cameron and he will be looking to clarify them with Mainstreet.

Acorn Canada, which has an office in New Westminster, says Mainstreet has a reputation for buying up buildings, renovating them and then increasing the rents to a price too high for the current residents to return.

“I take an ugly building and put a lot of lipstick on it. I’m like a plastic surgeon,” Mainstreet president and CEO Bob Dhillon told The Globe and Mail in an October 2011 feature on him. “Give it a little liposuction. Some breast implants. I make this old thing look pretty.”

Acorn says if Mainstreet carries through with the same formula, New Westminster and the surrounding area will be forced to absorb 60 low-income tenants and there isn’t much of that type of rental stock available.

“That’s what we’re worried about. As it is already I’m paying the most for my rent in the building, close to $1,000,” said Mark Jones.

He moved there on Feb. 1, but had to stay in a much-smaller suite in the building because promised renovations weren’t completed.

When he did move into his new suite, although he received new laminate, paint and baseboards, there were wires sticking out, and rodents were still roaming free. He called in a pest control company himself, but “the infestation is so bad it hasn’t worked.”

“Now that Mainstreet has taken over I still want these promises to be kept,” said Jones.

While the plumbing issues that left most of the tenants without running water for more than two weeks have been corrected, Jones said there are still concerns about such things as a broken intercom, unsafe carpet, and the smell of drugs and animal waste.

“It’s not a healthy place to live in,” said Jones.

“I’d love to move, but I can’t because I’m stuck on this [one-year] lease.”

Coueffin said there are still some outstanding orders regarding pest control at 1210 Cameron, and 1211 also has some issues the city will be following up with Mainstreet.

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