Port authority apologizes for letter to float home owners
Port Metro Vancouver has apologized for a letter sent out earlier this year to owners of float homes in Ladner Harbour, demanding they re-sign a three year lease agreement.
The new lease, which runs until Dec. 31, 2014 and is retroactive to Dec. 14, 2011, would see a 50 to 79 per cent increase for some float home owners on the Fraser River.
Allan Baydala, chief financial officer for PMV, attended a meeting Thursday (Oct. 25) evening at the Ladner Legion where a standing room only crowd told him their concerns and disgust with the sudden rate hikes.
"I don't think the first letter, in retrospect, was as clear as it could have been and I think we could've, in some cases, accompanied it with a phone call or a meeting," he said by telephone on Friday.
Coun. Bruce McDonald, who was at the meeting, said the first letter was basically a threat asking people to agree to the new terms.
"It's been arbitrary, it's been what they decided is fair. Pay it, or get the hell out in 30 days.
"If a landlord in the Metro Vancouver area were to raise the rents in an apartment building of 150 apartments by 80 per cent with no consultation and no discussion it would make headlines in every paper."
Baydala said PMV would be happy to meet with float home tenants and strata companies toward finding a resolution to the issue.
Water lots are difficult to appraise because they typically don't trade on the market like most real estate. PMV had appraisal of the water lots done by an independent company, which assessed the value of the foreshore zones according to the value of the land nearby.
Although PMV would not initially agree to show the appraisal reports to float home owners, Baydala said they will now do so.
"We're required to charge fair market value by the province, so it's difficult to determine what are fair market values," said Baydala, adding the traditional methodology has been to assess the water lots using upland industrial values.
McDonald said he understands the methodology but doesn't agree with the logic.
"If you have the same boat moored at a wharf and you decide to build a $2 million house on the upland, all of a sudden you're going to be paying more."
Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington, who was also at the meeting, said PMV should hold a public information meeting to straighten out the issues, adding she's been warning the Port for three weeks that trouble was brewing in Ladner.
"At the minimum they should send a new letter out that explains in civil language what it is they're trying to do, because the first letter has created nothing but anger and fear up and down the river," she said by telephone Friday.
Baydala said a second letter has been sent out to float home owners apologizing for the tone of the first letter.
He added that it became obvious during the meeting that the lease rates were not the only issue, there's also anger surrounding the Port's demands for insurance hikes and marine surveys.
McDonald said it's the insurance companies that should decide whether an expensive marine survey is required, not PMV.
There are only a dozen leases left unsigned, though Baydala said some of those leases are with strata companies which represent many float homes. He said the deadline listed in the first letter has been postponed.
"No one's going to be evicted because they're seeking more information and trying to understand just what this change is at this time."
As for the 79 per cent increase to lease rates, Baydala said that, on average, the new water lot leases will cost $800 a year.
"I don't think it's so much the dollar amount of the rent that is the biggest problem that we have to solve," he said, adding nobody is likely to lose their home over the rate increase.
He also said PMV will do a better job in the future of warning people about changes to the lease rates.