On October 18th, year round/permanent tenants residing at Happy Hearts Park on Cape Hurd Rd each received news of the planned closure of Happy Hearts Inc. Mobile Home Park along with Termination of Tenancy papers. As is legally required for mobile home tenants, they were given one year’s notice that they need to vacate as of October 31, 2020. The letter from The Ross Firm on behalf of Happy Hearts notes that this termination date is non-negotiable.
The reason noted for this eviction is that Happy Hearts plans to turn the section that for decades has offered year round, affordable and permanent housing to at least 10 families or individuals into a seasonal, non-residential use section for tourists, or perhaps the seasonal workers who currently have trailers in the back section of the campground. I have been one of those seasonals for the past three summers with friends and a partner who reside in the permanent section.
Yes, long time Tobermory residents being evicted to make room for tourists or seasonals.
A number of these residents are over age 55 and we all know that there is only one small seniors apartment complex in this town with a waitlist and restrictions based on income. There are young families residing in the year round section. Families with long-time ties to this community and with children who attend schools locally.
There are at least 10 residents there who work in this town seasonally or year round. In a town that is suffering ever increasingly with staff shortages there is a real risk of losing these valuable employees and long-time residents to another town or community.
The reality is that many of these “Mobile Homes” are not able to be relocated elsewhere nor sold due to age and structural conditions or due to being built or renovated into semi-permanent structures by families who expected to reside here permanently. Even the one or two homes that may be able to relocate the question is – where do they go? I am told that the nearest mobile home park is near Keady (over an hour’s drive away). And for those whose homes cannot be moved – they will walk away with just a truck load of furnishings, no home, and under $3,000 in compensation from the park. Where will they go?
Having been a social worker and housing advocate in Toronto for twenty years prior to moving to Tobermory I know that there have been regulations there which state that no rental units can be destroyed or converted when the vacancy rate is at or above 2.5%. I have not been able to find a vacancy rate or a similar policy for the Northern Bruce. However, according to the 2016 census for NBP 92.5% of residents were home owners and only 7.5% renters. Those who rent are much more likely to spend a higher percentage of their income on housing costs and that is true on the Peninsula. Again according to the 2016 census, 46% of tenants on NBP spent 30% or more of their income on housing costs compared to 20% of home owners (39% of whom have no mortgage). These stats exemplify the often fragile lives that renters and low income residents face, especially when receiving eviction notices. They work seasonally and often at minimum wage, or just above, making them unlikely candidates for mortgages. And remember, most of those in the mobile section of Happy Hearts Park cannot sell nor move their homes.
Every business, including Happy Hearts Inc., has the right to make choices and changes to improve their profits and ensure their sustainability. But what happens to those who suffer the ramifications of these changes?
Happy Hearts Park Inc. must still apply for a zoning change to convert this residential section to seasonal use. According to the legal documents provided to residents, Happy Hearts Inc. has not yet applied for the necessary building permits or other authorizations required to convert or demolish the rental unit/section. This is where we are seeking the involvement of the Municipality and of concerned residents. Not just in relation to this matter but to address in advance any similar changes that may be planned elsewhere which lead to the destruction of affordable housing and the eviction of permanent contributing members of our town.