Residents displaced after fire at Victoria affordable housing complex

Residents displaced after fire at Victoria affordable housing complex

A Victoria affordable housing complex caught fire Saturday, forcing more than a dozen people, including children, out of their homes. April Lawrence reports.

On Monday, crews were removing the shattered glass from the windows of an affordable housing unit that caught fire Saturday afternoon.

“The one unit caught on fire from what we understand is serious damage by fire, then the next two beside had both water and smoke damage,” Dean Fortin, executive director of Pacifica Housing, which owns the complex, said. 

Everyone made it out safely, but one firefighter had minor injuries to his hand.

Fire officials are still looking into the cause but have no doubt the damage could have been worse.

“We did have a couple things working in our favour, one, proximity to the fire station, two time of day, so early detection and notification of the fire allowed us to get here quickly and get water on the seat of the fire very quickly,” Deputy Victoria Fire Chief Dan Atkinson said. 

The 22-unit complex houses low-income families.

“Families are only charged 30 per cent of their annual income, but even that can be a stretch,” Fortin said.

In a city facing an affordable housing crisis, the loss of even a few units is devastating.

“In a vacancy rate that’s 0.5 per cent and skyrocketing rental rates the impact on those people is absolutely devastating,” Kelly Newhook, executive director of Together Against Poverty Society, said.

One of the displaced tenants, who lives with his 10-year-old son in the unit next to the one that caught fire, says he’s been told he’ll be out for at least two months but fortunately he’s able to stay with family.

They join a growing list of people who have lost their affordable units to fire, including residents at B.C. Housing’s Evergreen Terrace, the Traveller’s Inn on Queens Street, 1021 Cook Street, and View Towers.

“Many of those people are moving out of this city, some of them are living in our parks and on the street,” Newhook said.

Fortunately for those at the Briarwood on Johnson Street, the damaged units will be restored.

Pacifica Housing says it will do its best to find temporary accommodation for those residents while they wait to move back in.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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