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Wedco tenants to learn their fate tonight

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Tenants in Albert and Victoria Rows will be given the chance to pick a new home tonight, only weeks before they are kicked out of their old ones.

Wedco is holding a meeting with West End residents at 7pm, where they will be told that the Victorian-era housing is to be condemned for occupancy, although neither building will now be demolished as been previously planned.

The move is likely to prove unpopular with some, however, as rents in the new $24 million development are likely to be substantially higher than the ones being currently paid.

The tenants' biggest complaint however is that they claim they have been kept in the dark regarding a time frame for moving, and now face a rush to be out of their homes.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one tenant said: “It's frustrating not knowing, nobody is saying anything and that's the problem.

“I feel they're going to move everybody out to make way for some grand plan they have for Dockyard.”

According to Wedco General Manager Andrew Dias and Board Chairman Ray Charlton, however, who spoke to The Royal Gazette yesterday, nothing could be further from the truth.

Princess Louise Terrace tenants expressed an interest in staying where they are if the units are renovated by Wedco.

They will have the option of renovating on a case-by-case basis at the end of the year; but it will mean rent increases.

The small size of the new units under construction also came in for criticism.

One tenant said: “They look like the projects to me, they're urban homes; they're not meant for Bermuda.”

And she questioned their durability in hurricane force winds.

“Whenever we have a hurricane we take a beating up here but I still say the existing units are stronger.”

Both Wedco representatives disagreed.

With the completion date just weeks away, most tenants said it's the “uncertainty that's bothering them”.

Meetings were held with tenants in April and May to provide updates.

Mr Charlton, who ran for the OBA in the constituency noted the One Bermuda Alliance was “never fully pleased with the initial plan”.

“It was generally felt that 100 units would make the neighbourhood too dense which would have a social impact in such a confined area.

“And it would have a detrimental effect on west end real estate in general.”

Securing tenants for 100 units was also “questionable”.

“The buildings have been saved, but we don't have a plan for renovating them because, to be quite frank, there's no money,” said Mr Charlton.

When the new units are completed they will carry a higher rent. But the rate will not be disclosed until after the tenants have been informed at the meeting tonight.

Said Mr Dias: “There are a few who would probably not like to move into the new units, but that's not the reality.”

Letters were sent out by hand on Friday inviting tenants to come to the meeting tonight.

Rents were said to run in the range of $1,900 for a two-bedroom unit, three bedrooms running up to $2,100 per month. But the actual figures won't be disclosed until after the tenants have been informed.

According to Wedco, tenants at Albert and Victoria Rows pay between $700 and $1,300 a month which are “unrealistic anywhere in Bermuda on today's market”.

“And there's an incentive for someone who's currently there to not want to move because they're enjoying rent that is very low,” said Mr Dias.

“Wedco is collecting very low rents with no financial gain to maintain it. That's where this whole big circle keeps going around between not having enough money to maintain it properly.

“In many cases it makes no financial sense to put in all new cabinets when you know that we have a leak in the roof and everything's coming through the floor boards.

“At the end of the day we're trying to change the dynamics of the landlord-tenant relationship at Wedco.

“If everyone said they want renovations done now we wouldn't be able to accommodate them,” said Mr Dias.

Mr Charlton said: “We have people living in accommodations which are just substandard. We need to make sure our tenants are living in a safe and secure environment.”

Only a few weeks ago a ceiling in one of the units collapsed, placing the landlord in a “liable position” if someone was hurt or seriously injured.

“We want better standards and there has to be a give and take on both sides,” said Mr Dias.

Based on the age of buildings he said these structures “shouldn't be affordable housing because they cost too much to maintain”..

“Most people know Bermuda houses where you have to replaster every two years because the Bermuda stone is busted and keeping the windows up to par costs money.

“Many years and generations ago, people were put there because they were removed from other places like ‘the Incubator', they had nowhere else to put them.

“They've been left up there and I have a level of sympathy for the situation way back when,” said Mr Dias.

“It's a challenge and I don't take great pride in destroying any historic structure.

“And we don't want to be in a position where we put people in who will fail again because that's the legacy Wedco is trying to change.”

New homes: Some of the prefabs in Dockyard are nearing completion (Photo by David Skinner)
Big decisions: Wedco chairman Ray Charlton and general manager Andrew Dias (photo by Glenn Tucker)
Victoria Row

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Published September 05, 2013 at 1:20 am (Updated September 05, 2013 at 11:20 am)

Wedco tenants to learn their fate tonight

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