Charlottetown tenants face unexpected decision: Buy their unit for $329K or risk losing it

People living in the 16 townhouses at Belvedere Terrace have until June 30 to decide if they will purchase their unit. (Tony Davis/CBC - image credit)
People living in the 16 townhouses at Belvedere Terrace have until June 30 to decide if they will purchase their unit. (Tony Davis/CBC - image credit)

Gene Cross has lived at Belvedere Terrace in Charlottetown for 36 years. But her place is more than just a townhouse, she said.

"It's been my home."

So, naturally, she was surprised and disappointed to see a letter from her landlord taped to her door last month that said her rental unit and the other 15 townhouses in the complex were being converted to condominiums and put up for sale.

The tenants have until June 30 to decide if they want to buy their unit for $329,000. There is also a rent-to-own option, the letter said.

But Cross and many tenants who spoke with CBC News said neither option is feasible for them.

"One has to consider my age," Cross said.

"First of all, I wouldn't be eligible for a mortgage to even think about buying it. Do I want to get in that sort of thing where there is upkeep that is going to be needed? On my personal income there is no way I could afford to do that."

Gene Cross says she can't afford to purchase her unit for $329,000. 'It’s really sad, a sad situation. I don’t know where I am going.' (Tony Davis/CBC)

CBC reached out to Norray Properties, which owns the units, but it did not provide a comment.

It certainly isn't the first company to turn rental units into condos. Landlords have said new legislation on P.E.I. that caps rent increases at three per cent a year — or six per cent if they can make a case for it — has made property management less attractive as a financial investment.

But it also can mean people like Cross will have to find a new home, unless the new owner chooses not to live there and keeps the condo as a rental.

It's an uncertainty that weighs on Cross.

"It's really sad, a sad situation," she said. "I don't know where I am going."

Alice Long says the residents of Belvedere Terrace have become her community. (Tony Davis/CBC)

Her neighbour, 87-year-old Alice Long, feels fortunate to have a seniors home to move to, but she isn't ready to leave Belvedere Terrace just yet. She just planted some tomatoes and string beans, and the residents of the 16 units have become like family to her.

"We've been a community and I don't know if that is found everywhere," Long said.

"We're seniors, we're young families. The two little guys next door, they call me their grandmother."

The letter made it clear it was not a "notice to vacate." But it did advise anyone not interested in purchasing their unit that the new owner could request they move out with proper notice.

Residents found this letter from Norray Properties taped to their doors last month. (Tony Davis/CBC)

Long is already planning what to do with her belongings. She said she'll give them away to whoever needs them, and perhaps donate the rest to Habitat for Humanity.

She feels terrible for the tenants who are left in limbo.

"I wish I could wave a wand and make it not happen, but the reality is they're under a stress they didn't ask for, they didn't plan [for] ... and  we weren't given any warning," she said.

"I don't think there's any one of us felt it coming."