By now, in British Columbia, you have to be blind or missing half a brain not to realize that an awful lot of the monster houses popping up on farm and city alike, are NOT single family dwellings.  Nor do most of these buildings contain within them only one legal suite.

Nor are these ‘apartment buildings’  simply the homes of very large families.

These are houses that get altered after the building inspector leaves, to carve out illegal rental suites that easily pay for the cost of the building.

Tradesmen tell me of houses where the wiring and plumbing for future rental units are put in place and cemented over, until the final inspection is over, later the cement floor gets jack-hammered out so the business of illegal rentals can get moving.

Some don’t worry too much about adequate electricity.  I knew one family jammed into a back corner of one of these houses, where only one electrical appliance could be plugged in at a time.  Anything beyond one and the electrical system would fail.

I’ve met scores of people over the years who lived in these ‘single-family’ dwellings.  They and the other renters got no receipts from their landlords.  These are under-the-table cash infusions to unscrupulous land-lords.

The no-can-see attitude of our governing authorities is the major reason we experience such a lack of affordable housing.

Honest developers and builders cannot compete against people who are raking in the dough with illegal dwellings.  Dishonest landlords undercut them.

The honest guy (lets keep them all guys) applies to city hall for a permit to build.  He stays within the correct zone.  He pays development cost charges.  He must stay within the building codes.  Has to endure many inspections, to ensure compliance with the rules, and safety for future residents.  He pays taxes on money earned.

The scofflaw?………None of the above!

The law-abiders contribute to the infrastructure needs of communal life.  They pay for the upkeep of public schools, police and fire protection, roads, parks, sewers, pools, rinks………The Cheats?  Free ride!

Landlords who take rent money from family units within hidden dwellings contribute NOTHING on their behalf towards all the necessities of a community.  So the honest folk bear a far greater tax burden.  This is an inverse relationship.  Cheaters prosper and the rest who plod along playing by the rules bear a heaver tax load.

A school within the catchment area of an enclave of very large houses was overwhelmed with way more children than were expected, given the house count.  My teacher friend said the children called all the renters in their homes, “Auntie and Uncle”, regardless of obvious nationalistic differences.  But the ‘aunties and uncles’ had separate cooking facilities and paid to live in their homes.

One time a renter fell and seriously hurt herself when in the night she forgot that the house was undergoing some modifications (minus a building permit), and dropped to a floor below.  To the shame of one of our local papers, they published a raft of letters to the editor, from students at a Punjabi school, on the fascinating subject of ‘Why GUESTS should not be so rude as to sue the host of the home they were ‘visiting’, even if unauthorized alterations almost killed her.  I don’t know if that landlord was ever fined.

Abbotsford Councillor Moe Gill reached a new low when he argued in defence of a homeowner who was caught a second time illegally adding more rental suites onto his house. Moe said, ‘aw, council should let the guy finish, since he’d already started’.  Like don’t be so mean to the poor guy for breaking the zoning by-law that Councillor Gill himself, and his cohorts are responsible for imposing on the rest of Abbotsford.

A fellow had so many illegal dwellings on his property, he routinely had their garbage burned on a huge pile, even when temperature inversions had our valley choking with thick pollution.  Once council ordered him to quit with his illegal rental business, but he pleaded that he’d injured his back many years ago in a saw-mill and needed the income, so could they just please give him a little more time. The man had a minimum of 10 illegal renters, and owned another large property with similar activity going on.  As far as I know nothing ever changed, except that he grew richer.

Five rental units in another place.  Manjit Sohi, City by-law inspector,……..COULD NOT SEE ONE.  Nor could Mr. Sohi see much to concern him, of a rather long list sent to Council.

A huge house near the Fraser River had the basement divided into dingy-hotel room slices, full of many poor renters.

A guy spent years trucking in untold thousands of loads of fill, minus the appropriate permits from the City.  He completely altered the water table in his entire neighbourhood, truncated the land along a neighbour’s fence, leaving her posts looking like staggering drunks.  Neighbours spent YEARS and tears begging City Hall to stop him.  He has a large level blueberry field now and a massive house.  Some of those neighbours gave up and moved.

You just keep paying your taxes dears, but do not expect the City to defend your property rights if scofflaws move into your neighbourhood.

The dreary saga of large houses, shacks, trailers, barns being used for illegal rentals goes on and on.   Add to that the many farms in the Agricultural Land Reserve, who pay the lowest of all tax categories and use the property as vast truck parks, at about two to three hundred a month per truck.  Multiply by some 50 trucks, unreported cash, you can see how easy it is to become rich as long as local governments turn a blind eye.  And they do.

The years roll on and on and our government lacks the spine, or the integrity to get serious about this massive distortion between honest law-abiding people and those who thumb their nose at all laws, in plain view, and cruise to easy wealth.

There is no concern for health or safety in these hidden dwellings.  When enough houses engaged in this lucrative business clump together, there is no one left to report on anyone.  It is expedient to be silent about lawless activity.

But that cavalier attitude to societal rules plays out in a different way.  We now see young people cruising about in very expensive cars shooting each other up in the Townline Hill area.  IMG_5412This is an enclave full of hidden dwellings where the understanding is that no one squeals on anyone, about anything,…..not even death.

And City Hall and police wring their helpless hands at out of control crime.