Oak Bay home ready to house refugees, immigrants

Executive director David Lau, of Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society, at the Monterey house adjacent to Theatre Lane, where immigrants and refugees can soon live while settling in Canada. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Executive director David Lau, of Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society, in an upstairs bedroom of the Monterey house, adjacent to Theatre Lane, where immigrants and refugees can soon live while settling in Canada. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Executive director David Lau, of Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society, in an upstairs bedroom of the Monterey house, adjacent to Theatre Lane, where immigrants and refugees can soon live while settling in Canada. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Executive director David Lau, of Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society, in the stairwell of the Monterey house where immigrants and refugees can soon live while settling in Canada. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Executive director David Lau, of Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society, with volunteers Jeff Richmond of Royal Rooter and Paramjit Bhalla, at the Monterey house where immigrants and refugees can soon live while settling in Canada. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

When David Lau first entered the six-bedroom house on the corner of Monterey Avenue and Theatre Lane he cut out the water damaged plaster hanging from one of the bedroom ceilings himself.

The executive director of the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society has experience and passion for renovating old houses and has helped turn two of them in Oak Bay into housing for new Canadians. This week the District of Oak Bay signed a three-year lease on the house at 1538 Monterey Ave. and the house directly behind it at 1532 Hampshire Rd.

“We desperately need housing for refugees in [Greater] Victoria, as we know it’s a competitive market,” Lau said.

The houses are in great shape thanks to a major effort by more than 160 volunteers who donated time, parts and labour from neighbours, electricians, plumbers, contractors, and other businesses across the region.

READ ALSO: Victoria immigrant centre’s refugee housing lands in Oak Bay

VIRCS took over the Hampshire house three years ago and brought it from a tear-down state to a fully renovated home.

“To name the list of sponsors who’ve donated parts, products, labour and more … is difficult,” Lau said. “I’d have to start on one arm to list them all and it would go up and down my legs.”

Oak Bay bought the Hampshire property in 1990. It was considered as a parking lot in 2007 and again in 2012.

A family of five new Canadians has been living there since VIRCS, and company, fixed it in 2018.

“We spent seven months working intensely on Hampshire, as it had been vacant and unheated for many years,” Lau said. “There were holes in the roof and the plaster was in bad shape. The plumbing was shot. The wiring couldn’t pass inspection and water was pooling in the basement.”

Repairs included the installation of a perimeter drain (by Royal Rooter’s Jeff Richmond) to end the condensation in the lower floor.

The family that is in Hampshire will stay awhile longer, Lau said, as they become better integrated into the community.

Monterey was in better shape than Hampshire when VIRCS’ supporters started fixing it this year but neither near livable, Lau said. Monterey now has a hip look to it thanks to bold paint choices, eccentric lighting fixtures and mid-century modern furniture donated by Article furniture out of Vancouver.

Oak Bay bought 1538 Monterey in 2016 for $1.7 million. The site is a double lot.

Lau was able to double the Monterey house kitchen. It was completely gutted and now has stainless steel counters and sinks, two ranges and two fridges, thanks to Harbour Kitchens, Crest Sheet Metal, West Coast Appliances, True Home Plumbing and more.

“I have a retired electrician, still ticketed, replacing all kinds of wiring from different decades,” Lau said.

Ideally, Monterey home will house refugees and immigrants for six to nine months while they get settled and build a community. One or two staff from VIRCS will live in one of the six bedrooms, starting with a couple.

“It just happens the first to put their hands up to live there are a couple,” Lau said. “One was in the hotel industry, the other in architecture who knows old houses.”

The Monterey house will need a rezoning application to permit more than two non-family members. Oak Bay council committed to providing the rezoning for single persons or couples, with a maximum occupancy of eight residents, plus accommodation of a caretaker or an employee.

The entirety of the work on both houses is a testament to the power of community, Lau said. Oak Bay wasn’t looking to build a new house in either location, nor was it an option for VIRCS. But by having more than 160 volunteers come together in different ways on the project, the houses were rebuilt.

reporter@oakbaynews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A 23-foot sailboat that broke free from its anchor was smashed against Cattle Point during the early October south-easterly storms. (Ron Geezin Photo)
Storm-smashed boat pulled off rocks of Cattle Point in Oak Bay

Sailboat a casualty of last week’s big storms

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich residents warned to watch livestock after bear kills llama

Officers with Conservation, Saanich police could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

More than 250 riders took part in the fifth annual Tripleshot CrossFondo, which riders across parts of the Saanich Peninsula, including this field near Sluggett Farms. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Tripleshot CrossFondo rides across Saanich Peninsula

More than 250 cyclists took part in mystery-course race

A woman was injured cycling, prompting road closures in Oak Bay on Oct. 16. (Twitter/Ray Bernoties)
‘Erratic’ cyclists potential cause of rider injured in Oak Bay

Female cyclist was reportedly injured at Hampshire Road and Bowker Creek Avenue

West Shore RCMP say a single car crash into a power pole caused a power outage that affected over 1,500 residents in Colwood on Monday morning. (West Shore RCMP)
Vancouver driver cause of power outage in Colwood

Police detain 27-year-old man for impaired driving investigation

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

(File photo)
RCMP: Two men face charges in reported Parksville fatal hit-and-run

Investigation into man’s death began in August of 2019

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Steven Michael Bacon pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder of Nanaimo teen Makayla Chang. (Photos submitted)
Accused pleads not guilty in Nanaimo teen’s 2017 murder

Steven Bacon appeared in Nanaimo court Monday via video link from Thunder Bay

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Kootenay couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Most Read