About 200 residents of a caravan park in Melbourne’s east are facing eviction after a Chinese developer bought the site to build townhouses.
At a community meeting held on Saturday to voice their concerns, residents said the Wantirna caravan park’s new owner had already hiked up the rent and they could not afford to live anywhere else.
The caravan park was bought last year for more than $30 million by developers with links to China.
The site’s owner, Andrew Yu from the company Longriver, plans to build 294 townhouses on the site.
Knox council Mayor Darren Pearce told the meeting he initially did not want to attend, “because I am not in the business of giving false hope to vulnerable people”.
He said the council was looking at the developer’s planning application, but there was little it could do.
“I do feel for the people of this caravan park,” he said.
“I understand that their lives have been turned upside down, but as a council we are very limited in the powers we have.”
Peter Gray, from the Wantirna Residents Action Group, has lived at Wantirna caravan park for 27 years.
He said the developer was quick to raise rents as soon as he bought the caravan park and “hasn’t shown any compassion”.
“We realise he’s doing everything legally, but the [Residential] Tenancies Act doesn’t protect us at the moment,” he said.
Houses now worth nothing, resident says
One resident, Judy Adam, moved to Wantirna Park with her husband Ron.
Ms Adam is Ron’s full time carer, and the nearby medical facilities means she has some support to help him with Alzheimer’s disease.
She said their house in the caravan park was probably worth $125,000, but now it was worth nothing.
“I am sure, I am determined, that things will work out. Maybe we’ll lose things, but things will work out,” she said.
She said her neighbours at the caravan park were angry and distressed that they had been told to move, with some refusing to leave their homes.
“It is depressing, I don’t allow myself to become depressed, but I have seen depression all about,” she said.
Some of the residents own their homes but rent the land the homes are standing on.
They want compensation for moving those homes, which is expected to cost about $50,000 per building.
The residents will be evicted in January 2018.
Longriver has been contacted for comment.