Zora Hlevnjak faces eviction from her Sidney apartment after depositing money raised from empty cans and donations. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

B.C. woman refuses to pay overdue rent based on income raised collecting empty cans

Portion that Zora Hlevnjak pays for subsidized rent went up after she reported more of her income

A 76-year-old woman in the Victoria area who collects empty cans to supplement her pension faces eviction after her rent was raised to include her income from the cans.

Zora Hlevnjak, a familiar figure in the community of Sidney, will be evicted on Jan. 21 from her subsidized housing unit because of failure to pay $1,087 for three months’ worth of rent following a rent increase.

Beacon Community Services, the organization that operates Wakefield Manor, raised Hlevnjak’s rent to 30 per cent of her income after she deposited money raised from collecting empty cans and donations from passersby.

Hlevnjak said she has formally challenged having to pay the rent, arguing the money from cans and donations does not qualify as income, and that she does not benefit from it because she sends it to her family in Croatia.

“I knew [the rules], but my mind doesn’t allow me to accept to pay [back-rent] from empties and from people that give me money for food,” she told Black Press Media over the course of two interviews. “I didn’t spend it and I don’t even have that money. I sent it to my people.”

Hlevnjak said she gets about $1,500 from the federal government through various pensions, and routinely sends money, including can deposits, to family members in Croatia every year since she came to Canada in 1966.

RELATED: More people are being evicted from subsidized housing in Victoria, experts say

A friend who accompanied her on the interview suggested she start looking after herself rather than others in a distant country, especially with rent due.

But Hlevnjak said her landlords don’t deserve the money. “They didn’t work hard for it. It was [a] gift for me.”

Tim O’Brien, who manages the building where she has lived since 2004, said tenants in subsidized housing must pay 30 per cent of their income towards rent, which is the affordable standard throughout the province

“We didn’t raise the rent. She just started to report her proper income,” he said, adding that tenants must also submit income tax statements, bank statements, and Service Canada statements each year to establish the 30-per-cent portion.

“Please understand – it’s not my choice to evict her,” O’Brien said. “We are not in the eviction business. We are in the accommodation business, helping and serving those who are less fortunate and who require subsidized housing.”

RELATED: New report finds many Sidney residents struggle with housing affordability

Hlevnjak says she blames herself for her situation. “I stupidly put in bank because I was afraid of fire and thieves.”

She repeated that she hasn’t used any money from cans or passersby. “I didn’t even spent five cents on my birthday,” said the woman, whose clothing hardly suggests a life in the lap of luxury.

She also acknowledged that she has trouble remembering things and admits to feeling stressed by the situation.

But her defiant tone and decision to seek legal support suggests the issue is far from settled.


Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

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

Just Posted

Witset chosen for housing innovation funding program

Proposal to build healing lodge for at-risk youth one of four selected in B.C.

Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and hereditary chiefs agree to future meeting

Scott Fraser was in Smithers on Jan. 22 and spoke with Office of the Wet’suwet’en representatives

Unist’ot’en Camp say RCMP have changed 27 kilometre roadblock rules

Footage shows RCMP telling an unidentified lawyer they can’t re-enter the checkpoint

B.C. Indigenous communities receive funding for hands-on trades training

Nuxalk, Witset, Penticton Indian Band, TRU Williams Lake, and Camosun College among beneficiaries

Telkwa bridge struck by empty logging truck

The truck hit the bridge on its east side and appears to have damaged a wooden beam

Officials reaching out to those in contact with Canada’s first coronavirus patient

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China

B.C. VIEWS: New coronavirus outbreak an important reminder

Walking the line between cautious and alarmist

Kobe Bryant killed in California helicopter crash: reports

NBA star was reportedly in his private helicopter at the time of the crash

Investigation launched after six dead puppies dumped in Richmond hotel parking lot

RAPS reminds people they can always give up puppies they can’t take care of

Risk of coronavirus low in B.C. as first case emerges in Toronto: officials

There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in B.C.

‘Presumptive case’ of coronavirus in Canada confirmed by Ontario doctors

Man in his 50s felt ill on his return to Canada from Wuhan, China

People knowingly take fentanyl so make policy changes to reduce harm: B.C. study

Dr. Jane Buxton, an epidemiologist at the centre, says drug users need more resources,

‘My heart is going to bleed’: Bodies brought back to Canada following Iran plane crash

Remains of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, were identified last weekend

Most Read