B.C. opens $500M fund to help non-profits buy rental buildings, keep rent affordable

B.C. opens $500M fund to help non-profits buy rental buildings, keep rent affordable
Photo credit: Nicholas Pescod

The British Columbia government has opened access to its $500 million rental-protection fund that will help non-profit groups purchase rental buildings.

The goal of providing the capital funding is to allow renters to stay in the buildings and keep their rents affordable.

The province said in a statement that more than 97,000 units where the rent was below $1,000 a month were lost between 2016 and 2021 as they were converted to condominiums or demolished, or the price of rent went up.

Premier David Eby said Wednesday that low-rise buildings created in the 1970s under now-defunct federal programs often have long-term tenants who are very vulnerable if they lose their housing.

“This initiative, with half a billion dollars of provincial government money, is supporting the ability to go out and buy those older buildings, to make sure that the tenants in them are protected, that if there’s an opportunity for redevelopment to build a new building on the site, that those tenants will be protected through that process by a not-for-profit housing provider that owns the site and is redeveloping it,” he said.

Eby said the provincial money will likely be leveraged to have an even larger impact because non-profit organizations can bring their own resources to the table.

“And so, that’s one of the reasons why I’m so excited about the impact this is going to have to address a very real issue that is driving some of the homelessness that we see in our communities right now,” he said.

The fund’s CEO, Katie Maslechko, said in a statement that the idea is a sector-led solution to keep homes affordable over the long term, without the need for ongoing operating subsidies.

The province announced the fund in January and groups wanting to access the money need to go through a three-step qualification process for both their own organization and the property they want to purchase.

Maslechko said they’re encouraging potential applicants, municipalities, social-enterprise leaders and others to find out how they can help B.C. retain affordable rentals homes, while multiplying the impact of investment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 28, 2023. 

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