BC Housing’s “transfer of assets” creating wave of concern in non-profit housing sector

BC Housing’s sudden announcement Oct. 3 that it will sell its leased land to non-profit organizations operating housing on its sites is causing a wave of concern in the affordable housing sector, particularly at two Vancouver locations already out for “expressions of interest.”

City manager Penny Ballem told council today the city has found a “paucity of information,” on the new program, despite learning that two important sites in the city — Stamp’s Landing in Strathcona and Nicholson Tower in the West End — are the subject of “request for expressions of interest” that have a November deadline.

That means these two valuable locations, each capable of significant redevelopment, face an uncertain future.

In response to questions I raised at the end of the council meeting, Ballem said city staff were working hard to pull together more information and any proposed city actions would be brought back before council.

In the meantime, the province is preparing to offer more than 300 non-profits across BC the chance to take over the leased land as “fee simple” property through a purchase made possible by a mortgage from BC Housing.

BCH CEO Shane Ramsay has given assurances the proceeds of these sales would be reinvested in maintenance or expansion of existing housing and a BCH backgrounder says tenants should not be impacted by the changes.

But it doesn’t take much imagination to foresee problems arising if non-profits are unable to manage mortgage payments, or get over their heads trying to “redevelop” property.

This very significant policy change will bear close scrutiny and seems driven more by the province’s desperate budget-balancing efforts than by any interest in housing policy.