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B.C. government announces next purchase with rental protection fund

Rental Protection Fund CEO Katie Maslechko calls loss of affordable rentals a province-wide problem
Rental Protection Fund CEO Katie Maslechko (from left) speaks Tuesday (May 21) as Vernon becomes the first community in B.C.’s Interior to receive funding through the provincial Rental Protection Fund. Looking on are Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu, Julia Payson, executive director of Canadian Mental Health Association Vernon and District Branch, Margaret Clark, head of CMHA Vernon’s restorative justice program and B.C.’s Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon. (Roger Knox/Vernon Morning Star)

The North Okanagan community of Vernon becomes the first community outside of the Lower Mainland and Greater Victoria to receive support through a fund protecting existing rental housing.

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon Tuesday (May 21) announced $3.1 million from the Rental Protection Fund toward the purchase of 26 existing rental units in an apartment building.

“While we build more affordable housing, it’s important to recognize that we can’t continue to lose affordable housing,” Kahlon said. “Nothing is scarier, when you are living in affordable housing, to see a for-sale sign on the front-lawn and wonder what’s going to happen when this building gets sold. ‘Are we going to be evicted? Where are we going to go to?’”

The Canadian Mental Health Association Vernon and District Branch had applied for the funding. It will own and operate the building. Each of the units will also receive $47,000 from the fund for upgrades.

The $500-million fund launched last year, providing one-time capital grants to non-profit housing organizations for the purchase of affordable residential rental buildings and co-operatives, when they come up for sale.

The fund announced its first acquisition in early February 2024 with $71 million going toward the purchase of 290 units in Port Coquitlam with another $125 million leveraged by the future owner-operator. Subsequent purchases have taken place in Greater Victoria and Langley.

Katie Maslechko, CEO of the Rental Protection Fund, said Tuesday’s announcement is the first of many announcements involving the fund beyond B.C.’s major population centres in Greater Vancouver and Greater Victoria.

“The reality is that the erosion of affordable housing isn’t just an urban issue and the Rental Protection Fund isn’t just for big cities, either,” Maslechko said. “It’s for every community, big and small.”

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Maslechko, however, acknowledged that it is more difficult to find lenders outside the major urban areas.

“CHMA had to work extra hard to build those relationships and get the attention of those lenders,” she said.

Available figures from Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation peg the City of Vernon’s vacancy rate at 1.2 per cent as of Oct. 2023 (up from 0.7 per cent in October 2022) with the average rent for two-bedroom-apartments at $1,435.

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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