As of June 30, the province had sold 111 pieces of government land to nonprofits that built and manage social housing at these locations.
The list of properties was made available to the Straight by B.C. Housing following an interview with its CEO, Shayne Ramsay, about the disposition of these assets.
According to Ramsay, these sales started in October 2014 when deputy premier and minister responsible for housing Rich Coleman announced that the province would be transferring the ownership of lands leased by nonprofits for social housing.
“Ninety percent of [social] housing [stock] in British Columbia is already managed by nonprofits, and the minister has clearly said the right agencies to own and manage this housing are nonprofit societies,” Ramsay told the Georgia Straight by phone on August 18.
The public-housing executive added that the asset transfer is part of the province’s efforts to strengthen the nonprofit sector.
All in all, the province will hand over 350 properties to housing providers over the next few years.
According to Ramsay, two types of assets are involved. The first is lands leased by nonprofits that have built and managed social housing on them. These are the 111 properties mentioned above.
Among the organizations that received the largest number of properties are the Affordable Housing Charitable Association; the Capital Region Housing Corporation, owned by the Capital Regional District on Vancouver Island; and the Pacifica Housing Advisory Association.
The second type of assets is those whose physical structures are directly owned by B.C. Housing. Stamps Place and Nicholson Tower, both in Vancouver, are the first of these to be sold.
On August 12, B.C. Housing announced that it had selected New Chelsea Society and the Bloom Group as its “preferred candidates” to acquire Stamps Place and Nicholson Tower, respectively.
The housing agency’s list shows that New Chelsea Society had earlier bought seven other provincially owned lands in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Burnaby, Port Coquitlam, and Surrey.
Stamps Place and Nicholson Tower are assessed at $50.5 million and $34 million.
“They’ll be transferred at fair market value, and we will look at the assessed values to provide guidance on that figure,” Ramsay said.
Ramsay expects the turnover of the two Vancouver social-housing properties to be completed late this year or in early 2016.
“Rents will remain the same,” Ramsay asserted. “B.C. Housing will enter into an operating agreement with the society that will bridge the gap between what the tenants pay in rent based on their incomes and what it costs to operate the building, and that includes the new mortgage payment to pay for the purchase of the site.”
Nicholson Tower is a 20-storey building at 1115 Nelson Street in the West End. The site has 219 suites.
Over in East Vancouver, Stamps Place is an apartment and townhouse complex built in 1968 on a four-hectare site at 400 Campbell Avenue. It has 368 residences.
On July 28, Guy Wakeman, president of the Stamps Place Tenants Council, wrote to Mayor Gregor Robertson and city council. He suggested in the letter that the city purchase the property and keep it publicly owned through a land trust.
“Because of the housing crisis in Vancouver, especially for subsidized or affordable housing, it seems silly for us to be selling off our land,” Wakeman told the Straight in a phone interview.
Wakeman and other Stamps Place tenants are scheduled to meet with councillors Andrea Reimer and Kerry Jang on Tuesday (August 25).
Although the government has yet to hand over Stamps Place to New Chelsea Society, Jang noted that the transfer looks like a done deal.
“For me, the real question is, ‘Okay, how do you think if I was a resident, you know, having the city as your landlord, if you like, would it get you a better deal?’ ” Jang told the Straight by phone.
According to him, it may be the case that residents will get just as good a deal with a nonprofit like New Chelsea Society as with the city.