A new fund will be able to leverage more than $500 million to protect rental housing in British Columbia, according to the premier.
David Eby touted the program Wednesday at an unrelated event to mark the official start of the Rental Protection Fund, originally announced in January.
“One of the reasons why I’m so excited about this, is that this half-a-billion dollars is very likely to be leveraged significantly by this new organization,” he told reporters.
The fund grants non-profit organizations one-time contributions to help them purchase existing, occupied rental buildings to prevent their re-development.
BC Non-Profit Housing Association, Co-operative Housing Federation B.C. and the Aboriginal Housing Management Association representing non-profit and cooperative housing suppliers have long pushed for this fund and they will oversee it through a separate society headed by Katie Maslechko.
According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation data, about 97,000 purpose-built rental units in B.C. were either redeveloped or converted to more expensive units, between 1991 and 2021. For every new affordable rental home, three more are lost to conversions, demolition and rent increases according to BCNPHA.
Maslechko said the fund is a powerful tool that will help protect against the loss of affordable rental, providing stability and upward mobility for thousands of British Columbians.
“Now more than ever, the most affordable housing we’ll ever have is the affordable housing we’ve already got – and now we have a sector-led solution to keep those homes affordable over the long term without the need for ongoing operating subsidies,” she added.
In a recent analysis of provincial housing plans, Marc Lee, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, agreed with the general idea of the fund but said that it is not large enough.
“At $500 million, the initial fund is fairly small in comparison to all real estate in BC and the urgent need to protect existing rental stock from predatory landlords and real estate investment trusts,” Lee said.
Eby, however, sounded more positive, predicting that the fund will end up having an impact greater than the sum of its initial investment.
The fund will be working with a non-profit sector that already has other land and other resources, which they can bring to the table, Eby said.
“So this could have impact well beyond government’s money and certainly that is what I understand the plan to be,” he said. “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.