*This story has been updated with comments from the property owners.
The Co-operative Housing Federation of BC is calling on the provincial government and the City of Burnaby to protect 425 affordable co-op homes.
The residents of a 244-unit non-profit housing co-op in Burnaby are at risk of losing their homes when the property is sold on the commercial real estate market by its owners, said the federation. The 115 Place Co-operative Housing Association includes two towers on Cardston Court near the Lougheed Town Centre. The co-op has been offering affordable homes since the early 1980s on leased land.
The lease ends on Oct. 31 this year and the owners have the property up for sale.
A recent survey of 115 Place residents found that more than one third of respondents were more than 75 years old, said the federation.
“Aging members are deeply concerned about the impact of a move from co-op to market rents,” said a news release. “More than one in four members said they would be at risk of homelessness if rents rose to anything approaching market levels.”
The 115 Place property is not the only Burnaby co-op at risk of being sold, said the federation. Post 83 Co-operative Housing Association is home to 181 member households on Mayberry Street near Metrotown. Post 83 also leases its land; it expires exactly a year after the 115 Place lease.
Among the co-op’s residents is 84-year-old Joyce Narayan, who moved into Post 83 shortly after it was established in 1983. An avid Scrabble player and fixture at co-op games nights and summer barbecues, Narayan, who is single, fears having to move.
“I can dream as much as I like but it doesn’t make any difference,” Narayan said.
The federation says the province, through BC Housing, has offered to buy the 115 Place property for its appraised value, but was unable to come to terms on an agreement.
“The province has made an offer that would reward the (owners) for its long-term investment in the property while protecting low-income seniors from losing their homes,” said Thom Armstrong, CEO of CHF BC. “This is an immediate crisis for 115 Place, and it’s only a matter of time before Post 83 faces the same threat. Together these two co-ops represent 425 affordable homes that can’t be replaced on the market. No one wants that on their conscience.”
The lease agreements with the co-ops are with the Operating Engineers’ Pension Plan and have been in place for 40 years. the pension plan released a statement accusing the federation of "frightening" the co-op residents.
“We have been in discussions with BC Housing for several years on a possible sale agreement and have exhausted every conceivable option to conclude a fair and equitable sale agreement,” said Claudia Ferris Operating Engineers’ Pension Plan spokesperson, in a statement. “Despite our best efforts, we were unable to reach an agreement on the terms of reference for the appraisal with BC Housing.
"Our foremost priority remains the fair and respectful treatment of the building’s residents throughout the sale process. To address residents’ concerns, the Operating Engineers’ Pension Plan has informed the co-op board that we will not entertain offers from prospective purchasers without assurance there will be no evictions or renovictions. It is disappointing that the Cooperative Housing Federation of BC is frightening co-op residents by publishing misleading statements to the media. We will continue to work with the City of Burnaby, the provincial government, and relevant government agencies to look at various options that sustain housing affordability in the region. It is not within our mandate as a pension plan to hold investments in perpetuity. We have a fiduciary duty to our pensioners and beneficiaries so that we can continue to sustain present and future pensions for our members.”