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Co-operative housing group fears for tenants as more than 240 units in Burnaby go up for sale

Click to play video: 'Burnaby co-op residents fear for future with building up for sale' Burnaby co-op residents fear for future with building up for sale
The residents of a Burnaby co-op, most of whom are seniors, are worried that they'll be priced out of their homes if their building is sold. As Christa Dao reports, they're asking the province and the City of Burnaby to take action – Oct 5, 2021

The Co-operative Housing Federation of BC says it’s worried about the future of more than 240 residents whose Burnaby, B.C. units may soon be sold on the private market.

The lease on two towers at Cardston Court, near Lougheed Town Centre, is set to expire at the end of October, and the owner intends to sell them commercially.

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If that happens, the towers’ co-op occupants — many of whom are seniors on fixed incomes — may find themselves priced out of the market, according to Thom Armstrong, CEO of the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC (CHF BC).

“The residents in the community are terrified, they’re worried that their homes are being sold out from under them,” he told Global News on Tuesday.

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The 115 Place Co-operative Housing Association has leased the two towers from the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 115 Pension Plan since the 1980s.

In a written statement, the Operating Engineers’ Pension Plan accused CHF BC of spreading false information and needlessly frightening co-op residents.

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“Our foremost priority remains the fair and respectful treatment of the building’s residents throughout the sale process,” wrote spokesperson Claudia Ferris.

“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.”

Armstrong of CHF BC said those are “empty promises.”

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“Nobody would agree to buy the properties they knew they had to keep rents where they are,” he said.

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Over the summer, Housing Minister David Eby said the province tried to buy the towers from the union “with a fair offer based on appraisals that were done on the property,” but the offer was rejected.

In its statement, the Operating Engineers’ Pension Plan said several years’ worth of discussions with BC Housing failed to produce a “fair and equitable sale agreement,” and “every conceivable option” was exhausted.

In an interview, Eby said he was “very disappointed” that the province’s offer was rejected, but he respects the union’s right to “test the market.”

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On its website, the municipality writes that any developments that demolish existing rental units “must also include replacement rental units for displaced tenants, set to the same rents as their previous homes.”

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The City of Burnaby did not make anyone available for an interview for this story, but spokesperson Chris Bryan said it has had discussions with the union and province, and “will continue to work with them to find a good solution for the people living there.”

“We’ll ensure that if there’s any redevelopment application that the tenants are protected,” Eby added. “So we’ll have to continue to monitor the site and we will do so.”

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The Co-operative Housing Federation of BC said it’s raising these concerns not just for the future of co-op residents at Cardston Court, but for those living in co-operative housing units with building leases that will soon expire.

The Post 83 Co-operative Housing Association, which has 181 member households on Mayberry Street near Metrotown, also leases from the IUOE Local 115 Pension Plan and that least will expire in the fall of 2022.

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Eby said the government is preparing for similar conversations in the future, as several long-term leases set by the federal government for co-op housing buildings expire.

“Our hope is to partner with the federal government around meaningful solutions to this problem that’s been created, and also to transition our strategies towards long-term public holding of these properties,” he said.

Should the buildings at Cardston Court not attract a commercial offer attractive to Operating Engineers’ Pension Plan, the minister said he “hopes” the province will be invited back to the negotiating table.

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