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Four recommendations given to BC Housing to improve space for women, children

Michael Pickup appears before the public accounts committee at the legislature in Halifax on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017. A report by B.C.'s auditor general is making four recommendations to improving housing for women and children fleeing unstable or violent living situations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan. AV

British Columbia’s auditor general says the provincial housing agency should ensure rooms it finds for women and children fleeing violence are held exclusively for their use.

In an audit of BC Housing’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, auditor general Michael Pickup says the Crown corporation did not have a process to ensure hotel and motel operators fulfilled their agreements for the space.

As a result, the audit found rooms leased by BC Housing at three hotels were rented out to others during the period that was assessed between April 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021.

Read more: B.C. auditor highlights COVID-19 relief program risks, budget dispute with government

The recommendation is one of four made by Pickup, whose audit found that BC Housing “effectively managed” its program to provide additional safe spaces for women and children, but with “some exceptions.”

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BC Housing accepted all four recommendations.

Pickup also says there are gaps in the agency’s response to situations where women were turned away because of a lack of space and suggests better data collection to determine why this happens. The auditor general also suggests BC Housing collect more information on the physical ability, mental wellness, religious beliefs, sexual orientation and gender identity of its clients to monitor whether the spaces are accessible to all women.

As well, it recommended that BC Housing work to better understand and address the staffing needs of housing providers after it found three of the 12 organizations it interviewed had staffing shortages during the pandemic.

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