BC Housing takes over two rundown buildings
Operator ran out of funds for repairs: former president
As a result, the province will have to put hundreds of thou-sands of dollars into repairs to the 70-unit Bill Hennessy Place and the 86-unit Jennie Pent-land Place, both in the 500-block of East Hastings. And the ministry has already agreed to give the current operator, the First United Church Social Housing Society, interim funding until the province takes over April 1.
The decision comes after the society's board concluded it was at risk of going bankrupt, according to Kehl Petersen, the former president. The society, the housing arm of First United Church, has run the buildings since they were built in the mid-1980s on land owned by the city.
Petersen blamed the financial problems on a funding model with BC Housing that prevents the society from being able to get long-term financing for the repairs. The city owns both the land and buildings but leases them to the society, which acts as an operator for BC Housing.
The money the society collects from a mixture of market rents, shelter allowance for low-income renters and the BC Housing subsidy doesn't cover the buildings' operating and maintenance costs, according to Petersen.
"The funding model that is used to determine how much money BC Housing gives us for operations doesn't work," he said. "We spent almost a year having meetings with BC Housing, the city, even Mayor Gregor Robertson and city manager Penny Ballem, and everyone agreed it's just not workable."
The province said in a statement it is trying to convince the City of Vancouver to pay for capital repairs and that it will take over management this spring. It did not say whether the change will affect those living in the two buildings.
But Jim De Hoop, Vancouver's managing director of social development, said the city has told the province it won't contribute to capital repairs, which are the responsibility of the operator.
The problems at Bill Hennessy Place and Jennie Pent-land Place are so severe that the society exhausted a $600,000 reserve making repairs to the buildings, including new elevators. Netting covers the entire front of Bill Hennessy Place and the balconies of Jennie Pent-land Place to prevent pigeons from roosting, but trash now collects at the bottom of the nets, adding to the rundown look of the places.
Stephen Gray, the co-executive director of the First United Church, said the province gave the society a $600,000 forgivable loan last year to replace both roofs and has agreed to now replace the boilers. How-ever, Bill Hennessy Place also has building envelope issues and needs all of its pipes replaced, he said.
Gray said the society tries to maintain a ratio of 50 per cent market renters and 50 per cent subsidized low-income renters, but that ratio has fallen to 40-60 as a result of drug dealing and prostitution in the area and the condition of the buildings.