The nine Victoria and Vancouver properties BC Housing acquired to house the homeless amid COVID-19 were purchased below appraised market value, BC officials say.
Despite public concerns, a report released Tuesday gathers all properties met procedural requirements and were completed within the government’s approved budget.
According to Auditor General Michael Pickup, it’s rare for an audit to conclude without recommendations, “as is the case here.”
Pickup says the audit looked at the processes BC Housing followed when it purchased the properties – four in Victoria and five in Vancouver – between 2020 and 2021 at a combined cost of $221 million.
In BC’s capital, the Capital City Centre Hotel, Paul’s Motor Inn, Comfort Inn and 225 Russell Street were purchased to shelter people living in Topaz Park and along Pandora Avenue.
The goal was to provide housing that offered both physical distancing and access to health and social supports, something Pickup notes was a challenge “due to the nature of the pandemic and tight time frame.”
Overall, according to Pickup, the audit finds all requirements were met and that all purchases complied with government-required approval processes.
The audit also highlights that due diligence reviews were done correctly, including fair market value appraisals and reviews of potential physical or legal risks.
“BC Housing can be commended for completing these transactions in the way it did, considering the time pressures and unusual circumstances of the pandemic,” added Pickup.
Looking ahead, BC Housing intends to redevelop some of the properties for permanent, affordable, and supportive housing.
In fact, a significant re-development has been proposed for the Capital City Center Hotel and the surrounding area, including the former White Spot location.
While the Our Place Society currently operates the hotel, BC Housing has partnered with local developer Chard Development to rezone the area to create a multi-purpose development, including a mix of residential and office units, plus a grocery store and shops.