Skip to content

Coquitlam mayor 'disgusted' to bail out feds on affordable homes

The city has to come to the rescue, Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said before council granted $5.8 million to save two co-ops.
The Garden Court (pictured) and Tri-Branch cooperatives in Coquitlam received $5.8 million from the city last month for the Community Land Trust to purchase and retain the 290 affordable homes in the City Centre neighbourhood.

The land lease for a Coquitlam housing co-op is on agenda next month after the city pitched in $5.8 million to save it and a sister property.

Members of the Garden Court Housing Co-operative will discuss the property's future at their annual general meeting on Dec. 7 following the municipality's contribution last month from its Affordable Housing Reserve Fund (AHRF) — an account funded by the development sector that's intended to assist with building new affordable units in the city, not retain existing ones.

The $5.8-million grant for the Garden Court and Tri-Branch co-ops on Packard Avenue, west of Coquitlam Centre mall, will flow to the Community Land Trust (CLT) and represents about six per cent of the $100.8-million bill to purchase the land from the current property owners: the pension plan for the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE).

CLT, the property development arm of the Cooperative Housing Federation of BC and which currently leases the two Coquitlam properties through agreements that expired last October, is also seeking $50.5 million from the provincial government to protect the co-op stock.

Earlier this year, the province set up a $500-million Rental Protection Fund to help the community housing sector purchase existing and occupied rental buildings.

Currently, CLT is redeveloping the Hoy Creek co-op to construct 132 new co-op homes for its members.

Built under the federally funded housing programs of the 1980s, Garden Court and Tri-Branch have a combined 290 rental units for singles, seniors and families on low to medium incomes.

Council reaction

Mayor Richard Stewart, who with council voted in favour of the AHRF grant to the CLT, said he's "disgusted" that the city is "bailing out the federal government for a mistake they made."

"In this case, they established a 60-year housing co-op on a 40-year lease," he said, "which meant that after the 40 years, the building would be torn down because the land isn't owned by the co-op, so now the city has to come to the rescue of the federal government's mistake."

He added, "I will publicly yell at the federal government one more time. They won't hear me. This is their mistake. The money should come from them. If you're going to establish the housing tenure shorter than the housing building that it's on, then that's not good public policy.”

Coun. Dennis Marsden concurred, saying the city's AHRF wasn't launched to keep affordable units in tact, but to build new ones.

Still, granting funds to the CLT "makes sense," Marsden added.

"This is our contribution to reserving some housing for a group of residents who love their homes…. It is unfortunate that we're painted in a corner to do this."

Marsden suggested the city write a letter to the Tri-Cities' two MPs: Liberal Ron McKinnon (Coquitlam–Port Coquitlam); and the NDP's Bonita Zarrillo (Port Moody–Coquitlam).

Coun. Matt Djonlic also voiced concern with the federal minister's direction and "not taking the lead" on affordable housing.

A request for comment from the Cooperative Housing Federation of BC was not immediately returned.

However, a BC Housing Ministry spokesperson confirmed to the Tri-City News that the CLT has been in active discussions with the IUOE pension plan about the future of the two co-ops and the application to the Rental Protection Fund is now in progress.

"The Province is hopeful that the CLT and IUOE can reach an agreement to preserve this important housing," the spokesperson said via an email.

According to city reports, Coquitlam has granted more than $12 million through its AHRF to create more than 750 non-market and below-market rental units since 2018.