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New rental protection preserves 26 affordable Vernon homes

Apartment complex units get upgrades and stability from CMHA, B.C. government

The first they knew they had new owners of the Vernon apartment building where they share a studio apartment was when Drew McFee, 27, and her partner, Sean Rhodenizer, 29, had some maintenance issues to be fixed.

The couple called the then-Sunshine Gardens maintenance contractor to help them with some issues in their studio apartment.

“They ignored us for a week. We called them again and they said, ‘you’re not our problem, somebody else bought your place,’” said Rhodenizer.

That ‘somebody’ is the provincial government, and the Vernon and District Branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“We didn’t know the place was for sale until we got a letter saying this place has been bought and will be subject to some home improvements,” said McFee. “The information was limited at first but then representatives came and sat down with us about the sale and what’s happening. It was a relief.”

McFee and Rhodenizer’s studio apartment, along with more than two dozen affordable homes at risk of being sold, have been preserved.

The Ministry of Housing announced Tuesday, May 21, at the building, with a crowd of dignitaries and tenants on hand, that it has protected Sunrise Gardens by buying the 24th Avenue apartment.

“The Rental Protection Fund’s purchase of Sunrise Gardens in Vernon means 26 people will continue to have deeply affordable housing in Vernon,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. “The Rental Protection Fund has saved this building from being sold to the private sector or to housing speculators, ensuring that these tenants will benefit from affordable rents for years to come.”

Approximately $3.1 million came from the fund to buy the building, with Canadian Mental Health Association Vernon & District Branch (CMHA) providing $40,000.

CMHA Vernon will own and operate the building, which is a mix of studio and one-bedroom units.

The Rental Protection Fund is also providing a renewal grant of $47,000 to each home to complete upgrades.

Through this purchase, the 26 homes will remain approximately 45 per cent below the market rental rate in Vernon.

“The Rental Protection Fund is also a rental resilience fund,” said Katie Maslechko, CEO of the new fund which Vernon is the first recipient of. “Investments like this one in Vernon not only breathe new life into a building and ensure operational sustainability into the future, but for the residents that call it home, freedom from housing insecurity that allows them new opportunities to thrive and build wealth.”

CMHA Vernon is excited to partner with the fund to preserve Sunrise Gardens and “much-needed” affordable housing in the community.

“Suitable and affordable housing contributes to our physical and mental well-being,” said Julia Payson, executive director, CMHA Vernon.

The $500-million Rental Protection Fund provides one-time capital grants to non-profit housing organizations so they can buy affordable residential rental buildings and co-operatives listed for sale.

“Vernon is growing as a proud community that looks after one another and with this purchase more people will be able live near their families,” said Harwinder Sandhu, Vernon-Monashee MLA.

Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis is pleased to see the B.C. government an CMHA working together.

“With affordable housing being such a rarity today, it is absolutely essential that local governments continue to work in tandem with non-profits to ensure that affordable housing options are retained and expanded.”

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Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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