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B.C. Rental Protection Fund head applauds new federal program

"It's probably fair to say they're pulling many ideas from B.C."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the new $1.5-billion Canada Rental Protection Fund in Manitoba on April 4.

Canada is taking a page out of B.C.’s book with their newly announced Canada Rental Protection Fund, and the head of B.C.’s version of this fund said she is pleased to see it.

The federal government announced the launch of a new $1.5-billion Canada Rental Protection Fund on April 4, intending to preserve affordable housing and create more rental stock.

“I am really, really pleased to see them step up with such a significant grant contribution because that really is an important part of not only this model but a long-term view on how we're investing in the community housing sector. So, that was great to see, and it'll allow for much more significant impacts as well,” said Rental Protection Fund CEO Katie Maslechko.

“It's probably fair to say they're pulling many ideas from B.C.”

The Rental Protection Fund was launched in January 2023 to protect affordable rental units from redevelopment, disinvestment, displacement of tenants and rent price increases and is being driven through $500 million in funding from the province.

Ottawa’s program will be available “later this year” and represents a key measure in the upcoming federal Budget 2024, according to the announcement.

“We’re making the playing field fairer for renters. Through Budget 2024, we’re working with non-profits to protect affordable housing, preserve rent prices, and build thousands of new apartments. It’s simple — you should be able to live in the community you love, with a rent you can afford,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a statement.

When asked what the similarities and differences between the two rental funds are, Maslechko said that it is too soon to tell.

“It's hard to say, based on the limited information we have to date,” she said.

“There's certainly lots of experience and learning that we can bring to the table, I think time is very much of the essence here. If the experience we've built over the past year can help that be deployed that much faster and it's that much more significant of a scale, we are more than willing and would be certainly quite eager to continue conversations with them and any other provinces.”

During the federal government announcement, Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew said that in addition to the federal protection fund, the province will be bringing forward $30 million this year to work with housing partners to acquire new and existing housing stock.

Maslechko said that if she had any advice for Trudeau it would be to put the fund in the hands of those who are “closest to the work and know what’s happening on the ground in the community housing sector.”

“They know [what’s] best and that has been a proven point of success for the fund here in B.C. and our ability to be nimble and efficient and effective in deploying the funds very quickly,” she said.

“A really important piece of this is timeliness. … Every single one of these units, they may be the most affordable housing we currently have but they're also never going to be more affordable than they are right now.”

B.C.’s rental protection fund currently has 35 pre-qualified applicants from the non-profit sector, up from 22 in November 2023, according to Maslechko. 

“We have about 2000 units in the pipeline total, including those we've approved, and those coming forward soon for consideration and that equates to 42 properties,” she said.

The fund also has 100 applications currently making their way through the vetting process.

When asked if the provincial fund will be receiving any of the $1.5-billion federal investment, Maslechko said they are “well poised to receive a significant allocation.”

“We certainly hope so, because the feds were very clear yesterday that a big aim for them is to have this incentivize other sources of capital, to join them in their commitment and leverage their investments that much further.”

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