Kiwanis Tower owners say subsidy loss not related to sale of building

The company that manages Kiwanis Tower in Kelowna says a BC housing subsidy recently taken away from tenants had nothing to do with the sale of the building.

In a notice posted in the building on behalf of new owners 1110 Lawrence Holdings Ltd, Randi Chatham with Associated Property Management says BC Housing subsidies ended because of a BC Housing policy change.

“The BC Housing subsidies ended on December 31 due to a BC Housing policy change, which was replaced by the SAFER program, also administered by BC Housing,” reads the notice in response to media stories “The date of the change was coincidental and had nothing to do with the transfer of ownership”

The Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) program provides rent supplement for low income seniors renting in the private market and requires tenants to apply for it themselves, according to the BC Housing website. 

Chatham says BC Housing subsidies were paid directly to the landlord, but under SAFER they are paid directly to the tenants, and that there has been a delay by the province to provide those payments.  

“Despite our proactive delivery to SAFER of all tenant conversion forms as required by SAFER, and our recent urging for SAFER to pay the tenants so that they can pay us, there has been a delay in SAFER payments to tenants”

She says they have been carrying the subsidy portion of the rents since January 1 and are urging tenants to contact SAFER to obtain their subsidy so that they can cover their rent.

Chatham also says a rent increase effective March 1, was determined by Kiwanis and that tenants were notified 5 months ago. 

However, BC Housing did not mention a policy change or SAFER to AM1150 last week, when asked about why the subsidies ended.  

“The Central Okanagan Kiwanis decided to end their relationship with BC Housing and sold the Kiwanis tower to a private numbered company in mid-December,” said BC Housing “As a result, the building is no longer subsidized housing and operates in the private market”

BC Housing said agreements do not automatically transfer to a new owner and because 1110 Lawrence Holdings Ltd. is for-profit, the building was ineligible to continue the relationship with BC Housing. Central Okanagan Kiwanis President, Bob Bissell told AM1150 they ended the relationship with BC Housing because they had to, in order to sell the building.

BC Housing only mentioned SAFER when asked what options tenants who have lost their subsidy have.

Around 100 tenants relied on the subsidy prior to it being taken away in December, and some have seen their rent almost double with the loss of it. 

Janet Davidson, one of the tenants who lost their subsidy, told AM1150 she wasn't told about SAFER by building management until mid-February. Because she is on disability, she may not be eligible for a supplement through the program. 

Randi Chatham and Associated Property Management did not return calls for comment or clarification.