Tenants of Port Alberni’s King George Apartments are both happy and relieved that their affordable rental rates will be unchanged after the purchase of the building by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Port Alberni and the Province of BC.
Located at 3131 5th Ave., the building provides 41 one and two-bedroom units that cost considerably less than average market rents in the area, ranging from approximately $500 to $633 per month. The Canadian Mental Health Association Port Alberni had leased the apartment building for the past nine years.
The building was recently listed on the market for sale. However, CMHA wanted to find a way to secure this affordable housing for its clients and ensure rental rates were not impacted by a private investor or developer’s purchase. That's why the province and CMHA Port Alberni partnered to acquire the building.
The Canadian Mental Health Association received a grant of $3 million and low-interest financing of $1.86 million from the province to purchase the building, which provides rental homes for people with moderate and low incomes.
"Considering the current, critical housing shortage in Port Alberni, we are relieved to be able to secure these below-market rentals for the future," said Katrina Kiefer, executive director of CMHA Port Alberni. "This purchase will provide stable, safe, affordable homes indefinitely, allowing CMHA to continue to provide services to our population focused around community wellness. We are grateful for the past generosity of the building owner and the provincial government, through BC Housing, for its forward-thinking actions that made this housing possible."
Kiefer said nothing will change for the tenants in the foreseeable future.
“Affordability is a huge issue for most renters as there are so few lower rent homes in this area. Seeking another below-market rent home and subsequently moving, would have been a daunting prospect for everyone,” Kiefer said. “This purchase should alleviate any anxiety about potentially having to do so.”
An independent appraisal of the site was completed on March 25, 2021. The appraisal took into account the existing market value of the property and valued the building and land at $5.4 million. CMHA Port Alberni paid $4.8 million for the property, plus approximately $64,600 in related fees.
Kiefer said she was able to personally go to each unit in the building to explain that tenants were secure and reassure them that no changes would be made.
“Every tenant that I spoke to was relieved and happy that CMHA was to remain their landlord with the current circumstances and rents unchanged,” Kiefer said.
With the affordable housing building for sale, there was a real chance that whoever purchased it would redevelop the site or raise rents significantly, said David Eby, attorney general and minister responsible for housing, in a press release.
"By purchasing this building, we are making sure that people in the community continue to have rental homes they can afford," Eby said.
In addition to the 41 affordable homes secured in this purchase, there are another 172 new homes completed or underway in Port Alberni.
“The Low Energy Housing Group are building affordable homes on Maitland,” Kiefer said. “I'm sure that if there are other future projects in the works, the provincial government will make their announcements.”