British Columbia

Burnaby co-op residents fear displacement amid looming property sale

The property has been leased to the co-op since the 1980s, but the lease agreement expires Oct. 31

Posted: October 07, 2021
Last Updated: October 07, 2021

Duncan Beaton has lived at the Cardston Court tower for nine years, and fears future rent increases could pose challenges to many residents in the building. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

For nine years, retiree Duncan Beaton has gotten to know his neighbours in the Cardston Court towers in Burnaby, B.C.

From gardening to maintenance, everyone chips in within the tight-knit community, known as the 115 Place Housing Co-operative. The residents of the 244 units pay below market rents; many of them are seniors on fixed incomes.

"We're a little village within a big city, and the people just thrive on it," said Beaton. "It's a great place."


But a looming sale of the property has residents fearful that they could soon be paying a lot more to live there.

The property has been leased to the co-op since the 1980s, but the lease agreement expires on Oct. 31.

115 Place at 9380 Cardston Court is pictured in Burnaby, British Columbia on Tuesday, October 5, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The landowner has listed the site on the private market. The Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C. (CHFBC) says it expects private landlords would likely convert the site into market rentals, meaning prices would nearly double for some residents.

"What that means is that hundreds of low-income senior households will be threatened with the loss of their housing security, and potentially homeless, in one of the most expensive housing markets in Canada," said CHFBC CEO Thom Armstrong.

For example, residents like Beaton pay about $1,000 for a two-bedroom unit in the building. As of 2020, market rental rates for a two-bedroom in Metro Vancouver were about $1,800.


Armstrong says CHFBC would like to see the property sold to the province so the co-op could be maintained.

Attempted sales

The property is owned by the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 115 Pension Plan.

In a statement, pension plan spokesperson Claudia Ferris said fund operators had been in discussions with B.C. Housing for several years on a possible sale, but "have exhausted every conceivable option to conclude a fair and equitable sale agreement."

B.C. Housing confirmed negotiations failed despite "an offer to purchase the site based on an independent property appraisal."

115 Place at 9380 Cardston Court is pictured in Burnaby, B.C., on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"We are open to continuing talks to buy the property so that residents aren't forced to leave their home. But we are also committed to being fiscally responsible with public dollars and only make purchases when they are priced consistent with third-party valuations," wrote B.C. Housing.

Neither B.C. Housing nor the pension plan disclosed the appraisal, but Armstrong said it's likely upwards of $100 million.


"The pension plan seems to be determined to take the property to market and try to get a price from the highest bidder," said Armstrong.

Skepticism over promises

Despite the impending sale, Ferris said the pension plan has told the co-op that it will not entertain offers from prospective purchasers without assurance there will be no evictions or renovictions.

But Armstrong says there's nothing to prevent a buyer from doing so once the sale goes through.

"We've heard that before and frankly it's empty words, there's no way to bind a buyer to treat a tenant population a certain way after a sale," he said.

Resident Duncan Beaton expressed similar skepticism.

"People that live here have lived a long time, and we're a little beyond promises and warm feelings and prayers and all that crap," he said.