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More lawsuits filed against buyers in Victoria’s Vivid building, total at 22

Province’s suits allege wealthy buyers took advantage of affordable housing program
The Vivid building in downtown Victoria on March 6. (Mark Page/News Staff)

The B.C. government has filed nine more lawsuits in the past two weeks against condo owners at Victoria’s Vivid building, bringing the total up to 22 civil claims filed against buyers for breaking the terms of an affordable housing program.

Each suit alleges a separate buyer did not keep their unit as a primary residence — a requirement to be able to purchase units at a below-market rate.

The condos were sold as part of an initiative meant for middle-income earners as part of an affordable housing program that eventually morphed into what is now called the Affordable Home Ownership Program.

As an incentive, the developer of the building received a low-interest provincial government loan of almost $53 million for the project in 2017.

Many of the lawsuits date back to 2022, but one more suit was filed last week, and eight more claims were initiated this week after the court action became public.

Several of the new cases are linked through court documents to the same real estate agent allegedly involved in many of the other transactions and include one person who told BC Housing in 2022 that they were living in China and could not get back due to the pandemic.

Court documents filed in the cases include details showing that some of the buyers already owned property, including many with multiple properties worth over $1 million.

The current incarnation of the affordable housing program used for the purchases does not allow buyers to own other property, but at the time of the purchases in question — most purchases were in early 2018 — this was not a rule.

At the time, the buyers were required only to have an income of less than $150,000 per year, be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident for at least 12 months, only purchase one unit, and live in it as a primary residence for the first two years, according to a BC Housing spokesperson.

The buyers are all being sued for not following the requirement to keep the unit as a primary residence for the initial two years after purchase, and the government is asking they be forced to sell the units back to BC Housing.

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon told reporters on Tuesday (March 5) that the investigation into these buyers began in 2021, and that many, though not all, of the units had already been sold back.

The lawsuits also seek unspecified damages, as well as leaving the door open for the court to add more penalties. Some of the buyers are also being accused of renting out their condos, and in those cases, the government is asking for that money to be handed over.

The real estate agent linked in court documents to purchases, Janet Yu, bought one of the units herself and is also being accused of not keeping it as a primary residence.

Yu’s lawyer Michael Hutchison says she denies any wrongdoing in the case, telling Black Press Media that his client says she did actually live at the Vivid as was required and followed all of the other requirements of the program.

“My client denies the allegations against her,” Hutchison said on Tuesday afternoon. “She went through the process, she disclosed the information that she was required to disclose.”

Since the time of these purchases, the affordable housing program has been given more “robust” protections, according to BC Housing, that now include a prohibition on buyers owning other property and a requirement they keep the unit as a primary residence for at least five years.

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About the Author: Mark Page

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