What happened when BC tried to sell off public housing

The Manitoba Government’s current plan to sell off its public housing is very similar to a plan that British Columbia’s Liberal Government put in place in 2014. In 2017, Carol Bellringer, British Columbia’s auditor general, release a highly critical review of the program. You can read the full report here.

BC Auditor’s Report

In 2014 British Columbia introduced the Non-Profit Asset Transfer Program (NPAT). Under this program 2,800 provincially owned housing units and the land on which 11,600 units of non-profit housing was located were to be sold to non-profit housing providers. The money from the sale was intended to be used to expand rent subsidy programs and construct new public housing. The program won a Public Sector Leadership Award Silver Award in 2015, which described the program as “the first of its kind in Canada.” The British Columbia Auditor General’s 2017 report on NPAT was not as positive. The audit concluded that:

…while the program will provide immediate funding for the ministry to reinvest in housing, it will also incur substantial costs and introduce risks to the long term provision of social housing. The ministry has not adequately assessed the benefits of the program against these costs and risks, or shown how the program will contribute to better outcomes for safe, affordable and appropriate housing.

While the program was expected to bring in approximately $500-million in cash, this amount had to be set against the government’s commitment to pay the non-profit agencies’ mortgage costs for 35 years. The total cost of this commitment was estimated at $1-billion. The auditor wrote:

The ministry calculated that the present value of the long-term program costs was more than offset by the proceeds the program generates, including the $150 million in federal cost-matching dollars. We found that when the $30 million in implementation costs is included and the federal funding subtracted (it was not dependent on the NPAT program), the program could result in a financial cost rather than a financial benefit.

Finally, the auditor concluded that the government had not “demonstrated that it transferred assets based on the non-profit’s ability to renew and increase the social housing stock in the province.”