North Cowichan is asking the province to help the tenants of the Magdalena apartment building who are expected to be evicted from the structurally deficient building sometime in the spring of 2023. (Citizen file)

Cowichan taxpayers buck up $20k to tenants ousted from faulty apartment complex

Money will come from Housing Trust Fund for looming Magdalena evictions due to structural defects

The remaining tenants at the Magdalena apartment building on Crosland Place will receive financial assistance from the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s Housing Trust Fund.

The CVRD board decided to use $20,000 from the HTF at its meeting on Oct. 12 after an application for funding to help the tenants was made by the Cowichan Housing Association.

The five-storey Magdalena building, which is owned by WestUrban Properties, has multiple structural deficiencies and other work that needs remediation in order for it to be safe long-term, and residents must move out while the work is being completed.


North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring asked the CHA to request that the district access its emergency housing funding in order to help the tenants, who will likely have to vacate the building early in 2023 and relocate quickly in a challenging rental housing market.

Lynne Smith, the CVRD’s director for Saltair/Gulf Islands, said she supports funding the tenants, but questioned whether it is appropriate for the district to assist when it could be argued that the owners of the apartment building should be taking on the responsibility.

“I’m not familiar enough with the building’s owners, the development and its engineering, and the legal implications of what’s going on there,” she said.

Barbra Mohan, the CVRD’s manager of corporate services, said the district is not being asked to carry any liability or make judgments in regards to the request from the CHA.

“The board is asked to determine whether this qualifies under the funding agreement we have with the CHA for emergency funding, which I believe it does,” she said.

“These concerns are more for the CHA than they are for this board.”

The majority of voters across the CVRD gave the green light to establishing the HTP, which costs the district’s taxpayers a maximum of $765,000 per year to help deal with housing issues during the ongoing housing crisis, in a referendum that was held during the municipal elections in 2018.

The money is managed by the CHA.

Siebring said he meets weekly with WestUrban Properties and North Cowichan staff to determine what can be done for the tenants and to expedite the repairs at the building.


He said it’s expected that just 28 of the 64 units at Magdalena building will be occupied by the end of October as most of the tenants have found other lodgings, and the funding from the HTF is intended to help the remaining tenants with moving expenses and to find other places to live.

“These folks are in a difficult situation,” Siebring said.

“They’re stuck between a rock and a hard place and I take director Smith’s point that this is somewhat [the responsibility] of the owner, but it’s not so much on the owner as it is on the original engineering firm that did the geotechnical work, and there’s a lawsuit going on there. The owners are doing what they can to recover, but all that stuff takes time.”

Siebring said if you split up the $20,000 among the remaining tenants, it comes down to less than $1,000 each, which is not a lot of money in today’s housing market.

“This is one of the core functions of the CHA, which has to do with emergency funding,” he said.

Ian Morrison, director for Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls, said the issue is about people in a “crappy situation” through no fault of their own, and the funding may make a difference between them getting a new place to live in an extremely tight rental market, where the vacancy rate is currently 0.9 per cent.

“I think it’s completely appropriate that we free up the purse strings a little bit so that the CHA, who are the professionals in these matters, can make the appropriate decisions,” he said.

With the decision to allocate the $20,000 for the Magdalena tenants, the unallocated balance in the HTF is now $482,000.

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