New lawsuits filed against affordable housing condo owners in Victoria

The new lawsuits bring the total to 22 lawsuits against the owners of the Vivid building with more to come, the Housing Ministry said.

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BC Housing has filed 14 new lawsuits against owners of a condo complex in Victoria, alleging they abused an affordable housing program.

Vivid, a 135-unit condominium building in central Victoria, was announced as a pilot program for an affordable homeownership program for middle-income people. It was built by Chard Developments with a $53 million low-interest loan from the British Columbia government.

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But now the government is going after the buyers accused of failing to comply with the terms of the contract, which required, in part, that the buyers have a household income of less than $150,000 a year and live in the unit as their primary residence for two years.

Eight lawsuits were filed with the British Columbia Supreme Court on Thursday, and another six on Wednesday, bringing the total to 22 lawsuits with more to come, the ministry said.

“The building is intended to provide much-needed affordable housing to middle-income people so they can afford to live in the community they know and love,” Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said in a statement.

“It is infuriating that the former government left loopholes that allowed investors and speculators to take advantage of the system and fraudulently purchase units at the Vivid at the Yates building in Victoria.”

The project was built as part of a BC Liberal government program, the ministry said.

Since the investigation into the Vivid building began in 2021, prompted by reports that some of the units were being rented in violation of contract, additional safeguards have been implemented, including requirements that the buyer be a resident of BC and not own no property. another property.

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Lawsuits filed this week accuse landlords of undermining the program by not living in the units they purchased. BC Housing seeks to have the owners sell the units back to BC Housing for the original purchase price, less legal costs and taxes and punitive damages.

So far, 19 units have been returned to BC Housing, the ministry said. Of those, nine have been resold to qualified buyers and the remaining 10 are for sale.

Among the new lawsuits is one against Guo Ming Kuang and Hui Ci Chen, who identified themselves as retired Victorian residents. They purchased a unit in 2018 for $279,680 in 2017. In July 2023, that property was worth $383,000.

Another defendant is Erik Vagle, a Vancouver investment broker, who bought a unit for $303,600 in 2018. That unit is now worth $388,000, according to BC Assessment.

In both lawsuits, BC Housing alleges that the defendants have not lived in the strata unit as their primary residence and have not informed BC Housing of the breach of the purchase agreement and the affordable homeownership covenant.

“Nothing can destroy a plan more easily and quickly than abuse of that system,” he said. “Not only does this type of behavior need to be discouraged, it needs to be stopped.”

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The allegations have not been proven in court.

Another owner, Victoria real estate agent Janet Yu of Sutton Group West Coast Realty, was sued in 2022.

The claim alleges that Yu purchased a unit at Vivid in 2018 for $486,720 and made a “significant personal gain” of $52,000 in commissions on 11 other units he helped sell to buyers who should not have qualified for the program. He says Yu has never lived in the unit.

“Defendant’s conduct in applying for and receiving a subsidized housing unit, never using the unit for its intended purpose, and subsequently refusing to return the unit is egregious and reprehensible,” the lawsuit says.

Yu and his attorney Michael Hutchison were not available for comment.

In response to the claim, Hutchison said Yu does not speak English as his first language and, “with the exception of brief and occasional visits to family,” was a resident of the strata unit from the time the title was transferred to him. and has continued to do so.”

He said the evidence will establish that Yu complied with the condition of using the unit as his primary residence. Yu also denied acting as a real estate agent for the buyers of the other 11 units and said they acted independently to acquire those units.

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With files from Katie DeRosa

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