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Stratas shifting to 55+ presents ‘massive loophole’ in Property Act, Duncan condo owner says

A condo owner in Duncan says her strata opting to go 55+ will significantly impact not only her finances, but her personal life — prompting her to ask British Columbia’s premier to fix a “massive loophole” in recent changes to housing legislation.

Brianne Pascoe, 30, purchased her unit last June. When she moved into the building it was 19+, but since then the government has made significant changes to the Strata Property Act with Bill 44 — including what some are calling a loophole upending the lives of buyers and renters.

That’s because Pascoe’s strata voted to restrict anyone under 55 from moving into the building, something other strata councils around the province have been doing ever since the changes came into effect last November.

The new laws aim to increase B.C.’s housing stock to help solve the province’s rental shortage, with changes to the Act scrapping rental restrictions, including age restrictions on buildings not meant for seniors. However, 55+ buildings are still allowed, leading some stratas to convert to keep out young renters and families with children. 

That’s affected Pascoe’s life dramatically in more ways than one.

“I choose to sell, my property is now worth at least 30 per cent less,” Pascoe wrote in a letter to B.C. Premier David Eby, adding she’s now “stuck” in the 55+ building with limited options.

“I can’t really move forward. If I wanted to move a roommate in to help with mortgage costs, I can’t unless they’re 55 — I’m only 30,” Pascoe told CHEK News Tuesday.

“It stops me from moving in any potential partner and starting our life there. We’d have to sell and move,” she said. “And then, if I do want to sell, there’s the concern of it being less than market value now.”

Asked about Pascoe’s situation a day earlier, Eby promised more changes are coming to stop stratas from dodging the new rental laws, including a new amendment to specifically address the issue of people who live in a building that then converts to 55+.

“What (the government is) looking at for buildings with 55 and over bylaws, people who are in those buildings who are under 55 — not new people moving in, only existing residents — they’re going to consider looking at exceptions,” said Condominium Home Owners’ Association of British Columbia’s executive director Tony Gioventu.

“So if there’s a change in family status or conditions, there’s some accommodation for them.”

In January, Victoria-based realtor Tony Zarsadias told CHEK News that stratas shifting to 55+ doesn’t eliminate rentals but decreases the number available. He also said introducing an age restriction could cost owners a lot of money down the road.

READ ALSO: Strata councils finding ways to bypass B.C.’s new housing laws

“So they know it’s going to be an older demographic, but ultimately it will affect values,” said Zarsadias. “Any restriction you put on properties limits the number of buyers as well. So that absolutely affects the value that people will pay for a property.”

Gioventu argues that’s not the case.

“There’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever that that has been the result,” he said. “I think that if you’re in a community that’s in high demand, and considering we have a housing shortage in the province, no one’s really having problems selling or moving for reasonable pricing. We’ve not seen any real impact on price or values.”

Janet Scotland with the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board says she’s aware of Bill 44 and its implications on stratas. But in her experience, like Gioventu’s, converting a building to 55+ doesn’t necessarily lower values.

“It’s not comparing apples to oranges. There’s the age of the building and so many different components with the strata. They’re all so different,” said Scotland. “Do they have parking? Is it covered parking or open parking? Do they have a gym? It’s so difficult to compare them because they’re quite different.”

Last November, the B.C. government said nearly 2,900 units in strata buildings were sitting empty, with around 300,000 units built before 2010 still subject to rental bans.

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