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Auditor approves of B.C. motel purchases for pandemic shelter

9 Victoria, Vancouver properties bought at or below market rate
B.C. Housing bought the Comfort Inn Hotel in Victoria in 2020 to house people camping along Pandora Avenue and in Topaz Park. (Victoria News photo)

With public parks overrun by tent camps as COVID-19 pandemic measures restricted shelters in 2020, B.C. Housing moved quickly to buy up nine hotel and motels in Victoria and Vancouver, spending $221 million to take them over.

That was fair market value, and in some cases below market for older properties that were also struggling to operate under pandemic restrictions, B.C. Auditor General Michael Pickup says.

Pickup released an audit on the purchases March 1, analyzing the emergency purchases to deal with crowded tent camps at Topaz Park and along Pandora Street in Victoria, and Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver. B.C. Housing received a ministerial order to make the purchases, and followed all the rules and government approvals, Pickup’s report says.

The audit covers properties bought in 2020 and 2021. In Victoria, the Comfort Inn on Blanshard Street had an appraised value of $21 million and was bought for $19.2 million. Paul’s Motor Inn on Douglas Street was appraised at $18 million and B.C. Housing paid $14.5 million. The Capital City Centre on Douglas Street and 225 Russell were bought at more than the appraised value.

The most expensive property covered by the audit was the Patricia Hotel on East Hastings Street in Vancouver, bought for $64.4 million after an appraisal of $63 million. The Howard Johnson on Granville Street was appraised at $54.5 million and B.C. Housing paid $56.6 million.

Unusually for an audit of a major B.C. government project, the audit makes no recommendations.

“The purchases of the nine properties followed typical approval processes for acquisitions of existing housing,” Pickup wrote. “The executive committee and the board of directors reviewed the purchases individually and provided approvals in 2020 and 2021 to complete the acquisitions conditional on the completion of favourable due diligence reviews.”

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