Affordable housing buildings in Nova Scotia owned by an investment arm of Telus are being sold to a Halifax company specializing in creating affordable communities.
Telus Pensions Master Trust, which was set up by the company as an investment trust with funding from corporate pensions, took over full ownership of 54 properties in Nova Scotia it had co-owned since 2015 with Strategic Atlantic.
The properties were the focus of a CBC investigation that found that many residents were unhappy with the state of the buildings as well as the property management company's aggressive approach to dealing with rental arrears.
A statement issued by Telus after the publication of the CBC article said the company had reached an agreement to sell its properties in the region to Vida Living. The sale is expected to be finalized in June.
Vida Living currently owns about 600 affordable housing units in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Manitoba, according to founder Ron Lovett.
Lovett said the company's primary purpose is to revolutionize affordable housing and create communities rather than just housing units.
Fits business model
He said acquiring the Telus-owned properties in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick fits perfectly into the company's business model.
"We were excited to get our hands dirty, get involved, roll up our sleeves and apply our model to these existing buildings," Lovett said.
He said his real estate experience prior to Vida Living taught him that there was a better way to approach affordable housing.
He said the company's strategy involves improving security in the buildings, creating community spaces like gardens, gyms and libraries, and offering tenants temporary employment opportunities for work that needs to be done on their properties.
Part of incorporating tenants into the residential community, Lovett said, is making them aware of how their actions can affect the cost of running the buildings and potential rent increases.
"Tenants in most cases don't understand if they put garbage down in the garbage bin and they don't recycle properly, that the city then can fine the property owner, and the garbage costs to remove it go up — therefore who's going to pay for that?"
Lovett said once tenants are made aware of these impacts, they tend to better police themselves and educate each other.
Accoring to Lovett, Telus has been transparent during the purchase process and has invested in repairs and upgrades.
"I was very impressed with the work that Telus have done to position those for sale," he said. "If we were going to do a large acquisition, this was the right one."
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