Letter: Beware of added fees when talking affordable housing

I suggest they find partners other than corporate developers

Beware of added fees when talking affordable housing

In terms of cities and municipalities trying to provide low cost housing, I suggest they find partners other than corporate developers.

It’s easy for an entity that has no plans to manage what they are going to build to make promises. Once the building is complete, if it is committed to rental units, a property manager takes care of it from there. In the case of corporate, national, and/or multinational developers the chosen property managers are of the same ilk with no connection to the location or the tenants.

Take for example the Bluestone Apartments in Nanaimo owned by Starlight Investments. To unload the rising costs of utilities which negatively impacted their profit, they subcontracted water delivery services, which used to be included in “utilities” in lease agreements, to Wyse Metre Solutions, a subsidiary of Starlight. Wyse, at no cost to the owner, installed sub-meters to measure the water consumed by each apartment. The concept was greenwashed as an incentive to raise awareness and lower consumption. That may be but the costs incurred in the installment of the meters was billed to each tenant without their knowledge, consent, or ability to opt out.

Water delivery, which is already paid to the city and may be considered an essential service, is now billed to individual tenants along with a Water Utility Service Fee which includes costs associated with customer service, rate calculation, bill generation, bill payment processing, a metre fee, a bad debt recovery fee, and a regulatory administration fee. On some bills the service fee is higher than the usage charge.

The City of Nanaimo says the city supplies a building with water and whatever happens after that is not within their control.

If mayors and councillors think they are granting permits to a developer in exchange for a commitment to a percentage of low cost housing, they must realize that corporate developers and property managers are keeping the rent low while removing essential services and adding additional charges, some falsified i.e. sewer, to be borne by the tenant in addition to rent. To the mayors and councillors, If you sincerely want to provide affordable housing please take the time to find ways to guard against the corporatizing and commodifying of housing and the monetizing of essential services. Otherwise, there will be no such thing as affordable housing.

M. Lescher