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BC Housing accused of using affordable-home lawsuits for ‘political purposes’

One of dozens of people accused of undermining a program designed to tackle British Columbia’s housing crisis claims BC Housing is using the courts to score political points by threatening to take away their home.

Jian Xin is among more than 30 people facing BC Supreme Court lawsuits in relation to below-market purchases of units in Victoria’s Vivid condominium building through the province’s Affordable Home Ownership Program.

In a response filed last month, Xin accuses BC Housing of taking advantage of his broken English and lack of legal savvy to gain information which the Crown agency now wants to use against him.

He points a finger at Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon — citing a CBC report in which the politician claimed the government was “going after the folks who broke the rules to obtain this housing.”

“BC Housing is using this claim for political purposes by seeking a windfall amounting to expropriation, at the expense of Mr. Xin — who stands to lose his home,” Xin’s response reads.

“The de facto expropriation of Mr. Xin’s home sought by BC Housing will only compound the alleged housing crisis, the causes of which are many and diverse, and will do nothing to solve it.”

A low interest loan

The recent legal filings are the latest twist in a saga that began with the construction of the Vivid project though a $53-million low-interest loan to a developer who was supposed to pass on the savings to middle-income buyers looking for a foothold in the housing market.

In early March, CBC discovered a series of lawsuits which ultimately revealed that as many as a third of the building’s 135 units went to people who failed to comply with covenants that said they had to live in the units for at least two years.

BC Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon, pictured at the Legislature on Nov. 23, 2023, says the province will move forward with controversial changes to how municipalities can respond to encampments.

BC Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon told the CBC he was “infuriated” by allegations people were undermining an affordable home ownership program. Those words are now being used against him in a BC Supreme Court case. (CBCNews)

Many of the purchasers allegedly already owned property elsewhere — in some cases, multiple homes worth millions of dollars.

Xin is one of only a handful of defendants to file responses to the claims against them.

BC Housing sued him in 2022, claiming Xin’s driver’s license indicated he lived in a townhouse at the University of British Columbia. The agency also claimed Xin was n’t insuring the Vivid unit, “as his agent had told him it was not necessary for the homeowner to stay there.”

Relied on real estate agent — who is also being sued

In Xin’s response the flooring salesman insists he lives at the unit for which he paid a total of $513,400 “and travels extensively for work.”

He claims he paid “fair market value for the unit at the time and … received no savings or discount.”

Xin says BC Housing sought a number of documents from him, including a T4 and a copy of his insurance documents.

BC Housing is suing real estate Janet Yu over her purchase of a unit at the Vivid condominium building. The claim says Yu made nearly $53,000 in commissions from sales at the building. In a response, Yu denies the claims and says no one told her the unit had a greater market price.

BC Housing is suing real estate Janet Yu over her purchase of a unit at the Vivid condominium building. The claim says Yu made nearly $53,000 in commissions from sales at the building. In a response, Yu denies the claims and says no one told her the unit had a greater market price. (Janet Yu/Sutton.com)

“It is not clear by what authority they sought these documents, or that Mr. Xin appreciated that they had no authority to do so,” the response says.

“Mr. Xin…did not understand that he was communicating not with a government agency acting fairly and in his interests, but with litigation counsel.”

Xin says he relied on the advice of real estate agent Janet Yu — herself the subject of a BC Housing lawsuit claiming she also bought a unit at the Vivid in contravention of the Affordable Home Ownership Program and made $53,000 commission on 12 units sold to people who nearly all did the same.

Yu has denied the allegations against her.

‘BC Housing lacks clean hands’

In addition to Xin, another of the buyers targeted in the BC Housing lawsuits has also filed a response and a counterclaim — seeking damages for abuse of process.

Brendan Phillips — who is identified in the BC Housing claim as a real estate agent — says he has fully complied with the terms of the covenant which required him to live in the unit for two years.

Victoria’s Vivid condominium building was a pilot project for a program intended to help middle-income families enter BC’s housing market. But lawsuits filed by BC Housing claim at least a dozen people who already owned multiple properties bought units.

Victoria’s Vivid condominium building was a pilot project for a program intended to help middle-income families enter BC’s housing market. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

BC Housing claimed Phillips owned another property in Victoria at the time of purchase. In his response, Phillips claims he has rented the other unit to an “arms-length tenant” and has been living at the Vivid since May 2021.

In Xin’s response to BC Housing, he cites an interview BC’s Housing Minister gave after the CBC broke the Vivid story in early March, in which he called the situation “infuriating.”

Xin claims the housing minister is directing his anger at the wrong target.

“BC Housing has, and has had, countless options and opportunities to mitigate the alleged housing crisis in British Columbia,” Xin claims.

“BC Housing lacks clean hands.”

In a statement, BC Housing said the agency currently has 24 civil suits underway, but would not comment on the specifics of Xin’s claims.

“It’s frustrating that people have been violating the terms of ownership for their units and fraudulently purchasing units at the Vivid,” a spokesperson wrote.

“The building is intended to supply much-needed affordable housing to people with middle-incomes so they can afford to live in the community they know and love.”

None of the claims have been proven in court.