Times Colonist June 24, 2009
The leaky condo debacle remains one of the greatest consumer ripoffs in Canadian history, costing British Columbians between $1.5 billion and $2 billion. Lives were devastated when people bought homes and found themselves facing huge repair costs.
Now the provincial government, without warning, is halting an interest-free loan program intended to help the victims of the continuing crisis. The Housing Ministry says the program was funded by a $750 levy on new homes built in the province; the economic slowdown has meant less construction and a shortage of funds.
Tough luck, if you are a condo owner needing help this year.
It’s an unfair decision. The loan program was introduced because people faced serious problems — even ruin — when condos began leaking due to shoddy construction or poor design. The buyers had done nothing wrong and relied on government inspections, building codes and supposedly reputable developers. They were betrayed.
Leaky condos continue to emerge. The Homeowner Protection Office provided 577 loans worth $50.4 million in 2008. It provided 1,150 loans in 2007. So far, almost 14,000 owners have received loans totalling about $530 million.
The need remains; the justification for the assistance has not been challenged. The province should not be abandoning those in jeopardy.
The leaky condo disaster was an extraordinary failure. Of some 160,000 condos built between 1985 and 2000 — mostly in the 1990s — about half leaked. Owners were left with no recourse, in part because the costs of seeking justice were too high. The provincial government took responsibility for seeking compensation for leaky schools, from builders, architects, engineers or insurance companies, in part because the challenge was too great even for school districts.
These owners weren’t irresponsible. They were defrauded, sold homes that couldn’t keep out the rain.
The government was prepared to help them a year ago. The need has not changed.
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