The Rental Protection Fund’s new chief investment officer MJ Sinha thinks he can make a dent in B.C.’s housing crisis

Sinha comes from a background of managing private assets in real estate, healthcare and cleantech

There’s a ton of pressure on B.C.’s NDP government to alleviate the current housing crisis in the province. Whether that’s an actual problem that can be adequately solved is an interesting debate, but the NDP has introduced a variety of new measures to give it the ol’ college try. While some of those have centred on creating more development, critics have worried about the prospect of residents losing their affordable homes as they get torn down to create new buildings.

To that end, NDP premier Eby announced the creation of a $500 million Rental Protection Fund geared toward protecting affordable rental homes last year. Applications have reportedly been pouring in for the Fund, and today the organization made public the hiring of Mritunjay (MJ) Sinha as its chief investment officer.

An engineer in his home country of India, Sinha moved to Canada to do an MBA at York University and has worked most of the past decade managing private assets in the housing, energy, cleantech and greentech sectors. In the role, Sinha will finance non-profit organizations to take over housing developments. The organizations in question have already applied to the Fund and will work with it to redevelop or renovate developments—anything they need to keep them as affordable housing for residents.

“For every unit built, there are 10 or 15 that are lost,” says Sinha, who thinks the investment side of the organization will eventually be comprised of three or four people. “How can we work on retention of existing stock? The mandate is really aligned with both my technical interest in investing as well as my value system. I believe that you can both do well and do good using money.”

Sinha is currently based in Toronto and plans to spend half his time in Vancouver. While he hasn’t previously spent time working in B.C.’s housing industry specifically, he has worked in housing across the country and has strong opinions on why the situation has devolved to where it is today. “Up until the 1980s, social housing used to be a federal government topic—then it got delegated to different levels and wasn’t on anyone’s agenda,” he says. “In a country like Canada, which is a G7, developed nation, if we can’t meet the basic needs—food, shelter, health—then I’m not really sure what the point of our prosperity is.”

His experience in deploying capital—he’s overseen some $1 billion in total, with around $250 million of that in housing—gives him some hope that he’ll be able to help what many have deemed an irreparable situation. “We’ve found some really good partners in B.C who know the market and are doing good work,” says Sinha, who wasn’t able to name specific partners yet. “Our job is to give them assistance. Will it solve the problem? Likely not. But at least we can make a dent. I’m a big believer in the idea of karma, action. I say to myself, Hey, what am I doing about it?”