Vancouver: Cut Olympic Village Social Housing in Half

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Catchfire Catchfire's picture
Vancouver: Cut Olympic Village Social Housing in Half

...and give first dibs to the Police and Fire Departments!

The City of Vancouver is considering a city staff report that recommends slashing the number of social housing units in the Olympic Village in order to raise more cash from the troubled project.

The $1 billion dollar luxury condominium complex on the south shore of False Creek was supposed to include 252 social housing units.

But the staff report says the number should be cut in half because of the huge cost overruns for the social housing component of the development.

The report suggests that instead of selling them off, the other 126 units should be rented out at market rates, with preference being given to essential service workers, such as police and fire crews who work in the city, and want to continue living close to downtown.


Vansterdam Kid

The Olympic Village is a total debacle. While I'm against sacrificing social housing in general, I'll make an exception in this case. Before people crucify me hold on a sec...

First, I'm not sure why the government even gave in when the private contractor couldn't raise the money to continue building the project. If, heaven forbid the athletes had to stay in alternative housing spread throughout the city as opposed to these beautiful condo's it wouldn't have been the end of the world. But it's done already so there's not much that can be done.

Second, I also object to the whole idea that each new condo has to be "luxury" oriented. While I'm sure most working and middle class people would like to have "fancy" finishings, I'm sure they value affordable housing more so, as long as that housing is built well. So again, the granite counter tops and stainless steel Miele appliances aren't super important. But again, it's already been done so there's not much that can be done.

Third, the city is on the hook for the loan. The city is not allowed to borrow money because it's generally not allowed to run a deficit. An exception was allowed in this case. If the city can't sell or rent the units for at worst cost, then more budget cuts will follow. This will mean that other city services like Parks, Libraries, Fire, Police, other Social Housing, Transportation, etc, will all have to be cut to make up the difference. Yes the city can raise taxes. And it will too. But it always, regardless of whether the government is right wing or left wing, avoids raising taxes substantially enough to completely plug the gap. Apparently to avoid any cuts in services last year it would've had to raise them by 11%, I doubt that it will ever have the political will to do that.

Basically, because of these things I'm not surprised or even that opposed to them sacrificing these units. They're not a particularly effective way of providing social housing since more modest housing in less expensive locations (ie. not right on the waterfront next to downtown could buy a lot more social housing than this location). And should the city not be able to sell/rent the other units while recouping their costs, I'm sure that providing them will lead to even more painful budget cuts next year.

What I would like to see is a serious group of policies designed to encourage the building of affordable housing in future developments. For instance, allowing more density for more rental units including a certain percentage that have their rents capped below the market rate. Not expecting developers to include parking, or other amenities. And raising taxes on those who buy non-primary residence proprieties and using that money to fund social housing would all be ideas that I support to keep costs down and provide money for new social housing. And while we shouldn't ghettoize social housing, we can't excpect to get value for money (ie large numbers of units) in purposely luxurious places like the Olympic Village. What needs to be done in the future is there needs to be some sort of a way to put a cap on the "luxury condos" for the sake of more modest dwellings that provide value for money.

Left Turn Left Turn's picture

The words I would like to use to describe this awful decision would probably get me banned from babble -- orstrongly reprimanded at the very least -- so I won't use them.

This is a horrible dicision, but I'm not all that surprised. Did anyone really expect anything different from a party that is funded by developers?

Vansterdam Kid wrote:
Basically, because of these things I'm not surprised or even that opposed to them sacrificing these units. They're not a particularly effective way of providing social housing since more modest housing in less expensive locations (ie. not right on the waterfront next to downtown could buy a lot more social housing than this location).

VK, do you see any social housing on offer in other, cheaper locations? Because I don't. Vancouver doesn't have the money to build any other social housing, and the BC Liberals are ideologically opposed to social housing. That the BC Liberals tore down social housing at Little Mountain without providing anything in return shows their commitment to social housing. The federal government is also ideologically opposed to social housing, has been since the Feds axed the national housing program back in the 90s.

Given the state of the homeless problem in Vancouver, and the lack of either ability or will from our three levels of government to actually build social housing, I think we should take whatever social housing we can get.


Gee, what a total shock.  Who could have ever predicted that they'd do such a thing?

Oh yeah.  Everyone on the left who opposed the money spent on the Olympics.

It wouldn't surprise me if they were planning to do this right from the start: Take the wind out of the sails of anti-poverty arguments against the Olympics by claiming the infrastructure will be used to help the poor, and then, once the Olympics are over, renege.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

At least there's a healthy anti-homelessness lobby group ready to fight this (or, seeing as how that's likely fruitless, at least point out the hypocrisy, broken promises and lies). Oh wait...the City is suing longtime public housing advocate group, Downton Eastside Residents' Association!

Provincial housing authorities filed a lawsuit against Downtown Eastside Residents’ Association executive director Kim Kerr to punish him for speaking out on behalf of area residents, says a statement of defence filed by Mr. Kerr’s lawyer.

“This action has been brought for the improper purpose of punishing the defendants for the outspoken advocacy activities of the defendants DERA and Kerr and as such is frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of this honourable court,” says the statement, filed April 15 in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

Filed by prominent Vancouver lawyer Cameron Ward on behalf of Mr. Kerr, the statement of defence also contends that if any financial irregularities took place, they occurred under the noses of provincial housing authorities.

Mr. Kerr denies such irregularities occurred, but if they did, “they occurred with the full knowledge and acquiescence of the plaintiffs,” the document says. B.C. Housing “routinely” deals with the DERA Housing Society and has had full knowledge of the society’s financial affairs “since at least 1988.”

Vansterdam Kid

Hey Left Turn, no I don't see a whole lot of concrete things being done in other locations. But it doesn't change my opinion that this would be a poor use of resources should there be a dearth of resources. If I had to make a choice between more brutal cuts to municipal services that help everyone, but especially lower income people, and 252 units of social housing that only help those who are housed in them, I'd have to sacrifice the housing. A lot of those policies I suggested and more I could think up could do a lot to create more affordable housing in Vancouver. The problem is that even this leftish municipal government, like all municipal government's except possibly the COPE Classic faction of the 2002-2005 council, is beholdened to developers and speculative home owners. They don't want to do anything to put the breaks on the overvalued housing market because obviously it makes that constituency a lot of money, who in turn donate to the politicians. Until that money is removed from the Municipal scene this won't change. Rotberg's Exploring Vancouverism, Ch.9 EcoDensity and the Fraud on the Young has a lot of good ideas as to what could be done to create affordable housing in Vancouver.

Left Turn Left Turn's picture

[url=]False Promises on False Creek -- Rally for Affordable Housing[/url]


Rally to reclaim the Olympic Village for the poor and working poor!

Saturday May 15 2010, 2:30pm-4:30pm, Science world.

We demand:
1) Implement original commitment of 2/3rds affordable housing in the Olympic Village, half of which is low-income.
2) Apologize publicly for replacing the low-income units with police housing.
3) Stop criminalizing the poor: scrap Project Civil City.
4) Stop facilitating luxury condo construction, real estate speculation, and gentrification.

Mayor Gregor Robertson's recently commissioned homeless count shows a 12% increase in homelessness since 2008, the year of his election to office. Robertson and the Vision caucus have responded to this increase with the unaccompanied strategy of millions of dollars for increased policing. Now, as of April 2010, the social housing component of the Olympic Village is being handed over in its entirely to the police and other Vancouver "public safety" workers. The original promise of 33% low-income units has dwindled to 0-5%.

Organized by VanAct!, Streams of Justice, Citywide Housing Coalition, DTES Women Centre Power of Women Group, Community Advocates for Little Mountain, Impacts on Communities Coalition.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Olympic Village cash recovery in doubt: mayor

It could be years before the City of Vancouver learns if it will recover the cash it has sunk into the former Olympic Village project, now that it has gone into receivership, according to Mayor Gregor Robertson.

On Wednesday, the city negotiated an agreement with the accounting firm Ernst and Young to assume control of the $1-billion condo development after Millennium Developments was unable to make payments on the $750-million emergency loan the city provided to bail out the project just before the 2010 Winter Olympics.

"It will be very difficult to recoup all of the investment for taxpayers on this, so at this point it will be really challenging to reach that break-even, but patience is what's critical," Robertson said after the announcement.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Olympic Village condo owners file lawsuit

"They want out because they bought into something that was advertised and sold to them as world-class luxury," said the group's lawyer, Bryan Baynham. "What they ended up with is something far less, something that is really no better quality than rental units — and then all sorts of things aren't working."


"This is not my fault," said the unidentified owner. "All I did — I just paid $1.3 million for this unit."


Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse...

Olympic Village losses quadruple with unpaid land costs

The amount of taxpayers' money the City of Vancouver expects to lose in the Olympic Village project continues to climb following revelations Millennium Developments only paid $29 million of the $200 million price tag for the prime waterfront property.

At a media briefing on Friday, the city said it expected to limit losses on the Olympic village project to $40 to $50 million on the $1 billion luxury condominium project.

But that's just the loss on the construction loan financed by the city, councillors now admit, and the figure doesn't include more than $170 million the developer never paid the city for the land itself before the project went into receivership last November.

Councillor Geoff Meggs says its oversimplifying to add the two numbers together to get a total estimated loss of at least $210 million, but he says he's making no attempt to minimize the impact on taxpayers.

"I agree with the assessment of those who say that the mismanagement of the project has cost the city its worst financial setback in its history. There is no argument there," said Meggs.


Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Last low-income tenants at Olympic Village are being “forced out”

Burge was a low-income pensioner in what was supposed to be a social housing unit, yet 40 per cent or more of her income went towards housing. “When they rented it [the housing] to us,” Burge states, “they told us that we could apply for a SAFER [Shelter Aid For Elderly Residents] grant so that our rent would be 30 per cent of our income just the same as it is in social housing, but that we would have to pay our utilities but because this building is the high-tech green wonder of the world, our bills would be ‘negligible’.”

Even after securing the SAFER grant, however, Burge says she was still paying more than she was guaranteed upon arrival. “I’ve had to pay more that 30 per cent of my income since I’ve been here and I’m just one of the really poor people here,” she says. In Canada social housing is defined by the widely accepted CMHC definition, namely that affordable rent should be no more than 30% of your income. “When you’re living close to the edge you can’t afford to be paying out an extra hundred here or an extra $50 there,” adds Burge. Currently the number of seniors “living close the the edge” is worsening in Metro Vancouver, where the waitlist for seniors’ social housing has nearly doubled over the course of the past three years.

In 2011, it was widely reported that tenants at the Olympic Village were being overcharged for utilities, receiving each month one bill from BC Hydro, and another from a company called Enerpro. Burge was one of the residents who had gone to the media, sharing a bill that she had received from Enerpro for $85 for the first month living in the Olympic Village. Besides a $12.50 administrative fee, the bill charged for heating, hot water, and cold water.

Burge says that new tenants were told nothing about Enerpro at the time they moved in. She says that they were, however, told by Jennifer Standeven — assistant director of business operations in the city’s community services group — that the residents were part of an “experiment.” Emphasis was also placed on the tenants’ personal energy consumption, to the point where residents were “discouraged from having baths,” Burge says.

Burge says that when the tenants first received the energy bills they set about trying to form a tenant association. Shortly after, one of the tenants involved received a warning. “Somehow this woman at city hall, Standeven, found out and wrote to us that we could only form a tenants’ committee if we had her permission,” Burge says. No reason was given.


The Olympic Village is a preview of the things that the Dix government is going to find imbedded in all the P3's the province has signed on to.  The private sector takes all the "risk" until the shell company walks away for whatever reason and then the government must either buy up the bad debt or the real mortgage holders on Wall Street will seize the assets.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

This thread and the other babbler thread Olympics Bailout are depressing documents of how everyone on the left predicted projects like the Olympic Village would turn out and how exactly, to the letter, they did just that.


As in Barcelona. An interview with David Harvey on gentrification and port projects in Baltimore and Barcelona, also old ports.

I confess I also agree with his idea that "something had to be done" in the face of urban decay. Hope it is evident that however decayed the DTES district is and how unemployable many of its inhabitants have become, they have a right to live there and decent housing is a key factor in helping people (however screwed up by capitalism, racism and all) improve their lives and live in dignity. My only problem with some progressive accounts is that they seem far too glowing about life in the DTES - I certainly understand, given the need to defend its inhabitants.


The Olympic Village is not really in the DTES.