Is the dream of building oceanfront social housing as an Olympic legacy about to die?
NPA Councillor Suzanne Anton is advocating for the sale of the Olympic Village social housing units in order that the City can either build or buy more units in another less costly neighbourhood. The following is an opinion piece that was published in the Vancouver Province today:
The Olympic Athlete’s Village at Southeast False Creek is a project which absorbed a lot of dreams: it is to be the greenest, most sustainable, most liveable community in North America—a wonderful place to live—and all completed in time for the Olympics.
Mayor Robertson had his own dreams for the Village. Right up until he was elected he called for 2/3 of the housing units in the Village to be subsidized by Vancouver taxpayers. (My kids would have qualified for the subsidized ‘mid-market housing’ units.)
But as they say in construction, you can have good (green), fast and cheap—but not all three. In this case the costs added up so dramatically that the price of the social housing is coming out at a remarkable $595,000 per unit, including land.
The City has a long-standing commitment to provide social housing units as part of the Olympics, and we are delivering. By the conclusion of the previous council term (end of 2008), about 3800 units were recently built, or under construction or active development. Vancouver has more social housing per capita than any city in North America. The question is whether the Olympic commitment must include social housing units at the Athlete’s Village.
The Vision / COPE council of ‘02 originally planned the Village with 2/3 subsidized housing. When I was elected in ‘05, the NPA council rolled the social housing component back to about 23% of the project (252 units) and cut the so-called ‘mid-market’ housing. It was a tough decision but I believe it was the right one.
Now Mayor Robertson has another tough decision: provide adequate housing to the largest number of people possible with the dollars available or, alternatively, carry through with the Olympic Village dream and keep the very expensive social housing units at that location.
I believe we should sell the Olympic Village social housing units and buy or build more units elsewhere in the city. The Olympic Village units are just too costly. It may be disappointing, but we need to be responsible with tax dollars. In this case that means relinquishing part of our Olympic Village dream. It means providing adequate housing to the largest number of people possible. It means not squandering our tax dollars on Olympic-sized fantasies.
The issue comes back to city council in mid-April.