Olympic Village rentals still raising hackles

Post by Mike Klassen in


GlobalTV went back on Wednesday to see how rentals to police and teachers were going

It's a story that still gets a lot of play by local media – handing over waterfront social housing as rental for police, fire fighters and teachers. The Vancouver Sun newspaper covered it today and GlobalTV ran with the story on Wednesday. Speaking with reporter Ron Bencze I suggested that even if someone's earnings go above the 20% limit set out in the rules, it would be difficult for the City to chase someone out. More likely the City would just change the rules.

Think about the dispute if it were kicked up to the Province. The Residential Tenancy Act determines the rules for renters and landlords. Even if someone were to make too much money to qualify as a tenant, show me the language in the RTA that says you can evict someone. All I know is that the landlord – the City of Vancouver – cannot increase the rents more than 4% per year, and a tenant can challenge an eviction in court.

Look at the social housing that the City built in the 1970s down in South False Creek. There are apparently 3-bedroom townhouses down there renting for less than $400 to this day thanks to the rules set out for tenants. I'm told there are professionals living in those places and paying rent that amounts to the price of dinner for two at Cactus Club.

It's no wonder people think that the whole social housing component should be put up for sale immediately, generating the profits to get the City out of debt, and bringing in dollars to pay for more social housing away from the water.

While I think that aiding the creation of rental housing sounds like a good idea, it's a puzzle that the market units built by the City are so slow to be occupied. Perhaps they need to promote them on Craigslist like everyone else? When I rent the suite in my house, people are lined up out the door. But the units at the Athlete's Village and One Kingsway (which are still available after six months) are slow to move.

Michael Geller should weigh in on this. Michael, if you get my Bat Signal in Shanghai, please post your thoughts.

- post by Mike


Michael, CityCaucus is read everywhere in Shanghai!

I too was interested to read about the limited demand from the workforce sector for the new units, but wasn't totally surprised. As you know, I initially proposed the concept of 'workforce housing at Olympic Village. But my proposal was to sell the units, not to rent them.

When I questioned the slow lease up of the 1 Kingsway units a few months ago, I was told that potential renters are so conditioned into thinking that any units offered by the city for rent will be 'subsidized units' they can't accept paying market rent in a city owned project.
This was their explanation for the relatively slow lease-up.

I am sure the Mayor and Councillors who supported the city strategy will be onto Mike Flanigan and his people to urge them to pull out all the stops to get these units rented. It would be embarassing if they are vacant two or three months from now, wouldn't it? They should rent, especially the larger units since in my opinion, many are still 'below market'. But then, there are all the Millennium units coming on stream to. No one spoke about those!

As for other social housing units in the South Shore of False Creek, you have hit on an important issue. While these units are not owned or managed by the city, they do benefit from subsidized land leases from the city. And in many cases, especially the coops, singles and couples are living in two and three bedroom units at very preferential rents.

Moreover, as I have written before, these are not needy low income households...they are what my boss at CMHC used to call 'the deliberate poor'...people who choose lower paying jobs even though they are capable of earning much more.

What's more disturbing is the fact that many of these people are homeowners...that's right. They own homes, sometimes in Metro, but more often than not on one of the Gulf Islands.

At a recent Metro Housing Advisory Meeting, I suggested that a very easy solution to increase the supply of social housing in the region would be to 'reallocate' the existing stock, moving singles and couples out of larger units and into smaller units...

The president of the Metro Housing Corp and others agreed, but no one really wants to tackle this head on. But that's another story!

I believe someone posted a comment that Geoff Meggs lives in such a place in SFC with a very low rent.

Is that true?

Coun. Meggs owns a townhouse built on City land in South False Creek. He paid for it several years ago. The land his home sits on is in the Property Endowment Fund (PEF). Meggs has been city council's chief point person on anything to do with the Olympic Village, False Creek housing, and the PEF.

On the Bill Good Show he claimed to be "surprised" at the rents charged today in his part of the city.

Renting to First Responders so that they will be able to go to work if there is an earthquake sounds like it was dreamed up by Mayor Gregor after overdosing on his Juice Drink.

The fact that the city is relocating the police HQ to the Vanoc building on the extreme eastern side of the city (1/2 block from the Burnaby border) goes totally against this line of thinking.

Very good point Mr Wise Guy. More coordinated transparent 'vision' planning. Let's relocate the emergency responders so they can bike out to Burnaby in an emergency. But, is there a bike lane directly from the Olympic Village to the new VPD station? There will be now.

Here is an unpublished letter to the Editor of the Sun re: Olympic Village & West End rent comparisons. Since it's contents are relevant here I enclose it below:

VAN SUN, sent 28may10, not published

Dear Editor:

Re: Costly Olympic Village rents

Vision's rental housing initiatives are in disarray. Let's just look at affordability. Using the figures in the 28 May Sun article, Olympic Village rents per square foot are: 1 bedroom, $2.50; 2 bed, $2.10; 3 bed, $1.71; 4 bed, $1.60 / s.f. These rents, only available to a select few, are expected to recover $32M of a $110M cost, hardly a good business decision. In addition, West End, City subsidized, STIR rentals will be $2.70 / s.f. for what amount to Single Room Occupancy units.

Are those rents affordable? Let's compare. CMHC says mostly older market rents are: 1 bed, +/-$1.50; 2 bed, +/-$1.65, 3 bed, +/-$1.84 / s.f. and newer rental condos are: 1 bed,+/-$2.30; 2 bed, +/-$2.28. Among many shortcomings, these policies are creating a drop in the bucket of new housing which will not affect the supply of affordable rental housing in Vancouver in the least and, at a huge cost to Vancouver taxpayers. In addition, they are needlessly and destructively pitting neighbour against neighbour.



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