Realtor Bob Rennie shows off a social housing unit under construction
It's one thing if you're hungry in Vancouver and can't find a food cart because Vision couldn't get them on the streets on time. But it's altogether an entirely different situation to find yourself without a roof over your head. The fact that 252 units of housing are sitting empty at the Olympic Athlete's Village on Southeast False Creek is yet another black eye for the Vision Vancouver council.
Things for these guys just seem to go from bad to worse.
Why is it taking so long to hand out the market rental suites? Well, of course first dibs goes to unionized teachers, fire fighters and police. The argument being that if we have a cataclysmic earthquake the police and fire fighters on-duty and already living in the city will not be enough, and if the big one hits we must make sure that our kids continue to get the Three Rs.
According to BC Housing, it's those "special arrangements" proposed by Coun. Geoff Meggs and voted upon unanimously by Vision and COPE that are slowing up the process. The Vancouver Courier's Cheryl Rossi reports:
B.C. Housing said it hopes the request will be issued soon, but working out how to handle the rental suites, which will be leased to tenants who work in healthcare, public safety and public education in Vancouver, is taking extra time.
Of course the finger pointing has already begun by the city, whose communications person laid the blame on the Province for the delays. Given the additional hoops Vision Vancouver have set out for BC Housing, you have to feel their pain.
Rossi interviews Janice Abbott, CEO of Atira Women's Resources Society, who has some valid concerns about what her organization might have to face if they were to put in a bid to manage the housing:
My concern would be the market rental units and how rentable they are and what the expectations are around vacancy loss. Part of my process in making a decision is trying understand whether folks who can afford that much rent will rent at Olympic Village or prefer to buy a house with a backyard in Coquitlam because I think at $2,400 a month that pays for a sizeable mortgage, depending on your down payment.
People who work shifts in the public safety sector are supposedly more inclined to suburban living. The City of Vancouver has just approved opening a brand new police department office near Boundary Road precisely because of this. And fire fighters reside at the firehalls for several days, reducing their commuting time. That leaves teachers most likely to be predisposed to paying for market rents at SEFC.
The Olympic Athlete's Village is becoming a "boondoggle" of another sort for Vision Vancouver. The party and their leader chose to use SEFC as a political wedge to get elected, and spent thousands on a public relations campaign to smear the reputation of the project to international media.
Surprise, surprise then, now nobody wants to buy these units. The costly new community centre is empty. And now they can't even figure out the rules to occupy the remaining 12% social housing component because of the political bone they through to their labour backers.
Amazing to think that a beautiful, amenity rich development in the most desirable location in our spectacular city and barely anyone wants a piece of it. You can blame the whole mess – every bit of it – on Vision Vancouver's negative campaign to tar the Athlete's Village.
Someone is going to have to come in and fix this mess if we ever want to break even on those homes.
- post by Mike