Province rejects all applicants for Olympic Village social housing

Post by Mike Klassen in


The response online from Globe & Mail readers says it all

Things have gone from really bad to just a little bit worse today at Vancouver's Olympic Village. After a several month process to find a non-profit operator for the 252 social and rental housing units at the Southeast False Creek development, the Province of BC has rejected the last three applicants left standing.

According to last night's breaking news story from the Globe and Mail's Frances Bula:

Housing Minister Rich Coleman said Tuesday that two of the three bids that came in by BC Housing’s Monday deadline were from operators who don’t have the experience in operating such a complex mix of market and social-housing units. The third bidder wants to establish a co-op, which is not part of his ministry’s mandate, he said.

Of the three applicants left at the end of the process, only one – the Portland Hotel Society – was considered actually qualified to manage the project. Speaking on CBC Early Edition this morning with Rick Cluff and Coun. Geoff Meggs, PHS boss Mark Townsend said he was "disappointed" at the decision by BC Housing, and cited the challenges of running a mixed-use development and the high up-front cost to lease the property as complicating factors.

Minister Rich Coleman explained the reasons for the rejection:

“We had hoped for a better outcome, but we just didn’t find the right operators,” Mr. Coleman said. “This is a mix of market and social housing and you need an operator that knows both. We didn’t see any of the higher operators bidding.”

Coun. Geoff Meggs fell back into his usual political message box, blaming all the problems on the project and the City's failure to get the units occupied on the previous city council. Meggs was unwilling to accept any of the blame for this outcome, despite the fact it was him that moved the decision to make the rental units go to teachers, police and other essential service unionized workers first.

During the summer we reported that the RFP process to find a third party operator for the housing units was mired in a mess resulting from the City's terms, including the requirement to give union workers the first crack at the units. At the time we asked if the whole Olympic Village project had been tainted by Vision Vancouver's election time politicking. We've since been proven correct on that assessment, given that the troubled project is not selling and the City is scrambling to respond to a stream of bad news.

Yesterday, Bula reported that the whole Olympic Village is deemed to be in big, big trouble:

That’s one more  difficulty for an Olympics project that has become the city’s biggest albatross, as it struggles with both the difficult social-housing project and the private developer side, where the city is still owed $731-million it lent out in order to make sure the village got built in time for the Games.  Mayor Gregor Robertson said bluntly Monday that “there’s still significant risk of losing money in this through the financing.”

We recommend to our readers that they check out both of Frances' recent reports at For further background on the facts of how we got into this mess, read our previous feature reports on the history of the Olympic Village:



There is a Vision Hit List, but apparently I'm the only one on it!

Just a quick follow-up on the ongoing smear campaign that has direct links to Gregor Robertson and his staff. We all had a good laugh at the reputed Vision Hit List with 15 names who supposedly were in the doghouse with Gregor & co.

At the time I pointed out that there were repeated smears upon my reputation conducted by a close friend and political ally of chief of staff Mike Magee. Well, the unsubstantiated attacks are continuing, with a misleading and inaccurate report posted on the sister of Joel Solomon's webzine.

The popular term for what these boys are up to is called "Swiftboating," as in the character assassination conducted against Sen. John Kerry during the 2004 presidential election.

Riddled with inaccuracies, what was written was just plain sloppy reporting. It's a shame that a website whose editor purports to have award-winning journalistic credentials would publish such rubbish.

Here is my response to the smear, which provides the facts.

- post by Mike



Mike, I wouldn't give L. Soloman and her web rag a second glance.

As the BC Conservatives are finding out - certain political groups grab the attention of the lunatic fringe.

I'd never even paid attention or looked at the Observer prior to you mentioning it.(And I've worked in media for over 17 years now)

Now, onto the Olympic Village. It truly makes one wonder how things may have differed had the minutes from the 'in-camera' meeting hadn't been outed in 2008. (and Raymond, we know you did it so fess up)

I wonder if we would be in this mess - how much damage was done at that point.

Well,Meggs can blame God himself, it doesn't change anything. They screwed up giving preferential consideration to their CUPE supporters.

As for PHS not getting the contract - that is a blessing. Read up on how they run their sites - drugs, no problem.

I am against the proposed tent city in 2011, but I hope the housing advocates that helped push Vision and Robertson into power under false promises and lies, remember everything that has taken place since then.

Homelessness - up 12%

Less police on the streets (same thing happened in the 90's when Pickton went on his killing spree)means less protection for the vunerable.

According to Kerry Jang's recent statements regarding needed funding for the HEAT shelters and the winter months - it is not their (Vision's) problem, blame the Province.

Yet, they can spend $260K on office renos, $3.2 M on a bike lane 'trial' and $200K telling people how great that bike lane is. I wonder if the opening of this lane will have cake as well.

Let them eat cake.

It's looking more and more like Gregor may actually lose the next election based on his mishandling of the Olympic Village fiasco. How ironic! I still can't believe that he decided to put the Vancouver taxpayers 100% on the hook to finance this ridiculous project. What an idiot! And the Province of BC actually helped to facilitate his stupidity. I'm glad they have finally come to their senses. Leave it to Coleman to do the right thing.

Max you hit the nail on the head. Preferential treatment for unionized workers in social housing was not one of Meggs's brighter ideas. Now look was happened. He should stick to running $3.2M bike lane trials.

Tick...tick...tick...every month that passes, this Vision government is losing at least $300K in lost rental revenue. Just imagine how many homeless shelters could be funded with that kind of cash.

If there was ever a good example of how the NDP (or their civic cousins) can't run a popsicle stand, here it is. I pity the poor(er) taxpayers of Vancouver.

On a separate note, I would like to give a shout out to 'Chris', the homeless gentleman that lives in the alley behind my place - he made the Georgia Straight Best of....

In that "Best of Vancouver" issue of GS they have a category called "Best Free Stuff", and the pick is the "Kitsilano Free Corner" at 4th & MacDonald.

No mention of how the stuff gets there, just that it's fabulous.

As my Father always said..there is no such thing as a free lunch...

This administration put the city on the hook for the entire $750,000,000 at stake, increasing the city's exposure by more than 1/2 billion dollars from when they took over.

They can argue, as the previous council did, that it was necessary to save the project, but as it's worked out, that early hope has proven false. They didn't save the project at all, they just made all Vancouver taxpayers vulnerable to the vagaries of the Vancouver housing market while creating so much negative spin around the development that no one wants to buy in.

Mismanagement would be a kind assessment of the mess they've made of things. Meanwhile homelessness in Vancouver has increased 50% under this Mayor's watch, and the total number of socially assisted housing units created during this term may end up being a negative number after he cut the number of units at the Village.

Say what you want about Mayor Sullivan, but he launched more than 2400 units of new socially assisted housing.

This Mayor? We're still waiting. We've had enough cake. Where's the beef?

The significant difference between MK's / Sam Sullivan & co work & payments & JRoss / FD Elements / Gregor Robertson & co work & payments is just that. MK was employed & PAID directly by the Mayor's office. JRoss was not &, there is also a whole lot of unaccounted for taxpayer dollars involved beyond the ballooned $27,500 contract. There was clearly no attempt to cover up MK's work. There clearly is an attempt to cover the what & why work JRoss has done.

The OV debacle continues:

1] VV knew the day they were elected in November, 2008 they had to organize the turnover of the OV starting in March, 2010;
2] VV did nothing until months after that date [was it June when it finally was brought to Council? - I don't follow Council proceedings in detail];
3] VV badmouthed the OV project has negatively tainted it from a marketing perspective; -- score = 0 on the condo side
4] VV restricted rentals to preferential groups who don't want to / can't afford to rent the units; -- score = 0 for rentals
5] VV did not expedite getting the social housing management selection process completed in a timely manner & now after 3 months we have '0' managers; how much longer is it going to take to sort this mess out? -- score = 0 social housing

0 for 3 out of 3 is not an impressive record [isn't it 3 strikes & you're out?]. But, we are going to have another $3.26M 'trial' bike lane which is, so far, 50% over budget.

This is VISION's M.O.:

1. Take credit for all the successes of the City's past.

2. Blame the NPA or Liberals when they screw something up.

3. Label detractors as "f***ing hacks".

4. Pay their own hacks with City funds via another company to attack those who expose their lies and obfuscation on blogs all over Vancouver.

We've had two years of this. Let's make sure they can't continue this nonsense beyond 2011.

In this day and age - you have to wonder at Vision's wisdom in placing a quantity of our 911 responders in one centralized area.

Setting aside the possibility of an earthquake -terrorism I think is of greater concern, whether it be local or international.

Having people of this profession grouped in one area outside of a work environment makes them an easier target that if they live randomly throughout the city.

You forgot to mention the:


The mantra of all VV supporters.

12 (Twelve) schools blacklisted for closure, DUE TO LACK OF APPROPRIATE FUNDING AND IMPROPER ADMINISTRATION. 11 (Eleven) on the East side. 3 (Three!!!) in one neighborhood that was in continuous growth and development for the past 15 years. Higher density, and increase in population but...they want to close schools.
Bloedel Conservatory was 'saved' by a group of good Vancouver citizens after a long and sour battle with the Vision political zits sitting on the VPB. Democracy cubed, eh? Jasper is still bleeding from the bashing he received from his Vision backers. Not so lucky for the animals in the Stanley Park Petting Zoo. You want to see Dead Lama Walking? Visit now. Poor souls. Even the animals in this city are made homeless by this bunch.
Stupid me. I didn't get it the first time. When Penny Ballem said that to her '$34,000 is a "drop in the bucket" expenditure' what's 1 Billion dollars ? A bucket, a bucket and a half?
VISION Legacy? Oh yea!

I think the poll question in your globe and mail graphic is wrong, however, the results are correct. The question should have read:

"Do you support Vision Vancouver's decision to put Vancouver taxpayers on the hook for the full 1 billion dollars to finance the Olympic village project?"


"Are you more likely to vote for Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver now that you learn they have bungled the Olympic village project?"

In either case, the results are not good for these baffoons.

Cool your jets and leave it to Gregor the Great. He is calling an immediate in-camera meeting up at Whistler where the civic politicians are wining and dining themselves at taxpayers expense at their annual shindig...oops, convention.

Gregor will be announcing this afternoon that he is creating a new Social Housing and Homelessness Department and will house all the new staff in the empty floors at city hall.

This new department will have the sole responsibility of managing how the hell the city is going to fill up the 250+ social housing units which cost taxpayers over $500K each to build. It will also help to tackle homelessness which has not surprisingly gone up by 12% since he took office.

A first step is to offer an Olympic Village housing unit to each of the 250 new employees who will be working in the department.

Yes, now there's a plan that just might work. 250 new "green" jobs to stimulate the economy. Unused housing is now 100% rented out. Yes, NDP economics hard at work.

Maybe Gregor wants to take up Anton's previous suggestion to sell those units asap and cut his losses?

In light of what's transpired today, we should all re-read Frances Bula's excellent article from a few weeks back on this subject.

Here is an excerpt plus a link:


Vancouver: The controversial city-owned rental units at Vancouver’s Olympic village have been sitting empty since the Games ended in March – and they’ll continue that way for at least two more months.

The city’s complex and unusual demands for future non-profit operators have produced so much confusion and concern that the already much-delayed bid process had to have its deadline extended last week to the end of September.

Non-profit organizations considering whether to bid to operate one or all of the city’s three buildings say they’ve been taken aback by city demands that they turn over any surpluses they might generate.

“The societies aren’t getting anything out of this. The city needs to think through this a bit more because these wouldn’t be reasonable terms ordinarily,” said Bob Nicklin, the executive director of Affordable Housing Societies.

Barbara Bacon, the long-time director at the Housing Foundation of B.C., also expressed concern.

“If you make money, you have to give it up to the city. If you lose money, you’re on the hook for it.”

You're right about the PHS, their exclusion is one ray of light in this fiasco. They started managing a formerly well run, privately owned SRO not too far from my house a few years ago. Quite why it would have been on the city's take over list is a bit of a mystery. Anyway, since then it has been downhill all the way, dubious services and products now being quite blatantly provided. With the Sahotas over the road milking the taxpayer with their urban farm it's enough to make one quite cynical.

I can't agree with your advice to ignore the likes of VO. Most people in the city remain terribly under informed about these matters. VV has a lot of money and, Civicscene aside, sophisticated PR. The importance of immediate response to a political attack machine is well established.

VO, unlike Civicscene, does accept opposing comments but strangely before posting (when I was using the preview option, which since mispelling 'thunbergii' I'd love to see here!) the thumbs down gimmick suddenly showed a 'disagree'. Not to worry, however, you can press your own thumbs up to compensate!

Maybe some $loaded$ inheritor from Hollyhock will absorb some of the losses. But wait, these guys do not operate like that, they are in for the 'taking'. Or even better, sue the pants and pantyhose out of the Vision Vancouver ones. How would you like to hear that homeless Robertson is on a waiting list for housing? That's 'juicetice'.


I live very close to that corner and NO it isn't the best of looks like hell and is a f--king eye sore.

The stuff is brought to the corner by a guy with white hair and a beard, he also comes by to "clean up" the mess, by moving the items around several times each day.

I believe he thinks he's recycling, although I've never spoken to him.

These items could be dropped off in a Salvation Army bin, where they could provide a great organization some product to sell, which then goes to help those in need. As opposed to the students who mostly take the stuff home, and save their to spend on alcohol and pot.

If folks would like to have a "free market" to trade recycled garbage, perhaps it could be done in a different setting.

What kills me are the city employees that have let this crap continue. It appears they're either a) too lazy to shut it down, b) they're Visionistas that think this is appropriate, or c) they're scared to do anything in fear of losing their jobs because of the Visionistas at the hall.

Any city employee up for coming clean on why this continues?

As for the GS Best of Vancouver lis; so many "winners" were pitched for advertising, it's quite hard to believe this is truly "the best of anything".

The GS Best of, is nothing more than a "revenue generator" for a socialist rag (see Charlie Smith), whoring themselves for the same profits they deride the BC Business Council for chasing.

I guess if you're trying to attract a customer who is also looking for a cheap tranny handjob, then have at'er and advertise in the Straight.

Glen, Max,
Some months back I read that there was a movement to try and relax the bylaw so that DTES residents could sell their wares from the sidewalk legally to supplement their income. I'm not sure but I believe it was PHS that was advocating for this.
Perhaps one of the readers here can clarify this....

Meggs was an absolute insult and am embarrassment in his CBC interview this morning.

Perhaps he has forgotten that Vision made decisions that created this mess. He also seems to have overlooked that their social experiment of incorporating his union brethren into the market rental pool was yet another ideological demand that only further complicated an already complicated process.

Vision is also not willing to admit that they have overvalued the real estate returns by a good margin as well. I don’t doubt that soon Meggs will be trying to throw Bob Rennie under the bus as well. I expect Bob has already advised Gregor, Penny and Meggs that in order to liquidate the real estate they need to dump the price. Of course Vision wont do that (yet) until they figure out a Plan D or E (as so far Plan A, B, and now C have failed)

Bottom line is that Vision has lost about $ 250 Million to date by my estimation. Eventually that will become clear once the prices do get dumped. Meanwhile Vision continues to try and find ways to delay and stall the inevitable while they try and spin their way out of this one.

This is only going to get uglier and uglier and I see no way out for Gregor, Meggs, Penny and the rest of the Vision charade.

Was Geoff Meggs referring to his Vision Vancouver colleagues when he slagged members of the previous council? Deal, Louie, Chow or Stevenson???? Who was he referring to? Here is what he told CBC this morning.

Cluff: Does the city take any responsibility for this?

Meggs: Well, I have a lot of concerns about the responsibility for this. Some of the complications in this arise from decisions made by the last council. None of the people who were there want to hear this, but every aspect of this project has been challenged in a number of ways. But these units were built and delivered for the Olympics, we can see them there, and we'd like to get people moving into them, because it was never intended that these units be part of the market sector. They're part of the non-profit sector, and we're ready to go with them, and the sooner we can get folks living in them the better, as far as I'm concerned.

Cluff: Who came up with the tight rules?

Meggs: Well, it was a BC Bid process, and it's part of public sector procurement. We like to go through that, and the province likes people to do it as well. We thought we'd actually reduce red tape, but it appears we've just mired ourselves in it.

"none of the people who were there want to hear this..."

Mr. Meggs I assume you are haranguing your caucus colleagues behind closed doors for all of their stupid decisions in the last council. Good on you for keeping them accountable. Must make for interesting meetings :-) Keep up your hard work.

Surely Meggs and company will throw Ballem under the bus for her mishandling of this file. It's only a matter of time before the city of vancouver is looking for a new top dog. Sadhu perhaps? Patrice? Which of the mayor's other appointments would want to take on the post? I can't wait to watch it all unfold. Just desserts.

Then again, Robertson didn't can any of his political staff over the whole FD element fiasco. So who knows.

Mike it is good news that you are still on the Vision hit list. That shows that you are being effective. Wear the honour proudly. And don't worry about defamation. It is Robertson, Meggs and Co who are going down.

The summer/fall from hell for Vision continues to spin out of control. When will Gregor realize he needs someone with a bit more communications experience to help him out? Quinlan is way out of his league and so is Ross. Make some some changes NOW before you bring our whole friggin party down around you. Where is Raymond Louie when you need him!!!!!!!!!

Just great. Another debate about homeless housing at the athlete's village. That will most certainly help boost sales and property values. NOT.

A wise man with considerable political experience once told me that very few elections are actually won. But most are lost well before the election. Sounds about right.

Your comment is far more accurate then you may realize. I will leave it at that.

According to my sources a certain nano-manager made so many demands on the Province they finally threw their hands up in disgust. She was closely managing this file to the point of sending in small revisions late into the hour. Not a great way to manage a partnership that's worked well for at least a couple of decades.

The idea was floated in the Carnegie "vision" for the DTES:

I excitedly await this announcement! Do you know if VV will also be announcing the closing of two lanes on Cambie between 12th and the bridge to create dedicated bike lanes and force these new employees to ride bikes to and from work? Lets see that would be 250 people x 2 trips a day = 1 million riders in a year....

Thanks Brenton..

Hi Glen:

Well, it seems we live in the same neighborhood.

The gentleman you are referring to that brings the items to the corner of 4th and MacDoanld is Chris.

He is 60 years old (looks like father Christmas)and if you take the time to speak with him, he has some very interesting life tales.

In all the years I have known him, he has never once asked for money. He just likes to talk and do his bit in the community. He is not an addict nor an alcoholic.

I walked by the corner this afternoon, and there were two young guys placing some items out at the corner - adding to the items Chris had already submitted.

What you seem to miss, is the effect of neighborliness it has. People leave items and people take items. For myself, many books have come my way, and I repaid Chris' efforts by the way of dinners, conversation and friendship.

The neighborhood folk look out for him. We feed him and make sure he is okay.

Some say he is a 'secret millionaire' and this is how he chooses to live his life. It makes me smile.

He does no harm, asks for nothing, and I can tell you, I have one of the cleanest alleys in all of Vancouver - thanks to Chris.

He also looks out for others. He shares his stuff, bottles that he has picked up, with others.

When I first moved into Kits in the early 90's, I did so because of the character of the area. Over the years the quaint little one off shops on West 4th have been replaced by name brand stores, glass and steel.

Chris and his contributions are a welcome sight in this neighborhood.

I am sorry to learn you feel his efforts are an eyesore - but I can tell you, that many in the area don't feel the same way.

We live in an area of college students and young families, and not much is left at the end of the day.

Hence the nomination for 'Best free stuff'.

And sadly I will let you know, Chris' shopping carts have been taken by the City more than twice in the last six months. It has made him sad and this makes me both angry and sad.

Honestly, Chris does more 'work' in a days time than many paid employees

Hi George:

You are correct.

The difference being is the possibility of the items being sold in the DTES might be stolen. I hate to say this, but it is a likely concept.

I know from volunteering at one of the shelters in the DTES; I had people trying to sell me items that I had given them that night.

Sadly and in too many instances, it reverts back to the drug trade.

And then you need to measure: Is it better that they sell a donated item for drugs, or sell their body on the street.......


I have no doubt Chris is a great guy, many people on the streets are. Not too long ago I made an effort to get to know the chap downtown (right now I can't place his name), that has a cat named Angel. He is also a great guy with a great story. I believe Mike McCardle (sp??) did a bit on him last year on the evening news.

Also, I don't believe the city should be taking carts away and possession away from anyone. if the police stop a guy with a backpack full of tools he plans on using to break into buildings or cars, great, have at'er. leave those not doing any harm alone.

As someone who had a father with paranoia issues, I am extremely sensitive to the trust issues many have with varying levels of authority. That said, I also understand that there needs to be ways of working around these delicate matters on an individual basis.

I as well moved to Kits in the 90's although I tend to agree with you that the quaint shops are being replaced by ones that could have stayed on Robson, this type of display is not appropriate regardless of whether it is 1990 or 2010. There are much better ways to build communities and neighbourhood then this type of thing.

Regardless of whether or not he is a nice guy, whether he drinks or not, does drugs or not, or has mental illness or not, I don't believe street corners should be the place of an open trading market - free or paid.

Since you like it and appreciate it, perhaps you could make an effort to find a permanent location for this in kits that is more respectful, then items hanging on a chain link fence.

The reality is Max that at some point, it's going to end, whether you like it or not, and whether you agree with it or not. I would assume at this time Chris may feel hurt, upset or that he got screwed again.

If you like Chris as much as you say you do, go and make a difference in his life by finding a place for this to work in the community that is more respectful to everyone here. After all I thought thats what you liked about the neighbourhood.

A neigbourhood/community is about respecting those who live around you, and I haven't said to get rid of it altogether, I said it doesn't belong in that setting.

By keeping it alive, but moving it elsewhere, it respects all of us that share this neighbourhood.

If you can find a fertilizer (organic please) strong enough to stimulate the growth of some cajones on this Council, that is exactly what needs to be done. Nuke the social housing component. You can't help those less fortunate than yourself when you're bankrupt.

You're a fool Gerry to suggest that.

The Vancouver Sun is reporting this evening...

“I don’t know why this went sideways,” said Robertson...

Robertson, meanwhile, said he was surprised that only three of the 22 potential bidders who viewed the site in August decided to bid.

“It’s confounding that it’s been slow and hasn’t drawn more operator interest to a brand-new building that should have lower operating costs because of energy efficiencies."


Kind of sums it all up doesn't it.

I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.

~Bill Cosby

These people on City Council and his highness the BiCycle Mayor couldn't run a hot dog stand on English Bay.


“It’s key that we get people into these units before winter — that’s my goal.”

Where have I heard that before? Is he planning using these buildings as HEAT shelters? Keep an eye out for the HELCO inititive - homeless emergency luxury condo operation. Don't laugh - I am sure it has crossed his mind.

"The Olympics can no more lose money than a man can have a baby." Jean Drapeau after Montreal won the right to host the 1976 Olympics.

Check out!

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