Robertson and Anton will square off next week regarding controversial development
It was the central theme of the last civic election, but few people are talking about the financial status of Olympic Village any longer. Is that about to change?
NPA mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton is putting forward a motion for next week's council agenda. What follows is her statement to the media:
NPA Candidate for Mayor Suzanne Anton is calling on City Hall to release information on sales, social housing and the overall financial position of the Olympic Village project.
“The Olympic Village at Southeast False Creek has been an ongoing financial concern for Vancouver residents,” says Anton. “And Mayor Robertson promised during the last election to be open and transparent on this. They need to report on the village by November 1.”
A receiver was appointed to oversee the development in November 2010. Anton says the last financial reporting by the city was in April 2011. She believes a report would be of great interest to voters at this point.
Anton has submitted a motion requesting staff provide a complete reporting on the Olympic Village project by 1 November 2011 including: sales month to month, the overall financial position of the project, and the social housing occupancy, including numbers of market/ non-market tenants, and numbers of police, fire and teacher occupants as directed by council motion of April 2010.
A copy of the motion is below.
1. The Olympic Village at Southeast False Creek has been an ongoing financial concern for Vancouver residents;
2. Openness and transparency around the Olympic Village were an election commitment of Mayor Robertson;
3. A receiver was appointed to oversee the development in November 2010;
4. The last financial reporting by the city was in April 2011; and
5. A reporting out prior to the election would be of interest to voters;
Therefore it is resolved that staff are requested to provide a complete reporting on the Olympic Village project by 1 November 2011 including:
1. A report on sales with month to month data;
2. The overall financial position of the project; and
3. The social housing occupancy, including numbers of market/ non-market tenants, and numbers of police, fire and teacher occupants as directed by council motion of April 2010.
Over at the west wing of City Hall, Vision campaign staff seem to think there is no need to debate Anton's motion. That's because rather than waiting for a staff report written by hand-picked City Manager Penny Ballem, Vision councillor Geoff Meggs has already pre-empted her work.
Meggs was privy to some information regarding the controversial Olympic Village project and subsequently posted the following information on his blog:
Almost three years to the day since Sam Sullivan’s NPA council voted in camera to bail out Millennium’s Olympic Village project, city council has received a brief update on the receiver’s work to recover the city’s investment.
(Moody’s was so impressed with progress in resolving the financial issues related to the Olympic Village that it upgraded the city’s credit rating last spring in the wake of a May report by the receiver.)
Here are the numbers in terms of unit sales:
Market (For Sale) Condominiums
- Total sales: 427 sold out of 737 market units (60% sold)
- Sales since February 2011 launch: 164 (164 units over 156 days – just over one per day) to mid September 2011
- Total rented: 26 market units have been rented
- Total market units occupied: 453 out of 737 units (62% occupied)
Market Rental Units
Total rented: 119 out of 119 rental units (100% rented)
- TD Bank and Legacy Liquor Store open
- Terra Breads: successfully opened Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011
- Laundry/Drycleaning Store: tenant improvements under way with anticipated opening by end of year
- Urban Fare: scheduled to open in June 2012 but they are attempting to open in May 2012
- London Drugs: anticipated to open by end of May 2012
City Owned Commercial Spaces
- Creekside Community Centre – Village Kitchen Restaurant scheduled to open in the spring of 2012
- Salt Building: City is in negotiations to finalize long term tenancy – in the meantime, the Salt Building is being used for short term tenancies
- The two City buildings (on Parcels 5 and 9) - both 100% occupied (total of 168 units)
- Co-op (Parcel 2) - ~80% occupied (66 of 84 units)
Overall occupancy of the Village is 73%
Meanwhile, we asked regular CityCaucus.com contributor and local developer Michael Geller to read Meggs' post and let us know what he thinks. He responded by posing the following questions:
- How much has each of the' social housing' units cost the city to date?
- Is it true that many of the people in the social housing units are very unhappy with their 'units, especially their monthly energy costs, and are worried that they may have to move out unless the city provides further subsidies?
- How much rent is the city collecting for these units, and how much is it losing each month? What is the capitalized value of these losses?
- How much money would the city have made if these units had been sold as condominiums?
- How many firefighters have moved into the 'social housing' units that were converted to market rental units (against the advice of most housing experts)? Is it true that the answer is none? How many of these units are currently vacant? What are the monthly holding costs on unrented units? What is the average monthly rent being charged?
- How much money has the city spent on deficiencies and repairs since taking over the project? How much remains to be spent?
- How much has the city spent on receivers, lawyers, marketing costs and other consultants over the past 3 years?
- When does the receiver and marketing team estimate that the project will sell out? What are the monthly holding costs on the unsold units? How much money is the city projected to lose on the sale of the market condominium units?
- When one adds up the losses to date on the 'social housing' units, the 'aspirational' loss on the balance of the outstanding land payment of approximately $175 million, the estimated losses on the market condominium units, the monies paid out to receivers, etc. (less the estimated recovery from the developer's security), what are the total estimated losses resulting from the city's decsion to put the Olympic Village developer into receivership?
- In view of these losses, how can anyone be proud of the city's accomplishments at the Olympic Village over the past three years?
With the politicization of the senior ranks of Vancouver City Hall so rampant these days, perhaps Meggs and company have a point. Why bother waiting for independent staff reports when they can be quickly drafted up by politicians and posted on their blogs instead!
Sadly, such is the new reality at 12th and Cambie.
NOTE: If you want journalist Bob Mackin's perspective on all of this, please read his latest blog post which we hope to run as a guest editorial here shortly.