The first stage of the Little Mountain project — the huge remake of the city’s oldest public-housing site, our Regent Park — got approval at council today after five painful years since the province first announced it wanted to sell the land and use the profits to replace the existing social housing on the site and build more elsewhere.
As people said in my Globe story today, it was a deal that set the stage for a poor negotiation from the beginning and it continues to permeate any discussions with bad feelings.
1. No one knows what the purchase price was or the agreement with the successful developer, Holborn. Even city councillors and staff don’t know. Why the big mystery? When the city sold its land to Millennium for the Olympic Village, as sidways as that went, at least everyone knew what Millennium paid and what the conditions were.
2. Existing residents were all “strongly encouraged” to move offsite to other BC Housing units, which was widely perceived as unnecessary and destructive for what had been a strong community.
3. All discussions have been overshadowed by the sense that the community needs to agree to a density that will work for the developer’s pro forma.
All of which has led many observers to say that, if and when the province moves on to re-developing other social-housing sites, as it inevitably will,
1. The city and community planning and agreements at least about height and density should come first, before any sale.
2. Re-development on large sites should be phased
3. The public should know what the financial arrangements are
and, many would add
4. The province shouldn’t be selling the land at all, but leasing it, the way that other public bodies with a valuable land resources, like the local universities, are doing.