Frances Bula header image 2

What did city lose by okaying Olympic village social housing deal. And more

November 5th, 2010 · 42 Comments

I didn’t go to the meeting until 1 a.m on the Olympic village social housing. I haven’t watched the video of the event. I don’t know every last detail.

But can people please stop screaming hysterically about the abuse of process and decisions being rammed through and contempt for the public.

Yes, I would have preferred they held the meeting at a normal time so that we could have some rational discussion of what the implications are. But you know what would not have made a difference even if the meeting was held during the day with a lot of notice?

1. Housing protesters, who don’t really understand the financial implications or the political impossibility of anything they are asking for, would still have showed up to disrupt the meeting. (And very amusing to me that NPA types, who have zero in common with the radical housing activists and in fact would never in a million years agree with a single thing they are proposing, are portraying them as put-upon members of the public who have had their democratic rights trampled.)

2. People on council, after listening to the same unrealistic statements over and over, would have started to show impatience. Just like every council has over the years. Sure Raymond Louie sounds insufferably lecturing at times and Andrea Reimer makes it clear that it’s hard to be a 10 in a world of 3s. But they don’t sound all that different from many of the lecturing, snotty politicians I have had to sit and listen to over the years. And at least they listen, as opposed to reading their email or studying their foreign-language dictionaries or taking cellphone calls. Out of kindness, I’m not going to name names. But you know who you are.

(Full disclosure: As members of my family or listening audience will be happy to tell you, I also sound insufferably lecturing at times or as though I, a 10, am regrettably stuck a bunch of 3s in my life.) 

3. The Vision council, which has the majority on council, would have voted in favour of giving the social-housing-management contract to the Co-op Housing Federation, a reputable group with a strong track record. I know this will come as a terrible shock to everyone, but they will have talked about it beforehand and decided whether this is the way they want to go. Again, just like every single political party I have ever covered in 16 years has done when they have the majority.

4. They would not have rescinded their decision about hanging on to their 252 units of housing on the site, half of which will be subsidized. That debate happened several months ago: well advertised and well debated by all. Here’s a news flash for you: They’re not going to change their minds on that already painful and politically damaging decision while deciding which housing operator to go with.

What might have happened and which Councillor Suzanne Anton and the various critics have overlooked in all their fulminating is that we might have had a discussion about the financial implications of this.

I don’t have any problem with the federation running the operation. From everything I’ve heard, they’re a solid group.

What I’m wondering about is what happens re the money. The city was supposed to get $46 million up front from the social-housing operators for the leases on the three buildings. They’ll get $21 million from the federation for one building, Building 2, which is going to be mostly market rentals.

But what about the other $25 million that the city was desperately hoping to get — that’s why they structured these deals in such a weird way, with the operators being asked to put all the money up front and take out a mortgage, to be paid off with the rents over the next 60 years.

That’s $25 million in instant cash that the city now won’t have. They’re getting the federation to run the buildings for a couple of years, and I presume there’s no cash up front to do that. What does that mean for budgets, tax increases, or whatever?

Who knows? We’re far too busy carrying on about how Raymond Louie made a nasty crack about some housing activist who, normally, the NPA (and most of the general public) wouldn’t have the time of day for.

Categories: Uncategorized

  • serious

    Vancouver is a joke. What sort of amateur, incompetent government do you have?

  • Not Running For Mayor

    Wow!

  • mezzanine

    Wow x 2!

  • Well thanqu Frances . . .

    After months of enduring a bitching querulous crowd relentlessly going on about everything under the Sun, if it isn’t cycle lanes it’s a responsible council’s recognition of it’s commitment to our less fortunate (but for the grace of God . . etc) you have engaged our better selves . . .

    Go VV go OV . . .

    Thanqu Frances . . .

  • Sean

    Well said, Frances. You go, girl!

  • Stuart Mackinnon

    Politicians not only must do good, they must be seen to do good.

  • Lewis N. Villegas

    Let’s try something difficult: post four points to complement Frances’s analysis. Let’s start with the money:

    “But what about the other $25 million that the city was desperately hoping to get — that’s why they structured these deals in such a weird way, with the operators being asked to put all the money up front and take out a mortgage, to be paid off with the rents over the next 60 years.

    That’s $25 million in instant cash that the city now won’t have. They’re getting the federation to run the buildings for a couple of years, and I presume there’s no cash up front to do that. What does that mean for budgets, tax increases, or whatever?”

    Frances

    (1) “Instant” Cash

    All municipalities under the Community Charter now have the powers to issue Municipal Bonds that the Vancouver Charter gave this city since its inception (as far as I understand it, it’s not my area of expertise).

    I have not fully digested the $200 Billion move by the U.S. Fed last week. Analysts spoke about it as weakening the bond market and shoring up stocks. Notwithstanding, getting $25 million over 10 or 20 years—not 60—is not a problem; it’s a bond issue.

    (2) Social Housing

    I have come to think of social housing as urban infrastructure.

    Oh, look, I can take a couple more steps on this skinny tree branch… Maybe this could be the local component of a Federal-Municipal partnership for mental health-addiction-and-homelessness where municipalities and their partners provide housing and the Feds fund the support services.

    This is part of an argument that urban affairs should be a national, rather than provincial concern. In issues of urbanism, Vancouver has more in common with Montreal and Toronto than with any other municipality in the province. In turn, Winnipeg and Halifax stand to gain more in association with their national cohorts than from resources internal to the corresponding provincial jurisdictions.

    (3) Lease hold

    We may get an opportunity to work this out in detail yet. Michael Geller has mentioned, and we have not had a chance to flesh out, the idea of using a form of land tenure common in the UK known as lease hold (which if I am not mistaken exists in south shore False Creek).

    At the end of the lease period, typically 99 years and a couple of generations removed, land and improvements (i.e. buildings) return to the landlord.

    It is a kind of land bank for a century hence. When the leases retire, key sites in the city would return to municipal hands to be put to use in whatever way the policy of the day saw fit. In the meantime, they could form the backbone of social infrastructure.

    It is hard. I’m stopping at three.

  • Julia

    if minds are already made up… why go through the sham of calling for speakers?

    how does this change the ‘homeless’ problem in any way shape or form. To throw motherhood statements around just to shut down conversation brings unnecessary ridicule on the situation.

    There is absolutely no reason to be making this sorts of decision with 24 hour public notice and 11pm meetings. None.

    I don’t care what the issue is, this sort of process we have witnessed is really unacceptable.

  • Frances Bula

    @Julia. I agree that throwing around motherhood statements about the homeless is not useful for anyone. And I don’t understand why this report had to come in so late, unless what was happening in the bureaucracy was that they were scrambling like crazy to get a solution in place, worked out a deal that was acceptable to everyone and wanted to get the report to council ASAP rather than having to wait another two weeks for the next council meeting and thereby losing another $150,000 in potential rent. (Rents for all those 252 units is about $307,000 a month.)

    However, I know you’re a faithful council watcher. Do you really think that any majority council group (or even the minority) comes in to council without having thought about the issue and having a fairly good idea about how they’re going to vote. Would you actually want a council in place whose position was, “We’re not even going to think about this until we get to the table.”?

    You know as well as I do that probably 95 per cent of voting decisions are weighed and decided, by all councillors in all parties, before they get to the meetings. (I’m not talking about public hearings, which are a different kind of meeting.) Suzanne Anton is as committed to being opposed to certain motions, long before she’s ever heard any speakers, as VV councillors are to be for them. The reverse was true when the NPA was in power.

    There are rare occasions where councillors modify positions or even vote against staff recommendations (the fireworks ban was one I recall in particular; another was a decision to convert some land in False Creek Flats along Main to mostly residential was another; the social housing at Broadway and Fraser was a recent one).

    They have to listen to speakers because it’s legally required. It’s not that they’re inviting them there to conduct a pretence of public consultation. They have no choice under the current process that’s mandated. Everyone knows it’s flawed. It brings all kinds of people out who don’t understand what the limits are on how much they can actually affect the process. I wish the city would give free classes through continuing ed to citizen groups on what can reasonably be accomplished by public input.

    But that doesn’t happen, so all these people show up with completely distorted ideas about how public meetings work — possibly the effect of watching too many Robert Redford movies about how the little guy always wins. Is this confined to city councils? Absolutely not. Ask anyone involved in public consultations on Gateway or Canada Line or many other large projects where the public is consulted, NOT to get their opinions on whether to build the project or not, but on a limited palette of questions connected to how to build it.

  • Westender1

    Frances, you raise an interesting question:
    “But what about the other $25 million that the city was desperately hoping to get…”
    Presumably staff and council decided not to address this issue in the late addition report to the council agenda – either by intention or by oversight – so is the public left in a position of being unable to attain an answer to this question?
    What is our recourse?
    Another unanswered inquiry to the Housing Centre? An FOI request? A stock response from a council member that “people are dying in the streets” so we should stop questioning Vision Vancouver’s decisions?
    Whether you agree or not with late-night Council meetings, or “pre-conceived” decision-making, I still think the public has a right to know how its money is being spent, and I don’t believe that information has been provided.

  • Julia

    Frances, you are correct, I am a civic junkie and you are also right that 99% of decisions are made before anyone walks into council chambers. I affectionately call it political theatre. So, what are we going to do to change this? Telling people they can speak to the issue when a decision is made in advance is purely insulting – especially when you have sat there for 4 hours for your turn to come up or its 11pm and long past your bedtime. Perhaps the legislation requiring these performances should be altered so people fully understand that they are wasting their time. Which is worse, silence and apathy or theatre.

    At the same time, what are we going to do beyond the 3 year election cycle to arrest some of these decisions that are far too important to be left to late distribution reports and hasty council meetings.

    How often does a counselor make decisions based on misunderstood facts or incomplete information. I know the answer to that one and it scares the bejeezus out of me. Are they to blame? Yes and no. Given the scope of issues that they process on a weekly basis, they are familiar (at the very best) with the implications of their decisions. Staff are the ones that are tasked with doing all the heavy lifting on this stuff. Do staff have the full perspective – nope. They see it through 1 lens that is often expedient and crammed into a political view that is dictated to them. Challenge to that view puts their job at risk so how hard do you think they are going to wave the caution flag?

    Civic policy must have room for intelligent and informed conversation that is void of politics so the right decisions can be made in the best interest of everyone. I have no idea how that should happen but it is obvious that the current method is simply not working.

  • Bill McCreery

    @ Francis: “Yes, I would have preferred they held the meeting at a normal time so that we could have some rational discussion of what the implications are. BUT [my emphasis] you know what would not have made a difference even if the meeting was held during the day with a lot of notice?”

    & then:

    Stuart Mackinnon // Nov 6, 2010 at 8:35 am

    “Politicians not only must do good, they must be seen to do good.”

    Stuart is correct but, one can go further. While I may not agree with the opinions expressed by a speaker @ Council, I strongly believe they should have the right to express that opinion in a respectful manner, & in a time frame not a hardship to the speaker. You rationalize that this is unnecessary because the Councillors already have their minds made up. I agree, they usually have but, you are missing a crucial aspect of the democratic process. While those elected are in a position to vote as they see fit, the process, to be well served, must also hear dissenting voices as well as those in support. To do otherwise stifles the process.

    In addition to this is the importance of having these various voices reported so the wider public can be informed on an ongoing basis of matters which affect them. As you are well aware our society has carved out a special status for the ‘4th estate’ to allow it to function effectively @ arms length from other interested parties. With that status come a responsibility to report the various view points put forward on a given issue to the public.

    Frankly, I did not want to get any further into this discussion but, I have a personal stake in the principles in play here.

    Art Phillips Council in 1973 brought in changes which required Council, Park & School Boards to hold meetings during hours when citizens who were affected by the decisions being made could reasonably be able to attend. I recall the time frame was 6:30 to 10 pm. I was sitting @ Council yesterday afternoon to speak to the Norquay Plan motion & was thinking back to those days & why we had instituted that policy [as articulated above]. That policy has, correct me if I’m wrong, been generally respected until this Council.

    One lady yesterday afternoon said she’d taken the day off work to attend. Not many can do that. I noted to myself that this policy would not have allowed City business such as a motion to accept a community plan directly affecting that community in the afternoon of a working day, nor would it have permitted the decision to go ahead with 4 community plans @ one time instead of 1 during the previous morning session. And then, when I was informed of last nights charade I was dumbfounded.

    These are not isolated events Francis, they have become as clear pattern & IMO, not a healthy one.

  • Frances, you state the NPA has nothing in common with the housing activists, which is completely false. The NPA under Sam Sullivan built more social and supportive housing than any previous council in the history of the city in a remarkable partnership with the provincial government that saw more than 2400 units of housing approved in that term.

    Further, the NPA has always maintained a standing policy demanding 20% social/supportive housing in all new developments or contributions in kind.

    The Vision caucus, to the contrary, has reduced the social housing in the OV far below 20%, and may if they’re lucky see a few hundred units of social/supportive housing built during their term. At the moment, after their reduction of units in the OV, they may well be at a negative number.

    Further, while politicians and caucuses may make up their minds in advance, there is no excuse for staff being able to spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars without hearing the views of those taxpayers, whether they agree or not.

    The arrogance of this council is inexplicable when they have so little to show for their term in office and when the finances of the city worsen with every decision they take.

    They have disrespected the voters, the taxpayers paying for their expensive mistakes, the democratic processes of this city and their own supporters who were promised a completely different approach, not the most autocratic, arrogant council in recent memory.

  • Michele

    I’m with your first commenter ‘serious’ on this one.
    I’m not moving to Vancouver after all! 🙂

  • Frances Bula

    @Sean. Sorry, didn’t make myself clear enough. Obviously the NPA did hard work on the housing front and had the support of many who actually do work in the housing field. (Though they didn’t actually build anything. But they did get the process started and those buildings are under construction today.)

    But, unless I have missed something, none of those kinds of people were there on Thursday night. (Those kind of people, in fact, likely supported the Vision choice to have the Co-op Housing Federation be chosen as the city’s operator for rental at the village.)

    The speakers consisted of a small group of people who do not work actively in non-profit housing and who have demanded that the entire village, multi-million-dollar penthouses and all, be transformed into social housing. I don’t think they would disagree with me if I described them as radicals. Is that the kind of housing activism the NPA feels it is in line with? I’ve never had that impression before.

    And now, reading your message, I’m a little confused now as to the NPA’s stance on Olympic village housing. As far as I know, Suzanne Anton and others have suggested that Vision was wrong to keep as much social housing at the village as it did, the half of the 252 units that will be subsidized. She’s said those units should be sold off. But you’re criticizing them for not having maintained the 20-per-cent level. As the younger people in my life like to say: wtf????

    Re your other comments. Yes, this council has made some high-handed decisions. I just think people have gone overboard and are also focusing on completely the wrong troubling issues in this particular case.

  • Frances Bula

    @Westender1. I totally agree that the question of the $25 million should have been a question posed at the meeting. I personally have no idea what the implications are. Does it just get pulled out of the property endowment fund? Does something go undone to cover that? I don’t understand completely all the wheels of finance at city hall. There are several ways of dealing with that and I just have no idea what the options will be. We never got to hear that.

    It would also have been good to debate what the merits of choosing the co-op housing federation as the operator were. I understand one benefit of choosing them is that, as the mortgage gets paid down, they will be able to convert more “market” apartments to subsidized apartments, so that over time, more of the units turn into what we think of a social-housing units.

    It would have been good to hear staff explain why they thought the federation’s bid was sound, even though Housing Minister Rich Coleman didn’t want to look at it. (I think he actually didn’t have a problem with it. It’s just that their bid originally only covered one building and the bids on the other two buildings were from groups he didn’t think had the capacity.)

    It also would have been good to hear staff explain how this two-year deal to run the other two buildings is going to work.

    But we never got to hear any of that, partly because people making political points were far too busy asking either a) why the city didn’t convert the whole village to social housing or b) why the city didn’t sell off all the social housing because it was too expensive — issues that have all been addressed before. A shame.

  • Frances Bula

    @Julia. I totally agree that one huge benefit of the public having their say is to provide information about the consequences or effects that staff either ignored or didn’t know about.

    The whole problem is that, by the time the issue usually arrives at council, councillors are very invested in believing what staff have told them and in not undermining their staff publicly.

    The sad thing about so many of those meetings is that it’s like going to a train crossing as the engine is approaching and saying, “Oh, wait a minute, I have some thoughts on a different route we should take.”

  • Frances Bula

    @ Bill. I agree that one important function of council is to allow dissenting voices to be heard, even if councillors have already more or less decided. There are occasions when those dissenting voices have raised points significant enough that council has taken a step back. And even if they go ahead with their planned vote, the public gets to hear what the other opinions are — easier than ever these days thanks to in-house video!!

    The point I was making is that you are all carrying on as though council stifled dissent about whether there should be social housing at the village. And I’m saying that was all debated quite a while ago. That decision — whether to have social housing or not — was made after a report was issued with lots of advance notice and there was also lots of time for speakers to appear at council at a relatively civilized hour. It was all hashed out ad nauseam. Anyone who wants to understand the dissenting viewpoints just has to go back and look at the video from that meeting in April, or whenever it was.

    The decision made on Thursday night was completely different. It was to choose a housing operator. So we didn’t get to hear debate on 1. Whether the CHP is an appropriate operator 2. What the financial implications are of not choosing a long-term operator are for the two other buildings 3. The details of the deal that will see an arm of CHP manage the other two buildings for two years.

    I actually doubt that anyone would have come out to speak to that. There are few members of the public who’d probably care or see themselves as knowledgeable enough to come and debate those three questions.

    The advantage of having those questions discussed in a normal process would have been that Suzanne Anton wouldn’t have expended all of her energy complaining about democracy being trampled and would have spent more of it on grilling Vision and/or staff about those details. Now I’ll have to do it, which is never quite as effective as having the questions asked in public.

  • Frances:

    With respect, the $21 million they will receive upfront contributes the the millions MORE the city will lose as a result of Vision’s political posturing.

    You demonstrate a breathtaking ignorance of how much this move will cost the taxpayer. The smart move would have been to wait until there was some consensus between the city and Millennium.

    But that, too, would have required some real estate know-how, instead of deflection and spin for damaging Millennium’s prospects of delivering the project and any funds owing.

    Frankly, Meggs and Robertson severely damaged this project in Septmeber during the first donnybrook, and there are clear signs that Millennium would do best to sue the city, the Mayor and Meggs for their interference.

    Result: Spin before what’s best for taxpayers.

    Carry on…

  • Of course, there are many other reasons that Sam and Green and others have added to the mix that will have this project delivered on fumes.

    And that’s if as taxpayers, we’re lucky. But while Vision started off brilliantly in January of 2009, since then they have been the most devastating in the handling of this project.

    Their decisions to spin for themselves rather than to look out for the taxpayer have been too much.

    Millennium are permanently injured.

  • Frances Bula

    @Alex. ??? Not sure I quite understand. The $21 million is for the social housing and, of course, that’s one taxpayer problem. The housing cost $110 million. The city was hoping to get at least $48 million from leases. Now they’re only getting $21 million. Not sure why you’re linking this to Millennium

    The losses on the market housing/Millennium deal are a whole nother mess. Which will potentially cost tens of millions. Which may lead to lawsuits. Which we’ve all been reporting.

    Though I agree that Millennium is likely feeling it is in a position to go after the city legally because of pubic statements that have been made by Vision pols.

  • Lewis N. Villegas

    “So, what are we going to do to change this? ”

    Julia 11

    Change the planning paradigm. Everything about the OV is hyper-charged. But, some of this could have been specified in advance.

    Put the other way around, if we had an effective paradigm for social housing, then implementation at the OV would have been made a lot easier.

    Absent a working model, it’s fix as you go. And the road is always bumpy.

  • serious

    why is there ANY social housing on this incredibly expensive site.

    and, anyone, please take off your “bleeding heart” cap before answering.

    thanks

  • @ serious #23

    . . . why is there ANY social housing on this incredibly expensive site?

    Because serious in the hyperventilating excitement of our early Olympic bid we promised anything and every thing to get in on the action. (Trust me . . . big mistake as we are now finding out).

    Don’t forget back in those heady days we were paradise, world class and white bread all rolled into one.

    Now our chickens have come home to roost all the mean spirited little freaks are clambering out of the woodwork: quasi advisers hiding their resentments behind sage advice.

    I must say, never in my wildest apprehensions did I fear so many . . . and so vindictive!

    All the experts advising council to move the social conveniently the the time lag involved.

    The process of finding, securing a site, public process, financing and planning social elsewhere would put the now available housing on the never-never track.

    Council made the right decision.

    Julia, I know how frustrating it is to run a business as taxes are constantly being shoved in your face: I ran my own biz in Vancouver for forty years. I was never a corporate employee as those who are now dispensing their avuncular advice from behind regular pay cheques and guaranteed pensions.

    I know what a piss-off it is to have construction equipment blocking your street.

    As for taxes, they are the painful manifestation of a runaway ponzi, fraudulent money-as-debt financial system and tangible as it is to face a better way is either one huge catastrophe or decades away: at this point which one is a toss-up.

    Construction crews blocking the streets . . . well . . . how come we haven’t got used to that by now: some of those trucks used to work on my projects . . . sorry!

  • As for the Maleks . . . well . . . it’s Khama . . .

  • Lewis N. Villegas

    Serious (23)

    I think that the discussion here is about a choice of operator, and the decision to opt for a 2-year contract for two other buildings. And, an explanation of how the shortfall in revenues triggered will be handled.

    On your question, I think it is two questions. First, how do we get to “incredibly expensive sites”; and second, “the inclusion of social housing in a luxe quartier”.

    On the first, our cousins south of the border are dealing with significant depreciations in (what some may have described as) hyper-inflated property values. The issue is not so much about write-downs, as I understand it, but as how to put a check on deflation.

    So in a market economy “incredibly expensive” has more than one way to wind down.

    On the second, a friend of mine had me standing near Alexander & Columbia (heart of residential Gastown) and asked me to give a rhetorical shake of the head. There we deluxe units, social units, and the safe injection site, all within “easy spitting distance” of one another. Why, then, all the amuck about social housing at the OV?

    The inclusion of social housing is our community acting on… well, a social value.

    The exclusion of social housing—i suggested a month or two ago—could be made on the basis of sound market analysis.

    However, since these are troubled economic times, the majority of the discussion taking place here at that time was cautious about not making the social housing component the scape goat for what is simply a market pricing below expectations and projections.

  • Lewis N. Villegas

    Dang! Now where did that cap go?

  • @Frances – understood and I appreciate the clarification. I concede that the ‘A’ in NPA doesn’t stand for Anarchists …

    Nonethless, the NPA has a proud tradition of insisting on 20% social housing or contributions in kind in all new developments.

    Vision, by contrast appears to have abandoned social housing and chosen instead to devote most of their resources to subsidize market-rate rental instead, first using the STIR program in the west end, now doing the same in the OV as well.

    I believe it’s a huge mistake to devote scarce taxpayer resources to subsidize housing for the well-off when the homeless population in this city has grown more than 50% since this administration took office.

  • Lewis N. Villegas

    ” … a proud tradition of insisting on 20% social housing or contributions in kind in all new developments…”

    Sean Bickerton (28)

    Just to clarify, Sean, are we talking about 20% of the FAR is set aside for social housing (as in North Shore False Creek)? Or are we talking about 20% of units built are social housing?

  • Julian Christians

    @Sean Bickerton. Your recent post (28) did not address Frances’ WTF: does Anton support maintaining 20% social/supportive housing at Olympic village? Could you also clarify potential “contributions in kind” that could be made in lieu of social/supportive housing, please? Finally, would you provide examples of developments where the most recent NPA administration obtained 20% social/supportive housing (and not “contributions in kind”), as well as examples of developments where the current Vision administration did not require the 20% OR contributions in kind.

  • George

    @ Julian Christians
    could you clarify for me where did you read Social/supportive housing? This is the first time I have heard of supportive housing at the OV. My understanding of supportive housing is very different than Social.
    Thanks

  • Julian Christians

    @ George
    I used the word “supportive” in reference to Sean Bickerton’s original post in this thread (13): “Further, the NPA has always maintained a standing policy demanding 20% social/supportive housing in all new developments or contributions in kind.”
    I don’t know exactly what was proposed/ promised in this (or any other) development, and am trying to sort out the parties’ records on this issue.

  • Bill McCreery

    The NPA generally over the years from 1978 has supported the TEAM initiated 20% formula for major projects. I think that is an appropriate policy & it should continue.

    However, the serious financial exposure the City now finds itself in requires prudent decision-makers to consider other courses. I have consistently advocated in this instance, due to those circumstances, that the fiscally responsible thing to do is sell the units, take the profit, cover the City’s exposure & build more social housing on less expensive land elsewhere. Some have suggested by doing so we could get even more social housing @ the end of the day. That bright prospect becomes dimmer day by day as Vision plods along.

  • Bill McCreery

    The term “social/supportive housing” includes various forms of subsidized housing for low income earners as well as housing for citizens who require support services as well as housing [eg: group homes of various kinds, right through the range of needs – from mentally challenged to recovering drug addicts].

  • Bill McCreery

    @ Francis 18. “The point I was making is that you are all carrying on as though Council stifled dissent about whether there should be social housing at the Village.”

    You are missing the point for some reason. I am concerned, yes, that people should have the opportunity to freely express their opinions whether I agree with them or not. I am equally concerned that this Vision Council has, as seems to be obvious to most observers [you will notice the silence of the usual suspects in this debate], has once again manipulated their schedule so interested people like me & reporters like you were home & tucked in when this came up for discussion. The ‘radical fringe’ group were there & had their 15 minutes in the spotlight.

    Councils from 1973 to 2008 have not grossly abused the public trust implicit in the undertaking to conduct public business in public, which includes doing so during hours when the public is available. They are not available @ Midnight. Even you were not.

  • Nelson100

    How dare anyone tell people the citizens of this city to “stop screaming hysterically about the abuse of process and decisions being rammed through and contempt for the public” c0nsidering the absolutely appalling conduct of this council!

    Democracy requires those who live within it to value it and defend it. Here in Vancouver we’ve needed some vigourous defending lately.

    I feel fortunate that a civil election is coming next year so I can help provide our friends in Vision Vancouver a pointed reminder that we live in a democracy, a fact that they seem to be somewhat unaware of.

  • Frances, you are right in noting that the discussion was not about whether there should be social housing, but who should be the operator. Had there been an opportunity for good discussion, I would have suggested that the city re-visit the terms of the Proposal Call which resulted in only three proposals, none of which were supportable.

    While acknowledging the highest regard for the work of the Coop Hsg Federation, why didn’t organizations like Terra, or Affordable Housing bid to own and manage the units? I know some of the answers, and I think there should have been a public discussion. But it would have proven embarrassing to city staff.

    Yes, there is urgency to fill up the social housing and rental units, but given a one hundred year horizon, one might say that a more appropriate solution might have been found.

    And as for Raymond Louie’s comment that it was worth making this urgent, late night/early morning decision if it helps only one homeless person get off the streets….

  • Frances Bula

    @Nelson100. I do hope it truly is a civil election. But I somehow doubt that it will be. And I hope that you are not denying me my democratic right to ask people to stop screaming.

  • George

    Mr. Geller
    We are in total agreement. Raymond Louie should have won an Oscar for his disingenuous comments that evening. I couldn’t believe my eyes, especially when he knows full well that the “street homeless” aren’t going to be housed in the OV.
    I also question why alternative organizations weren’t considered. I agree that the Housing Co-op is a good organization, but I personally have questions. Co-ops make their our rules in regard to regulations and maintenance issues. Would this mean that as a co-op, these folks would have separate regulations than the owned condos.
    Would you care to elaborate on your ideas as to why the other organizations you mentioned weren’t considered?

    Thanks

  • Codger Tremble

    @Frances: “It would have been good to hear staff explain why they thought the federation’s bid was sound…”.
    If you ask around I think you’ll find that after the RFP was issued there was a meeting with over 30 housing providers. The City sent several junior staff who proved not to know anything about the property. Nothing. Not a single item of the operating budget, no financial statements, nothing. One had never been on-site.
    Apparently all of the experienced members of City staff (who had been deeply involved in all aspects of the project for close to a decade) had , for some reason or oanother, recently left their positions to spend more time with their televisions.
    Attempts were made to convene a follow-up meeting with a couple of City employees who might know more, but none of the providers could be bothered to waste any more time.
    That helps explain why Council was is such a hurry to get something done on this file, on any terms, with any provider who could be talked into it, regardless of the business model (or lack thereof).

  • Bill McCreery

    @ Codger 40. I am accepting your comments as being accurate because on the face of it they appear to be genuine &, when taken together with other anecdotal info available over the past months it does reinforce the belief many have that the current management of this crucial matter leaves much wanting. Unfortunately I cannot see a positive outcome.

    My preference is that the current bunch find their way through this maze with a socially & fiscally responsible end result. This matter is to important to be scoring political points over.

  • From George: “Would you care to elaborate on your ideas as to why the other organizations you mentioned weren’t considered?”

    George, the reason other capable non-profits were not considered is because they did not submit proposals.

    Codger Tremble has provided some information above, and I would invite representatives of the many other non-profit organizations who chose not to submit, to comment as well…There is a need for a much fuller discussion on this matter, especially since another decision has to be made with respect to the two projects that will not be acquired by the Coop Hsg Federation.

    Frances and I had a brief discussion ‘off-line’ about the events leading up to the RFP and the subsequent rejection by the province. I was not involved in the process, and therefore do not have first hand experience. However, one key question that needs addressing is who actually took the lead on developing the terms of reference for the proposal call. Was it the province, that was expected to guarantee funding for the successful proponent(s), or the city, which owns the units? I hear differing opinions, but one I do accept is that many of the problems we now face would not have happened if Cameron Gray, Jill Davidson and Rob Whitlock were still in the City’s Housing Department.

    At the end of the day, the non-profits told me that the city’s terms of reference transferred too much financial risk to the non-profits. These risks were exacerbated by innovative aspects of the project designs. These include the exterior glass panels, and some of the ‘green features’ that have not been used before. (As politicians like to boast, one of the projects is ‘net zero’. ) The full ramifications of operating this building are simply not known.

    One of the potential managers told me he also had concerns re: the market viability of relatively expensive rental units that do not have i- suite washers and dryers. While I believe this could have been addressed had the units been sold as ‘affordable ownership’ units, it may be a challenge for units renting over $2,000 a month.

    I hope this gives you a flavour of the discussions taking place in the non-profit and social housing communities. As I said, I hope others will comment.