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Olympic village social housing sell-off a no-win for city

January 8th, 2010 · 14 Comments

It’s been almost a year since city staff came to council with the final estimated bill for the social housing at the Olympic village — $110 million instead of the original $65 million it was supposed to cost — and some options with what to do about it.

There’s still no decision as staff wrestle behind the scenes with all kinds of scenarios, none of them particularly palatable. My story in today’s Globe looks at some of the arguments going back and forth.

While there was a great public call to just sell it off, pocket the money and build social housing elsewhere, what I’m getting from city hall these days is that that’s not the slam-dunk it might look. Everything that made the social housing more expensive — all the sustainability features, the high cost of labour at the time, the added cost of building low-rise buildings that were too tall for wood construction but without enough floors to make the cost of concrete construction pay off — is features that house-buyers aren’t going to be prepared to shell out extra for. Capillary heating mats just don’t have the same punch as granite counter-tops.

Then there’s the delicate issue of the buyer, Millennium, potentially having a good legal case against the city, whose original RFP to bidders did not make any mention of the city competing with them by selling off 250 units of additional housing at the site.

There are still many interesting solutions being floated behind the scenes, which may come to fruition or not sometime after the Olympics. Can’t wait to read the end of this novel.

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