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TransLink scores with $440-million sale of Oakridge bus barn

December 21st, 2016 · 3 Comments

We’d all been hearing the chatter for half a year that TransLink had sold this prime site at 41st and Oak for a significant sum, far more than it had originally anticipated five years ago.

That was seen as one more piece of good news for the agency, giving it a lot more money to put into transit improvements in the 10-year plan, helping to leverage in provincial and federal dollars.

The official announcement came late yesterday, causing many of us to scramble. Strange they put out such an important piece of news so late in the day. My story here, after having managed to get hold of a few people by deadline.

The announcement mostly confirmed what Bob Mackin and Frank O’Brien enterprisingly winkled out of someone back in mid-October for Business in Vancouver, though no mention in the TransLink announcement of the Kunyuan involvement they detailed.

This is obviously a huge windfall for TransLink. I did see people commenting on Twitter that it was another lost opportunity to provide affordable housing, with some suggestion that TransLink should have turned over all or part of the site for social housing.

I’m always interested in hearing my own arguments shot down by those more knowledgeable, but that seems so problematic to me — asking a transit agency to accept less money for desperately needed transit improvements in order to house more low-income people.

Both accessible transit and cheap housing benefit poor people. Forcing governments or their agents to choose between the two is some kind of cruel game. In a better world, one with a strong stream of tri-government support for housing and the same for transit, presumably we wouldn’t even be discussing that Sophie’s Choice.

For the record, the developer will be required to provide 20 per cent of the buildable space for affordable housing. What that means, exactly, is still to be defined. And it’s an open question who will build it.

Shaadi Faris, the vice-president of Intergulf (one of the two partners), said currently the developer isn’t required to build the units, just provide the land. However, he said it’s still possible that the city will work something out with the developers where they do in fact build it for some negotiated price, as that would be an efficient way to proceed.

BTW, for those thinking there is NO provision for affordable housing on the site, here is the city policy that was passed last December. As you’ll see, it calls for a mix of housing that provides for seniors, families, people with mental health and/or addictions problems, rental and more. I expect people will be holding feet to the fire on this.

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