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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.

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