Delay social-housing evictions until developer, financing ready: Critics

Friday, November 28th, 2008

Don’t crush 224 units that will displace 200 people on lengthy waiting lists for homes

Christina Montgomery

Pressure is growing on the province to reopen more than 200 suites of social housing in Vancouver that B.C. Housing is busy boarding up and preparing to demolish.

Redevelopment of Little Mountain, the six-hectare site that is one of the city’s oldest social-housing developments, has been controversial since a deal was struck last year to demolish the aging homes, sell the site to a private developer, have the 224 units rebuilt as part of a 2,000-condominium project — and use the profits from the sale to fund social housing across B.C.

Residents were given the right to return to the new 224 units that will be available some time after 2010, and had other housing arranged in the meantime.

But critics and residents say more social housing should have been included on the redeveloped site, and that evictions should be delayed until construction begins.

Demands to slow down — or reverse — the development reached a crescendo this week as uncertainty grew over delays and possible financial problems plaguing Holborn Development.

Late last month, Holborn’s excavation work on the Ritz-Carlton hotel, a prestigious hotel-condo project in downtown Vancouver, stopped. A second project on Kingsway has also been delayed.

Simon Lim, president of the Holborn Group, could not be reached yesterday for comment on the Little Mountain project.

According to a timeline attached to the City of Vancouver‘s memorandum of understanding on redevelopment of the site, the Little Mountain project is more than a year behind, with construction not likely to begin until well into 2011.

NDP MLA David Chudnovsky, the party’s housing critic, pushed Housing Minister Rich Coleman in the legislature Tuesday for an answer on reopening the units.

Coleman traded barbs but didn’t answer directly.

Chudnovsky told The Province yesterday he was angry not only that residents had been moved unnecessarily, but that they had displaced 200 people on lengthy waiting lists for social housing units.

“[Coleman’s] job is to provide adequate housing for the people in the province,” Chudnovsky said. “Instead, he wanted to play real-estate developer.

“He got caught.”

Incoming Coun. Ellen Woodsworth of the Coalition of Progressive Electors said she’ll push when city council reconvenes next week for re-opening all of the empty but habitable units.

“We’ve got a serious housing crisis in Vancouver, as well as a homelessness crisis, so why leave perfectly good units empty for at least two years, or possibly longer, when we could use them to house people?” she said.

Vision Vancouver Coun. Raymond Louie, whose party will hold majority power, said they would make contact with the province and developer immediately to explore ways of using the site. But he conceded that the city has no power over what the two parties decide.

Although Vision Vancouver incoming mayor Gregor Robertson said while campaigning that he was interested in seeing if Little Mountain could be used as a shelter, Louie noted that some suites may be uninhabitable.

“All we as a city can do is ask,” Louie said.

© The Vancouver Province 2008

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