Vancouver City Council approved an option Thursday evening to have half of the affordable housing at the Olympic Village as social housing, and half as essential workforce housing rented at market rates.
"This is the best option for the Olympic Village, given the financial difficulties we inherited," said Mayor Robertson. "Construction on the affordable housing went $46 million overbudget under the last council between 2006 and 2008. The result is that we find ourselves forced to seek a compromise between social housing and market rentals.
"This is the best way for us to meet both our Olympic commitment for 250 non-market housing units in the Village, and at the same time mitigate financial risk to the taxpayer."
50% of the affordable housing units will be rented at market rates, and targeted for essential workforce housing, which would potentially include police officers, nurses, and paramedics, among others. A formula will be used to ensure that people who make below a certain income are eligible to rent the units; a person whose monthly income is more than five times the market rent of a unit will not be eligible.
The market rental proposal meets the Olympic bid commitment for non-market housing because there is an income threshold to be able to live in them.
"Workforce housing has worked in cities like London and San Francisco, and given the affordability challenges in Vancouver, it makes sense to do it here," said the Mayor. "We need to make sure that people who work in essential services can live in the City."
Mayor Robertson also dismissed calls to sell the units off, saying it was not feasible.
"First and foremost, if you sold off the housing units at the Village, you would be breaking one of the key promises Vancouver made in the Olympic bid book – that there would be a legacy of 250 non-market housing units in the Olympic Village. Also, selling the units would compete directly with the market housing that Millenium will be selling to recoup costs for the City. We would be undermining our own efforts to fully recover the hundreds of millions of dollars owing to taxpayers.
"The option to go with a 50/50 split for the affordable housing is the best way for us to meet our Olympic commitment and move forward on to other housing priorities in the city."
Photo credit: City of Vancouver