(Updated – italics) This is an interesting case study. A secret public-private land swap between the developer and City of Vancouver senior officials paved the way for a 35-storey tower on land that had been promised to be added to Emery Barnes Park. This is precious green space in a densely populated downtown urban environment, rapidly becoming increasingly densified. The secret deal was concealed until persistent inquiries by the Citizens Association of New Yaletown using Freedom of Information legislation brought them out into the open. (Further research suggests that the City accepted significantly less than what the site was worth in the land swap.)
The devious process triggered an expensive court challenge funded by the personal sacrifice of citizens who had believed City’s the long-standing promise to eventually make that site part of the urban park. They won the first round in court, and it resulted in a wrist-slapping for the City by the B.C. Supreme Court, which also overturned the rezoning and ordered the public hearing to be held again. This sent shockwaves into the legal profession and development industry across Canada. The City spent a huge amount of taxpayer’s money defending itself and the developer in court, and launched an appeal of the Supreme Court ruling. The City finessed some administrative tweaks to reverse-engineer the deal and tidy up the legal loose ends, allowing it to ram the approvals through a second time. The citizens applied for leave with the Supreme Court of Canada, to appeal the Superior Court decision at the federal level, but the application was denied. For people who followed the intricate details, the entire process undermined public trust in the municipal government, and even in the provincial justice system. Had it not been for the careful research and scrutiny by citizens, none of the messy details would ever have been known.
And now the “8X ON THE PARK” at Helmcken and Richards Streets is at the marketing phase, with a showroom and previews on May 14. Unsurprisingly, the marketing brand features the public park on which it sits — on a site that should have become a public park for generations to enjoy. The public will never know the proportion of buyers with local versus overseas funds, or what proportion are going to be used as safety deposit boxes in the sky, but Chinese buyers certainly appear to be targeted. There is no way for anyone to verify statements from the marketers about who’s bought in.
The land swap did not create new additional social housing–only a one-to-one replacement of the Jubilee housing, a building just a few decades old that could have been better maintained to make it last longer. The rest of the rental units produced in the swap is just market-priced rental — which rents at the top price the market will bear.
This development was supposed to create family housing. That’s what the two and three-bedroom units were supposed to be for. However, the 8X ON THE PARK units are being marketed as luxury condos. The starting prices are advertised as $1,400,900 for a three bedroom unit (preview prices), $1,090,900 for two bedrooms, and $625,900 for one bedroom.
How is this project — so forcefully enabled, on what was publicly-owned land, by civil servants and elected officials — helping solve Vancouver’s housing affordability problem for local people? At what cost to society? And at what benefit, to whom? Could this whole process been done better for the neighbourhood and for people who need housing?
Examples of Chinese language sites promoting 8X ON THE PARK:
- http://www.58van.com/newshow.asp?info_9772.html (has small text ad for 8x)
- http://newvancouverhome.com/ (Brenhill display ad in Chinese, on right side)
More foreign buyers snatching up Canada’s high-end homes: survey. Global News. 12-May-2016. Excerpts: More foreign buyers are snapping up Canada’s luxury properties, according to a new survey of Canadian real estate advisers. Nearly one quarter of real estate advisors believe that 25 per cent or more of luxury homes in their region were purchased by foreign buyers, according to the Royal LePage Carriage Trade Luxury Properties report released Thursday. The real estate company polled 250 real estate advisors across the country between February 26 and March 9, and nearly 66 per cent said they believe the sale of luxury properties to foreign buyers has increased in their region over the last decade. “Over half of the advisors polled (51 per cent) cited China as the primary international region generating real estate purchases in Canada,” the report said….In British Columbia, 83 per cent of respondents said sales have increased since January and nearly three-quarters feel that sales will continue to increase over the remainder of the year.
The Royal LePage Carriage Trade Luxury Properties Report polled 250 real estate advisors, specializing in luxury properties across Canada, between February 26 and March 9, 2016. Each respondent was asked to complete a survey composed of 31 questions spanning a variety of topics including regional luxury market trends, buyer/seller demographics, foreign buyer activity and unit sales. Separate interviews were conducted with regional luxury real estate professionals to validate the survey findings and acquire additional insight on the market’s overall drivers and performance. For the survey, luxury properties are defined as those which cost no less than four times the average home price in the Greater Toronto Area, Greater Vancouver, Greater Montreal Area and Calgary markets.
One in Four Real Estate Advisors Believe that 25 Per Cent or More of Luxury Properties Are Purchased by Foreign Buyers