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Vancouver to cough up another $32 million for Olympic Village housing

The City of Vancouver is poised to spend an extra $32-million to hold on to just half the housing legacy promised by boosters of the 2010 Winter Games.

Mayor Gregor Robertson has thrown his support behind a staff recommendation to keep 50 per cent of the over-budget “affordable” housing built in the Olympic Village as dedicated social housing, while renting the other 50 per cent at market rates to people who work in Vancouver.

“Keeping half of the affordable housing units as social housing and half as market rentals strikes the right balance,” Robertson said in a late afternoon release.

“We need to keep our Olympic commitment to an affordable housing legacy in the Olympic village, and this allows us to do it. At the same time, we’re mitigating costs to taxpayers,” Robertson said.

The affordable housing at the Olympic Village was budgeted to cost $64 million in 2006. The project went over budget, and wound up costing more than $110 million.

Robertson rebutted calls to sell the False Creek units as condos, and use the money to build less expensive social housing elsewhere in the city.

“Selling these units off and using the profits elsewhere just isn’t feasible,” he said.

“We would be competing directly with the units that Millenium is selling which would hurt our financial position. We would also need to invest more money to get them ready for market. Finally, it would take several years to identify other social housing sites around the city and start building. That approach would not save taxpayers the funds expected,” Robertson said.

Tenants for the market units would be selected among individuals who provide “essential services” to the city, and earn no more than five time the monthly rent, under the terms of the staff proposal.

City Council, which is dominated by Robertson’s Vision Vancouver party, has yet to vote on the proposal.

Monte Paulsen reports for The Tyee.

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