'Someone needs to be held accountable': Vancouver councillor says B.C.'s Little Mountain loan was a 'bad deal'

·3 min read
There has not been much to see at the Little Mountain social housing site in Vancouver since the demolition of more than 200 units of social housing in 2009. (Jon Hernandez/CBC - image credit)
There has not been much to see at the Little Mountain social housing site in Vancouver since the demolition of more than 200 units of social housing in 2009. (Jon Hernandez/CBC - image credit)

A local politician and a former resident of the Little Mountain housing development say they were enraged to learn the developer who bought the land and tore down existing homes was able to do so with the help of a $211-million, interest-free loan from the government.

Vancouver Councillor Christine Boyle said she, like many Vancouverites, is furious to see the details of the sale.

"The financial numbers ... are pretty shocking. They lay out pretty clearly what a bad deal this was," she told On the Coast host Gloria Macarenko.

The contract, which wasn't made public until CBC News obtained the purchase and sale agreement through freedom of information processes, shows that the sale price was $334 million, but only $35 million has been paid by Holborn over the past 13 years.

The B.C. Liberal government that was in power at the time gave Holborn a $211-million interest-free loan on an 18-year term. Interest won't accrue on that loan until Dec. 31, 2026.

Boyle says that if that $211 million had been reinvested through the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation back in 2008, it could now be worth $775 million.

"[That] is a significant amount of interest lost and a huge opportunity that we lost to be investing more money in public and community and co-op housing that we know we need in Vancouver and we know we need all across the province," Boyle said.

"Someone needs to be held accountable for the huge loss that has ... had ripple effects for housing across the province."

Holborn/City of Vancouver
Holborn/City of Vancouver

Boyle said Rich Coleman, who was B.C.'s housing minister at the time, and the B.C. Liberals who were in government when the deal was made, are the officials that need to be held to account.

"Either they gave this sweetheart deal to Holborn or there was gross incompetence in putting the deal together," she said.

"Pick your poison on which one would be better or worse."

LISTEN | Christine Boyle says she's 'furious' about the details of the Little Mountain land sale

CBC requested an interview with the B.C. Liberal Party, but they declined.

CBC also requested an interview with B.C. Housing, the Crown corporation that signed that deal. They also declined.

Requests for interviews with Holborn and Coleman received no response.

'Abhorrent abomination'

Built in 1954, Little Mountain was Vancouver's first large-scale modern social housing project. Initially managed by the federal government, it was passed on to the province in 2007 before it was sold to Holborn.

Holborn demolished the existing housing, and promised to build 1,400 market value homes and 234 units of social housing.

The site has remained relatively untouched since the existing buildings were demolished in 2009; only 53 of the promised 234 replacement units have been built so far.

CBC
CBC

Ingrid Steenhuisen is a former resident of the original social housing at Little Mountain and lives in one of the new units. She said that when she learned the details of the sale of the land on which her former and current home sits, she was speechless.

"It has become the abhorrent abomination of how to not do things," she told The Early Edition guest host Michelle Eliot.

She said the project was pitched to her community by B.C. Housing not as displacement, but as relocation.

"When it was originally happening my friends and neighbours and I just felt that that was wanton and wilful demolition and destruction of a very thriving community of people of middle income and lower," Steenhuisen said.

"We were just like one big happy family."

LISTEN | Little Mountain resident describes community before it was torn down

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting