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The Little Mountain that Couldn’t

Apparently Vancouver has an affordable housing problem.

For buyers housing affordability is at a new low despite our problems with construction quality.

And lately we’re seeing more news stories about more families leaving BC due to the high cost of living.

So are we building more affordable housing?  Well, we’re trying I guess, but if you live in Vancouver you may have noticed a big vacant spot for homes just up Main street near Queen Elizabeth Park.

Several years ago the housing units at Little Mountain were torn down to make way for a new higher density housing development.

So why has nothing happened over those years?

According to Michael Geller it’s developer inexperience.

“The developer … doesn’t fully understand how to do business here,” Geller said in a phone interview.

Four years ago, BC Housing started moving the 224 residents of a social housing project into other subsidized homes. Now, only four residents remain in one building on the 6.2-hectare site by Queen Elizabeth Park and bounded by 37th and 33rd avenues and Main Street.

In June, a city report said there was a blueprint for Holborn Properties to redevelop the site with as many as 1,800 units in stepped towers up to 12 storeys, most buildings being four to 10 storeys in height. The province has committed to replacing all 224 social housing units plus another 10 for aboriginal residents. Most of the buildings at Little Mountain were demolished in 2009.

Geller also referred to the years of delays Holborn has faced in building a proposed 64-storey hotel and residential tower at West Georgia and Thurlow.

“If one wonders why this one is taking so long, one might also wonder why the same developer’s project on West Georgia took so long — although I see construction is finally underway,” he said.

“All of these things are symptoms of the lack of experience with high-profile, highly complex undertakings.”

So apparently we sold that land to a developer that doesn’t know how to get things done and to make matters worse, they bought it for an undisclosed sum right before the mini market crash of 2008.  If prices keep falling as they are now is anything going to get built there?

And if it does get built how much responsibility will the city end up taking for falling profit margins or ‘developer inexperience’? Are we looking at the potential for another Olympic Village scenario?