Vision Vancouver gives Aquilini $35 million; Gives green light to expensive condos, red light to affordable housing

Last week Vision Vancouver once again proved with certainty who they don’t owe their allegiance to: the citizens of Vancouver, the people who can barely afford housing, and the homeless. Vision Vancouver’s allegiance is only and solely to developers.

Last Thursday night (July 19th), a rezoning application by Aquilini Investment Group for a high-rise development within the area of the False Creek North Official Development Plan (ODP) was brought before City Council. The False Creek North ODP, approved many years ago, explicitly calls for 20% social housing in all large developments. With the stroke of a pen, Vision Vancouver has entirely eliminated this requirement, allowing the Aquilinis to go ahead with their 614-unit project and its three towers reaching up to 32 storeys.

To add insult to injury, Vision Vancouver then went one giant step further – it eliminated some $35 million worth of Community Amenity Contributions, a cost that developers have to pay on developments of this magnitude.

What was the pretext for this $35 million gift? The pretext was Aquilini’s promise to provide market rental housing. Vision Vancouver, never slow or reluctant when it comes to reframing, defines market rental housing as “affordable housing.” This development will only be affordable for the higher income citizens of the city – market rental housing is anything but affordable in Vancouver.

An average suite in the Aquilini development will rent for $2,000/month. Using the well-established formula of a maximum of one third of a person’s income spent on accommodation, this would mean that your “average” citizen would require an income of 6,000 per month, or $72,000 per year, to live there. An annual income of $72,000 per year is anything but average.

Vision Vancouver shamelessly exploited the issue of homelessness to get elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2011. Yet Vision Vancouver has proven itself to be even more supportive of developers than the NPA, even when this support comes at the expense of Vancouver’s homeless. The $35 million Vision Vancouver saved Aquilini could have and should have been used to build truly affordable social housing. At an average cost of $300,000 per unit of decent social housing, $35 million would have produced over 115 units of this desperately-needed housing.

Last night Vision Vancouver had a choice. With the stroke of a pen they could have created over 115 units of social housing. Instead they chose to give Aquilinis a 35 million dollar gift.

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