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Palmer: Housing is clearly a priority, as Eby is cutting agreements with the developer

Palmer: Housing is clearly a priority, as Eby is cutting agreements with the developer

Opinion: Minister of Housing wants to make agreements to build cheaper housing – no reasonable offer will be rejected

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VICTORIA – Housing Minister David Eby sent a message about NDP priorities with his recent decision to get started on completing the troubled Little Mountain social housing project.


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He made a deal with the city of Vancouver and is developing Holborn to accelerate the remaining 167 of 282 promised homes by December 31, 2024, a decade and a half after they were promised by the former BC liberal government.

Eby spared nothing for the Liberal Party during last week’s press conference, given the recent revelation about the terms of their previous agreement with Holborn.

“The BC Liberal government evicted 224 families from affordable housing, demolished their homes and handed over the land to a private developer with no deadlines for reconstruction, while offering them (Holborn) hundreds of millions of dollars in interest-free loans,” Eby said.

“Thanks to liberal negligence and self-interest, Little Mountain, once an active, thriving low-income community at an increasingly affordable price, became an empty lot full of weeds for more than a decade.”


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The love agreement – announced after a long battle by former NDP MP David Chudnovsky – was urged by the province to take back the land and / or convene a public inquiry.

“I have examined in detail our legal options for building housing,” said Eby, who is also the province’s public prosecutor. He was informed that given the contract signed by the Left, “there is no way we can take Little Mountain back without having to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to the developer.”

As for convening a public inquiry, Eby turned this prospect into another stick to beat the Liberals with.

“If we had a public inquiry into all the grim, destructive and problematic decisions of the BC Liberals, we would never get anything done,” said Eby, who did not blunt with political call.


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Eby described how the Memorandum of Understanding with Holborn and Vancouver arose.

Earlier in the year, he had expressed, “how disgusting I was at this agreement and my desire for it to be made public.”

To the housing minister’s surprise, Holborn representatives asked for a meeting in which they told him they would “turn the page”.

Eby replied that it could not proceed without a public account – the terms of the agreement with the Liberal Party “should be released to the public.”

To his further surprise, Holborn agreed to abandon the trial, where he fought against Chudnovsky, and then released the Liberal agreement as part of a larger agreement to move forward with the project.

“This good faith movement gave me the confidence to instruct BC Housing to work with Holborn and the City of Vancouver to come up with an ambitious but realistic set of deadlines for building the remaining 167 affordable units on Little Mountain. For the first time in more than a decade, I had little hope for this project. ”


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Eby was careful not to resell the deal. It is not binding. Nor does it change the original contract signed by BC Liberals.

Still, he is optimistic.

“Holborn has taken a number of steps that they did not have to take to build trust. Failure to meet these obligations will simply result in worse pressure. I try to be as realistic as I can about the opportunity ahead of us that I hope everyone will achieve, which is the completion of all these units by the end of 2024. ”

Eby’s agreement also included an incentive for Holborn regarding another of its properties — a proposed 10-story rental tower of 132 units adjacent to Victory Square in downtown Vancouver.

BC Housing, the provincial government, “will seek internal and external approvals to provide Holborn with funding to support the provision of middle-income housing through the Victory Square project.”


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It sounds like an opening for yet another loan backed by a province, though Eby did not say so.

The new deal with Holborn did not suit Chudnovsky well.

“If it weren’t so tragic, it would be a joke,” he told television station Jill Bennett on CKNW radio shortly after Eby announced the announcement Friday.

»A society destroyed. People were pushed out of their houses. And now we have a vague promise that the development company will complete all that by 2024. ”

Tempting as it might have been politically to continue the battle for Little Mountain, Eby’s decision to move on sends a signal.

After four years in government, the new Democrats realize that the blame for all their problems on the Left is worn out.

They need to do more to deliver, and affordable housing was one of their biggest promises.


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“Hopefully we turn a corner today,” as Eby herself said. “It’s not just about Little Mountain, it’s about building housing for people throughout the province.”

There is a message there for both local governments and developers. Eby wants to make agreements to build cheaper housing – and if his willingness to come to terms with Holborn is an indication, no reasonable offer will be rejected.

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