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Taxpayers on hook for Olympic Village condos unsold

Sixty-six per cent of Vancouver’s pricey Olympic Village condos remain unsold — a total of 483 units at the massive False Creek development that served as athletes’ housing during the two-week 2010 Games.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, whose city remains on the hook for more than $1.03 billion of the cost of the project, predicts it will take a “full two-year term” to sell the remaining units.

“There is some concern we’re going into another [economic] dip,” Robertson said last week. “[But] I have full confidence in the developer and the marketing taking place.

“I hope the market kicks in and they get sold. I’d like to see it fill up sooner rather than later.”

A spokeswoman for condo king Bob Rennie, who is handling the sales, said Tuesday a major marketing campaign will begin later this month for the unsold units.

“Incentives are yet to be determined, but they could include things like free washers and dryers,” she told The Province.

The suites, which are priced anywhere from $400,000 to $5 million each, have been subject to the HST since July.

Although Vancouver made 120 rental units available for workers such as police officers, firefighters and nurses, only 61 were taken as of June [no up-to-date figures were provided by the city or Rennie]. Nevertheless, Robertson said he expects that to change.

“Many more people are applying for spots than are available,” he told reporters last week.

The city’s investment in the project includes a $750-million loan plus undisclosed interest payments, $120 million still owed to the city for the land and a $110-million outlay for 252 affordable housing units.

Today, six months after the 2010 Olympic Games, the village resembles a ghost town.

Walking down the empty streets last Saturday afternoon, it was hard to find anyone actually living in the $1.2-billion former Olympic Village.

Even the security guards conceded there’s not much to do at the “showcase” Millennium Water development, where only 254 condos have been sold.

“It’s weird,” said Heather Eddy, who recently moved into a rental unit at West 1st and Columbia. “It’s almost living in a futuristic police state. All you see is police cars driving around and people on bicycles.”

Eddy, a 24-year-old pastry chef, said she believes the village was opened too early.

“It’s very much like a ghost town,” she added. “I’m scared to walk down the streets at night.”

Near the renovated Salt Building, Mitch Williams described himself as a “lookie loo” checking out the views.

“This place is spooky,” said Williams, a 41-year-old telecom worker from Port Moody. “It’s like a sci-fi movie. I don’t see any patio furniture and there’s nothing on the balconies.”

The Millennium complex totals 1,108 units made up of condos, rental units and affordable housing, but its new, $36-million, 45,000-square-foot community centre seemed almost deserted Saturday, with just a handful of people inside its enormous gym.

Cuong Tran and Lisa Nguyen said they’re enjoying living in their two-bedroom condo, which they bought in May 2008, well before the Olympics and the economic meltdown.

They just wish there were more people living there.

“It was empty but it’s getting fuller now,” said Nguyen, 23. “I know it’s going to take a little while.”

Meanwhile, lawyer Bryan Baynham said she has 11 clients who want to get deposits back on 13 suites in the village.

Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs said the city is trying its best to maximize the return on taxpayers’ massive pre-Olympics bailout of the project.

“It’s too early to say how we’ve succeeded, and a lot depends on the pace of sales,” he said. “It shouldn’t come as a shock to anybody that the risk remains.

“I have no doubt that, down the road, this will be seen as a successful project ­— but we’re in strange economic times.”

BY THE NUMBERS:

The City of Vancouver is owed $170 million for the land on which the Olympic Village sits.

The city holds a $750-million loan for the village and is currenty paying interest on the loan.

The city’s affordable-housing component of the project cost $110 million, $45 million over budget.

Total: $1.03 billion

NUMBER OF UNITS

254 condos sold so far.

483 condos remaining to be sold.

61 units being rented (as of June).

Another 58 units available for rent.

252 affordable-housing units available.

Total: 1,108 units

 

dinwood@theprovince.com

kspencer@theprovince.com

twitter.com/kentspencer2



Read more: http://www.theprovince.com/business/Vancouver+taxpayers+hook+billion+most+Olympic+Village+units+unsold/3491634/story.html#ixzz0yzBkOc7Q

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