Little Mountain: Documents reveal developer bought property with $ 211 million taxpayer-funded loan – interest-free for 18 years


The 2008 sale agreement between the former British Columbia Liberal government and Holborn Properties, which was finally released on Tuesday, also does not set a timeline for the replacement of demolished social housing.

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Thirteen years after the British Columbia government sold the Little Mountain social housing property to a private developer, new revelations about the controversial deal have sparked more public outrage.


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The full sale contract for the six-hectare site in Vancouver was first released on Tuesday, revealing that in 2008 the provincial government under the British Columbia Liberals granted the property buyer, Holborn. Properties, a $ 210.9 million mortgage, but it won’t start. interest accrued until 2026.

“Where did they get this money? They got it from us, the people of British Columbia. BC Housing provided the mortgage… 18 years, no interest payments, ”said David Chudnovsky, the retired NDP MP who secured the contract of sale this week through an access process. three and a half years information.

Holborn, a Vancouver-based development company owned by one of Malaysia’s richest families, has opposed Chudnovsky’s attempts to access the documents for years, but abandoned the effort last week.


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“If you, I, or any British Columbian got a loan to pay for a car, a house or a large piece of land, we would expect to start paying it back, with interest, right away,” Chudnovsky said. “But not Holborn. They can play by different rules. Rules set out in what was, until yesterday, a secret agreement.

David Chudnovsky, a former NDP MP, with the Little Mountain development site on Main Street at 36th Avenue in Vancouver.
David Chudnovsky, a former NDP MP, with the Little Mountain development site on Main Street at 36th Avenue in Vancouver.

In an emailed statement, Holborn spokeswoman Megan Schrader said that while the terms of the deal may seem “unusual” today, they reflect market conditions at the time.

“In 2008, when the deal was structured, we were in the midst of the deepest global recession since the Great Depression,” Schrader wrote. “The terms of the deal reflected the widespread economic uncertainty of the time and were seen as practical and reasonable solutions given the economic context.”


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Shirley Bond, interim leader of the British Columbia Liberals, admitted that the deal had not worked as expected.

The goal of the Little Mountain sale was to create more non-market housing, Bond wrote in an emailed statement, and “although the proceeds from the sale were used to develop over 2,100 new units of Supportive Housing across British Columbia, it is clear that the expected results have not been achieved to date.

“We need to understand why this lack of progress, which is far too common, has occurred and how we are making sure that all levels of government can improve to avoid significant delays,” Bond said.

Little Mountain has received a big backlash, but it’s not the only sale of public land to private interests that BC taxpayers should know more about, said Derek Holloway, who worked for BC Assessment for 28 years before retiring as Senior Evaluator in 2017.


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The province has sold several prime real estate properties in recent years. A 2019 Postmedia investigation found $ 1 billion in public land had been sold over a six-year period.

“There should be transparency around all of this public land that is being sold,” Holloway said. “We’re the salespeople… but we don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. “

This week’s revelations raise more questions about Little Mountain, Holloway said, adding that he would like a public inquiry into the deal.

Ingrid Steenhuisen grew up in Little Mountain and lived there in 2007 when news broke of the province’s plan to sell and redevelop the property.

Children play at Little Mountain on January 2, 1971.
Children play at Little Mountain on January 2, 1971. Photo by Brian Kent /PNG

At that time, Steenhuisen and other residents spoke out against the demolition of its 224 homes, she recalled this week, and called for the redevelopment to be completed in phases, so as not to immediately move around 700 tenants, many of whom were seniors, people with disabilities and low-income families with children.


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When Holborn demolished Little Mountain in 2009, they destroyed more than buildings, Steenhuisen said Tuesday. “It was the wanton and deliberate destruction of a community… We were one big family.”

At the time of demolition, Steenhuisen said, residents of Little Mountain were confident they could move back into newly reconstructed social housing by the end of 2010.

In mid-August, a representative for the city of Vancouver said only 53 units of permanent non-market housing had been built on the site.

The city said Holborn was required to rebuild all pledged social housing before starting construction of planned market housing for the site. But Chudnovsky and others who reviewed the full sales contract released this week were shocked to find that the province had not set deadlines for the replacement of non-market housing.


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Another former Little Mountain resident, Jeannine Silvestrone, said: “How can you think these people are going to start building anytime if you don’t give them an end date? “

“These big mega-companies don’t have to hurry. They can afford to let it sit and increase its value, ”she said. “It is a crying shame.”

Documents from April 2008 show the total purchase price to be $ 333.9 million, and by that time Holborn had already paid $ 20 million, with a plan to pay an additional $ 10 million. by the end of 2012 and $ 5 million by mid-2013. Another $ 88 million would be in the form of a construction loan in Holborn to build 234 non-market housing units, which would be transferred back to BC Housing, to replace the 224 demolished units.


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The balance, $ 210.9 million, was to take the form of a repossession mortgage from the province’s seller, with no accrued interest until Dec.31, 2026.

Schrader, spokeswoman for Holborn, said the remaining balance of $ 210.9 million will be paid for from the proceeds of home sales in the market, and the arrangement was structured that way “to prioritize to the construction of social housing “.

“In payment structures for large land sales, it’s very common for the buyer to provide a deposit and pay the balance as the land is developed,” Schrader said. “The proceeds from the sale of Little Mountain provided immediate funding to the province, allowing it to reinvest that money in affordable housing projects. “

BC Housing posted the full records associated with the sales contract online on Friday afternoon.

Chudnovsky said he will continue to browse the materials and encourage others to do so as well.

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