Sorry Details of Legally Corrupt Deal to Sell Little Mountain Property
The 2008 deal involves the BC government as owner of the property, the city of Vancouver and Holborn Properties Ltd, a global investment cartel whose principal owner is one of the richest oligarchs in Malaysia.
The 12 acres of Little Mountain lie in Vancouver just east of Queen Elizabeth Park. Seven hundred people lived in 224 units of social housing at the time of the sale. The units had been built in 1954 and were owned and maintained by BC Housing. Many of those living there and displaced in 2009 were seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income families with children.
The BC government sold the land and housing to Holborn for a purported $334-million, although the details of the contract dispute that amount. Holborn evicted the residents in 2009 and tore down the housing. Most of the twelve acres is now a fenced-off field of tall grass and a few trees with Holborn banners saying, apparently without intending to mock itself, “Great stories take time to write.”
The details of the deal remained secret until this year when, after a three-year court battle, the BC Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner ordered the details released. The contract and amendments are available here.
According to the now public 2008 contract, instead of Holborn using its own resources to come up with enough funds to buy Little Mountain, the BC government gave Holborn both millions of dollars and the property. To turn public property into the private property of Holborn to do with as it wishes the government handed over to Holborn a $211 million interest-free loan that does not have to be repaid to BC Housing until the end of 2031 and is interest free for 18 years. No interest will be charged on the $211 million government loan until the end of 2026. No loan repayment schedule was arranged. Holborn has not paid back any of the loan since 2008 and no interest has been charged. By taking ownership of Little Mountain as its private property, Holborn acquired the land and the free use of most of the government’s $211 million without any requirement to repay the loan until 2031. But that is not all.
The government also reduced the total price for the property Holborn was required to pay by $88 million. The contract lists this reduction of the price as a government “credit” to Holborn for “the promised construction of 234 non-market units on the property.” No date is found in the contract stating when the units must be completed.
With the $88 million “credit,” the sale price fell to $246 million leaving only $35-million as a down payment. By using a portion of the $211 million government free money to pay the $35 million, Holborn acquired private ownership of the 12 acres plus $176 million from the government as a free loan until the end of 2026. In return, Holborn promised to repay the $211 million loan by 2031 and to build 234 non-market units by no fixed date. No deadline, time limit or date requiring the developer to build homes to replace the destroyed non-market housing can be found in the contract.
But even that was not enough! The contract also relieved Holborn of various expenses that would normally be the responsibility of the purchaser. The contract stipulates that BC Housing will “pay for environmental remediation, negotiate any First Nations’ claims, which become the responsibility of BC Housing, take care of costs for demolition and be responsible for relocating residents of the original social housing buildings.” Also, the government assumed and paid all real estate fees.
Once it became known earlier this year that the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner would order the Little Mountain contract made public — 13 years after the deal was signed, Holborn and the City of Vancouver quickly announced an approved “master plan.” The master plan includes site-wide rezoning of a “complete build out [of] over a dozen buildings up to 12 storeys, with a combined total floor area of about 1.7 million sq ft, containing 1.32 million sq ft of condominiums [about 1,500 units], 330,000 sq ft of social housing, and 33,000 sq ft of local-serving retail and restaurant space.”
Given the sharp rise in housing and land market prices since the economic crisis of 2008, the Holborn-owned 1,500 new condo units on the 12 acres of Little Mountain alone once built could have a market price of over a billion dollars. Holborn would also own the planned commercial units, childcare facility, neighbourhood house, plaza and park. The updated total number of social housing units in the master plan is 282 with 48 to be owned by the City of Vancouver and 10 by the Musqueam Indian Band, according to a separate BC Housing document.