Only 60 names on list for Olympic Village suites

VANCOUVER — Demand is not exactly booming for the 126 market-rental suites at the Olympic Village, which are prioritized for front-line workers in health care, public safety and public education in Vancouver.

More than a month after city council decided to give these workers priority, just 60 names were on the list of applicants being maintained by the city, said city clerk Cecelia Ledesma. Twenty of the applicants are nurses, paramedics and therapists, 11 are teachers, five are police or firefighters and some are civilian government workers and private managers. Others have not specified their occupation.

Gord Ditchburn, president of the Vancouver Firefighters Union, told The Sun one reason there may not be more names on the list is that most firefighters are already established in their own homes by the time they are hired, at an average age of between 29 and 30 years old.

"Most of our guys want to own, not rent," Ditchburn said. "I think that’s the Canadian dream. And if you’re trying to raise a family, is that the place you want to raise a family?"

The City of Vancouver remains confident it will find occupants that fit the criteria for all 126 suites, said Brenda Prosken, Vancouver’s deputy general manager of community services.

Most of the 60 requests are for the 640-square-foot, one-bedroom suites, which will rent out for an estimated $1,601 a month, Ledesma said. She said about seven of the 60 requests are for three- or four-bedroom suites. Estimated market rents are $1,902 per month for a 906-square-foot, two-bedroom suite, $2,096 for a 1,223-square-foot, three-bedroom suite and $2,368 for a 1,480-square-foot, four-bedroom suite.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has said that many police, fire and health and local employees are forced to live outside the city because they can’t find affordable housing. To be eligible for these market-rent suites, workers can earn no more than five times their annual rent, and Prosken said the suites are targeted at people earning in the $60,000 range.

Ditchburn said a lack of information may be another reason firefighters aren’t lining up for the suites.

"There’s just not enough information for anybody to make an informed decision and there are a lot of unanswered questions," Ditchburn said.

The city will be contracting with an independent, not-for-profit building operator who will make the final selections for tenants, and the criteria will remain "very open," until an operator is selected, Prosken said.

For instance, it is unknown what would happen if a person met the income or employment criteria when they moved in, but later changed careers or earned a larger salary.

The rentals are part of the Millennium Water development on the south shore of False Creek. Marketing materials call the eco-friendly development Vancouver’s last waterfront neighbourhood. The city has spent $110 million on the affordable housing units, and hopes to recover $32 million of that through rental income.

To apply for the market-rent suites, visit vancouver.ca/olympicvillage/contact.htm#housing.

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