Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Vancouver's Olympic Village Needs Complete Overhaul

Vancouver Sun


It is clear that the project was ill-conceived, poorly designed, un-realistically budgeted, and executed with lack of oversight. With less than a year to go, pouring more money into the project is not a solution. The leaks must be found and fixed so the cost over run is controlled and eliminated. BC Housing must attach conditions to any money invested into the project: complete transparency of the cost and budget, detailed plan of execution for the remainder of the project, and any cost savings as a result of the collapsing construction industry, including re-negotiating with contractors and all trades. Environmental and sustainable designs do NOT require twice the cost to build. Anyone trying to use that as an excuse is either trying to pull the wool over public eyes or don't know what they are talking about.


Vancouver city hall may ask BC Housing to help finance social housing at the Olympic Athletes’ Village, which is at risk of being downsized because of soaring costs.

But there’s no guarantee BC Housing would be willing to help with the 252-unit affordable housing project, which is now $77 million — or 70 per cent — over its anticipated budget.

The increase, which brings the total project cost to $110 million from an original $65 million in 2006, means each unit would cost as much as $440,000, councillors say.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he's infuriated by the continuing construction cost overruns at the Olympic village and the risk to social housing.

“It would be a bummer to lose this component of the [Olympic] village, that rounds it out as a more sustainable and dynamic neighbourhood,” he said in an interview with The Vancouver Sun. “We've got our work cut out for us on yet another element of this village.”

He added: “It’ll be a real challenge to find the funding to ensure these units are affordable. This all comes as another unpleasant surprise.”

The cost to build the affordable-housing units of the Olympic village ballooned to about $395 per square foot from initial estimates of $320 per square foot as developers tried to build the 252 apartments at the height of Vancouver’s building boom, according to a City of Vancouver report.

General inflation in construction costs, developer fees, increased floor area, environmental building requirements and exterior finishings to help the units fit in with surrounding market housing all contributed to pushing the costs up some 70 per cent.

Those costs include construction costs and fees to the builder, Millennium Development, and BC Housing, the report said, but do not include land.

Social housing has in recent years typically cost $250 to $260 per square foot for construction costs alone, said Joe Rekab, a quantity surveyor for the firm BTY Group. That price would not include land costs and other charges such as architect’s and consultants’ fees.

The construction costs for open-market condominiums, Rekab said, would run from $280 to more than $300 per square foot, excluding land, consultants’ fees and financing costs. Soft costs, such as consultants’ fees would add about 30 per cent on top of construction costs.

However, Rekab said it is unfair to compare the Olympic village project with other social housing because of its unique design requirements that called for specific environmentally friendly features and exterior finishes

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