B.C. legislature will reconvene Saturday: Campbell
VICTORIA -- The B.C. legislature will reconvene for a special sitting on Saturday to help Vancouver as it grapples with financing problems for the athletes village for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The city needs an amendment to its charter so it can borrow $458 million needed to finish the project after the original financing fell through.
The city is renegotiating a $750-million loan between itself, U.S. lender Fortress Investment Inc. and Millennium Development that was supposed to cover the cost of building the 1,100 units of housing required for the Olympics.
The city says Fortress stopped payments on the loan in September because of cost overruns and a crashing real estate market.
Since then, the city has been doling out cash to keep construction going but the $100 million it approved for that runs out in February.
If renegotiating the loan doesn't work, the city, by the terms of a guarantee it signed in 2007, will have to find the money to complete the village by this fall.
The city hasn't yet suggested it would make changes to the design or specifications of the village because it committed to delivering the project in accordance with the developer's original guidelines.
Premier Gordon Campbell said Wednesday he and NDP Leader Carole James recently received letters from the city saying the amendment was urgent.
The legislature's scheduled resumption is Feb. 10.
While Campbell commended Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and city council for being "reasonable," he suggested financial assistance from the provincial government is unlikely.
"This is a legal agreement signed by a developer with the financier, with the city involved," Campbell said.
"I have confidence that the city understands the strategy they have to pursue."
After city council disclosed the details of its financial troubles with the Olympic village, credit agencies Standard and Poor's and DBRS placed the city's credit rating under review, with negative implications.
Vancouver's Olympic organizing committee, known as VANOC, is expected to take possession of the village's living units and other facilities this fall.
Two-thirds of the housing units are to be sold to the public after the Games or will be used as rentals, while the remaining 250 units will be set aside for social and affordable housing.
The development has a budget of $1 billion, taking into account the cost of the prime waterfront land it sits on, construction and cost overruns.
Another athletes village is being built in Whistler, co-host of the Games, to house 2,400 athletes and officials, and it has a separate budget and different financing structure.
VANOC chief executive officer John Furlong has said the committee is open to ideas on how the city could save money on the beleaguered project.
"In our budget, the No. 1 priority is to protect the athletes' conditions for the Games," Furlong said.
"That isn't to say we wouldn't work with the city to look at anything they come up with that's an idea."
Furlong said 2010 organizers aren't considering any cuts of their own.
The athletes village is the only major construction project yet to be completed for the 2010 Games.
All of the sporting venues now are built and test events are being held to make sure they're Games-ready.