Affordable housing on the Garden City Lands?

Re “Free land offered: Society” (Richmond News, Nov. 20).

We’re told that Richmond’s mayor offered land to a Surrey society for affordable housing and “identified the Garden City lands as a possible location.”

The federal government is disposing of that property, and the city wants to buy it. As farmland in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), it is valued at around $10 million. If the city proceeds wisely, it will get it for that.  In contrast, the price will shoot up by $100 million or more if there’s any suspicion that the city will try again to get the property out of the ALR for construction.

If the mayor has blundered as reported, we taxpayers are sunk. But I bet he was misunderstood.

Perhaps, for example, he wants to use the Garden City Lands under the Surplus Federal Real Property for Homelessness program.

After getting the Garden City lands back from its land disposer, the federal government would give it to the city to enable housing that combats homelessness. To do that, the city would use a wonderful feature of the program, its property-exchange provision.

In the exchange, the city would receive the Garden City lands, ALR property where housing is not permitted. In return, the city would locate suitable lots of equal value and provide them to the housing project.

Essentially, the savings from getting the Garden City lands at no charge would be used to buy the lots. Since the city already owns some lots for affordable housing, they might be used, but I think they should be replaced out of the savings.

All this is not easy to do, but it is worth doing.

___________

For background, see the “Homeless + GCL” page on this blog.

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