Vancouver city hall is scrambling to explain how a major developer was improperly given a million and a half dollar break on a condo project.
The subsidy, given to the Onni group’s “the Charleston” development was uncovered in an exlcusive investigation by Global BC’s Tanya Beja.
The problem? The $1.5-million waiver on construction levies – known as a DCL – is only supposed to apply to pure rental developments, part of the city’s “Rental 100” program.
The Charleston project includes strata condos.
Even more surprising – it’s the second largest waiver ever given under the program.
Asked how the break could have been given, City Manager Sadhu Johnston says it was an error.
“It was a simple mistake, the project was not eligible for a waiver, and it was a miscommunication among our staff,” he said. “With you bringing this to light, we’ve been in touch with the developer this morning, and they’ve agreed to pay back the amount that was missed.”
In a statement to Global, Onni says it’s reviewing the case.
“This matter regarding the DCL payment has recently been brought to our attention and we are currently considering it. Should there be an error we will rectify immediately.”
It’s not immediately clear who had final authority on granting the waiver – it was applied in 2014, a year after former city manager Penny Ballem left her job.
But multiple city staff had to sign off on the deal.
NPA Councillor George Affleck says the revelation is unsettling
“To hear that there was a waiver given in a building that isn’t actually a Rental 100 is disappointing, to say the least,” he said.
The news has also sparked calls for an investigation.
“If the city gave a waiver for $1.5 million when it shouldn’t have, it needs to be a full inquiry into how something like that could happen because that’s a lot of money,” Nathalie Baker of Stevens Virgin Litigation Counsel told Global.
The city says it’s reviewing the case to figure out what went wrong.
It says it’s also doing a full audit of the Rental 100 program, to ensure no other developers benefited improperly.
With files from Tanya Beja