Half of Bridge Creek Properties may go on the auction block

By David F. Rooney

The City may okay a Community Housing Society proposal to slap roughly half of Bridge Creek Properties on the auction block and sell it to private developers willing to build affordable housing.

“This is just exploratory,” Councillor Chris Johnston told Council on Tuesday afternoon. “This is not to say it will be sold at all.”

Located on Oscar Street and 13.6 acres in size, Bridge Creek Properties is the City’s largest single parcel of public land suitable for development. It was identified in 2006 as the premier site for development of an affordable or attainable — not social — housing project. He said the society decided on Jan. 3 that the sale of seven acres worth more than $1 million may be appropriate should it receive “a suitable expression of interest.” (While the land may be worth more than $1 million, its current assessed value, according to Landcor Data Corporation [www.landcor.com], is $580,000.)

Some unnamed developers have expressed a private and unofficial interest in the properties, Johnston said.

Councillor Antoinette Halberstadt said the society is not equipped to create a large housing project and needs private sector participation or a public-private partnership to develop Bridge Creek.

Council has directed municipal staff to determine if there is sufficient interest in the market place for a potential sale.

It remains to see, however, what would happen to the money should someone be willing to dig deep and purchase the seven acres for an affordable housing project of some kind.

“The Housing Society hasn’t decided on any details (and) has simply floated the idea of getting at least part of the property leased or sold, to be developed by an entity that has the capital and expertise to do so and we now await staff recommendations before making any decisions,” Halberstadt said in a post-Council e-mail to The Current Tuesday evening.

“Perhaps, though, since Bridge Creek Properties has been set aside for affordable housing, I would propose that any proceeds… be reinvested in future  affordable housing initiatives. However, that might not fly, with the same reasoning that happened when the Housing Society developed the duplex… (Then) the cost included the appraised value of the parcel of land, which went into the City’s general revenues, I do believe.  As far as I can remember, the rationale was that we had a responsibility to the taxpayers.

“Perhaps if the taxpayers indicate they would like their dollars to be invested in affordable housing, such a proposal could be supported by Council.”

But Johnston said the City owns the land “and if sold, it is my understanding that proceeds would firstly go to the City Land Reserve Fund and be dealt with as part of that fund.”