August 31, 2022

Onni Development Group Says George Pearson Pawns Now Allowed In, Three Months After Occupancy Permit Granted, But Gives No Date for Title Transfer, Move In

*Update: Onni Development Group  has allowed residents of George Pearson to “view” the proposed units at Cambie Gardens as of September 2. Still no word when  land title will be transferred to the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority  and no word when those 44 George Pearson residents can move in, after waiting for three months, with diminished health care services at George Pearson Centre.As one resident expressed, viewing the units causes anguish, getting occupancy of  the Onni Development Group units  approved for occupancy three months ago will show action.*

 

It is extraordinary that a Vancouver developer who purchased property from the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and then entered into a contract to produce housing for the residents in a long term care facility at George Pearson Centre  at 650 West 57th Avenue spent three months refusing those vulnerable residents entry.

Why? To use these vulnerable residents as pawns to negotiate the terms of the delivery and cost of the utility, the heat and hot water for the units with the City of Vancouver.

The occupancy permit was issued in June and the developer chose to not allow the 44 residents (who actually drew lots to find out who the lucky 44 would be) to move to their new home at Cambie Gardens at 788 West 57th Avenue. The developer, the Onni Development Group had also purchased the land that George Pearson Centre was sited on, and was required to produce these units under city policy.

You can read about the George Pearson Centre facility, which is a repurposed 70 year old tuberculosis hospital with wheelchair users and motorized chair users. There is a lack of privacy and there has been short staffing. There has also been an uneasy mixture of residents (some are drug users that during the pandemic were allowed to go outside when others were not) and it generally has been a place to subsist, not live in. Many rely on family to assist with their most basic needs.

The residents at George Pearson Centre have specialized needs with many having spinal or brain injuries, and several are on ventilators. Where they live is their entire world.

George Pearson resident  Eric Wegiel with his mom Graznya and sister Agnes. Vancouver Sun.

Activist Paul Caune has drawn attention to this issue, and shared the stories of people whose quality of life and opportunity to have even the most basic interactions with caregivers, families and friends cut off due to facility precautions and lack of staff.

Vancouver Coastal Health has also been contracting specialized staff for the 44 residents at the new units at Cambie Gardens. That staff has been retained for $675,000 a month since April.

Starting in September there are also cutbacks in George Pearson Centre staff, as it was assumed that the 44 residents would have moved out three months ago.

After journalist Daphne Bramham  of the Vancouver Sun wrote an article about the Onni Development Group not allowing these residents to occupy their new housing as per the agreed upon contract, the developer relented.

The agreement in principle means that Onni Development Group will “now work” to allow these long waiting residents to move to their new homes.

Here is the statement made by the City of Vancouver August 30:

City of Vancouver reaches agreement with Cambie Gardens developer

“The City of Vancouver has reached an agreement in principle with Onni Development Group (Onni) to enable the handover of 138 social housing units to the City as part of the first phase of the Cambie Gardens project.

Consequently, the City understands that Onni will now work with Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) to allow the residents of the George Pearson Centre (GPC) to move into their homes. VCH will be in communication with the GPC residents to confirm when they will be able to move in.

Cambie Gardens is a mixed-use community with 2,700 residential units, including 361 social housing units and 114 supportive units for George Pearson Centre (GPC), which is operated by VCH and home to adults with a range of physical disabilities. The first phase of the project includes the delivery of 138 social housing units and 44 supportive units for GPC, along with 307 market strata condo units.”

 

But there is one more thing that needs to be done.

The  Onni Development Group or any other developer must never again withhold social housing occupancy that is an integral part of their development agreement to negotiate something else.

As a senior official at the  City of Toronto Engineering Department says “sometimes you need a bad example to ensure that things change”.

The Onni Development Group is sadly that example, and  contract language needs to ensure  that this situation never arises again.

 

images:vancouver.ca

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