“Chinese-only” developer that raised funds for Trudeau’s Liberals seeking $40 billion in tax dollars to build affordable housing

By Lisa Tanh

“Chinese-only” developer that raised funds for Trudeau’s Liberals is asking the federal government for billions in tax dollars to build affordable housing.

Vancouver developer, Westbank, proposed using $40 billion in tax dollars to build 50,000 affordable housing units in only Toronto and Vancouver. Previously, Westbank’s founder and CEO, Ian Gillespie, fundraised for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals during the 2015 federal election campaign. Additionally, Westbank’s marketing director, Michael Braun, publicly stated the company only cares about projects wanted in the Chinese market.[1]Original: http://westbankcorp.com/michael-braun Archive: http://archive.is/cwqJ8.

Adam Vaughan, the federal parliamentary secretary for housing and urban affairs, said Westbank’s proposal is one of a dozen with unclear plans.

“I wouldn’t call it a proposal because it’s not fully formed yet,” Vaughan said. “It’s not entirely clear to the government what they’re trying to achieve.”

Vaughan said the government asked Westbank for more information such as where the land would come from, what the city’s participation would be, what the long-term security of these units would look like and what the rent prices would look like. They have yet to provide this information.

In Westbank’s proposal, they suggested a target funding program as opposed to a unit funded program. Vaughan said it’s essentially saying “give us control of all your funding and trust us to deliver 50,000 units,” while a unit funded program would be giving money on a unit-by-unit basis.

“We have affordable housing crisis right across the country from Halifax to Montreal to Calgary,” Vaughan said. “And to suggest that we’re going to spend the entire budget in two cities, well, it’s not going to happen.”

Vaughan added he would like to see proposals with community buy-in and leadership at the local level that meets the needs of all Canadians.

“Something like Hogan’s Alley[2]http://hogansalleytrust.ca/ for example, where you’ve got a really strong initiative that’s rooted inside the community [and] that’s part of an approval process that the City of Vancouver is engaged in,” Vaughan said.

He emphasized that while the government will thoroughly review any proposal — regardless of the company or people behind it — the ones that deliver deep affordability and good planning will jump to the top of the line.

“Not necessarily the biggest project with the best publicity campaign,” Vaughan said.

Vaughan noted that money is already going out the door for affordable housing — most recently in Victoria — and that the public can expect “lots and lots of housing.”

“We’ve put money in the first two budgets that’s already being spent, we’ve tripled the transfers to the provinces, we’ve doubled the homelessness money,” Vaughan said. “And the money gets bigger as we move along. That’s one of the criticisms of the program that I think is shortsighted.”

ThinkPol discovered Westbank sponsored the Asian Marine and Boating Awards Gala, held in conjunction with the 23rd China (Shanghai) International Boat Show, days after a judge ordered another one of Gillespie’s companies to pay $200,000 in unpaid bills to a local contractor[3]https://thinkpol.ca/2018/04/29/vancouver-developer-sponsoring-yacht-gala-china-stiffing-local-contractors/.

Leaked documents reveal Westbank pre-sold nearly a quarter of all of its
Kensington Garden units — aggressively marketed in Hong Kong — to flippers[4]https://thinkpol.ca/2017/10/23/westbank-pre-sold-nearly-1-in-4-kensington-garden-condos-heavily-marketed-overseas-to-flippers/.

Westbank did not respond to ThinkPol’s questions in time despite repeated requests.

References   [ + ]

1. Original: http://westbankcorp.com/michael-braun Archive: http://archive.is/cwqJ8
2. http://hogansalleytrust.ca/
3. https://thinkpol.ca/2018/04/29/vancouver-developer-sponsoring-yacht-gala-china-stiffing-local-contractors/
4. https://thinkpol.ca/2017/10/23/westbank-pre-sold-nearly-1-in-4-kensington-garden-condos-heavily-marketed-overseas-to-flippers/