British Columbia

Little Mountain purchase contract will soon be released after developer withdraws court review

The legal saga surrounding the controversial Little Mountain housing project in Vancouver appears to have concluded.

6-hectare site in Vancouver has sat mostly empty since former B.C. government sold it to Holborn Group in 2008

Holborn initially pledged to build 1,400 market value homes and 234 units of social housing on the six-acre site. (Holborn/City of Vancouver)

The legal saga surrounding the controversial Little Mountain housing project in Vancouver appears to have concluded.

The developer, Holborn Properties, is no longer seeking a judicial review of a court decision that would have released the contract of the purchase of the land from the provincial government in 2008.

Holborn's counsel recently filed a notice of discontinuance in the Supreme Court of B.C.

"We've won a little victory," said retired MLA David Chudnovsky, who has been fighting for the release of the documents for years.

"We're going to understand, I hope, how it's possible that the government made a deal with Holborn that resulted in an empty vacant lot in the middle of the city for 14 years when people need a place to live."

The CBC has been attempting to access the documents since 2018.

Access to documents

The Little Mountain land sits between Queen Elizabeth Park and Main Street, just south of Nat Bailey Stadium. The six-hectare site was home to 224 units of social housing that existed from the 1950s until the land was sold in 2008 by the then B.C. Liberal government to the Holborn Group.

Holborn initially pledged to build 1,400 market value homes and 234 units of social housing.

But the site has remained relatively untouched ever since the existing buildings were demolished in 2009. 

"These people were pushed out of their homes and told 'don't worry, you'll be back by the Olympics [in 2010]' and now it's 14 years later and it's a giant vacant lot," said Chudnosky.

When both Chudnosky and the CBC requested the contract under B.C.'s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, they received redacted versions, which led to a review from the province's Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC).

The Little Mountain site now sits empty, surrounded by fencing. It used to be home to around 700 people. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

In 2020, an OIPC adjudicator ordered B.C. Housing to hand over the contract to the CBC and Chudnovsky. But Holborn Properties filed for judicial review resulting in a stay of the order pending the upcoming hearing in B.C. Supreme Court.

As of Friday, that will no longer happen and Chudnovsky expects to receive the contract within a couple of weeks.

"The first thing I think about is those people who lived at Little Mountain," Chudnovsky said when asked why he keeps fighting for the information.

He says about 700 people lived in the thriving community.

Also fuelling the fire is the housing crisis currently plaguing the city of Vancouver.

'They knew they were going to lose'

It's unclear why Holborn suddenly threw in the towel after years of legal battles.

CBC News has contacted the developer for comment but has not received a response.

Chudnovsky believes it's because Holborn knew it was fighting an unwinnable battle.

"I think they knew they were going to lose in court and they decided it was better to quietly steal away on a Friday afternoon in the summertime than have a public court case they knew they were going to lose," he said.

Chudnovsky hopes the provincial government will now be able to step in and bring affordable housing back to Little Mountain.

With files from Jeremy Allingham


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