LETTER: Starlight’s spectacle won’t solve the housing crisis

Victoria City Council recently approved the largest rental development in its history. Starlight Investments’ Harris Green Village has been hailed as a major contribution to solving the city’s housing crisis.

Starlight, Canada’s largest financial landlord, has reached a 2018 multi-family real estate partnership agreement with Blackstone Property Partners, the world’s largest private equity investor in the United States.

Ten years ago, the Toronto-based real estate group purchased six multi-storey apartment buildings in James Bay. They displaced and evicted hundreds of tenants for renovations—and later increased rent and fees. The city has done nothing to protect these tenants who face a turbulent and bleak future, claiming the tenants are the province’s responsibility, not Victoria’s.

Today, Starlight’s partnership with a Victorian property management company has achieved a “quasi-monopoly” in the city’s rental market. Although the multi-year Harris Green Village project will offer 1,700 rental units, only 5% will be rented below market rate; the rest will be marketed as luxury townhouse/condo rentals in prime locations.

Starlight is doing this by offering the city a small amenity — 10,000 square feet of “free” community space (roughly the same size as the 47-year-old James Bay New Horizons Senior Community Center, worth about $2 million ) was approved. That’s just a drop in the bucket for this lucrative investment.

Does the City Council know that Starlight has proposed the same to the City of Burnaby? When Starlight can’t change Burnaby’s housing policy, which stipulates that at least 20 percent of built housing units must be secured at below-market rents, they look elsewhere for greener pastures.

Why is Victoria so indifferent to two-thirds of residents trying to survive a housing crisis?

Do they agree with Starlight’s CEO: “We think there is a real shortage or almost crisis level in Canada … which is good news for investors because there’s no easy fix. It’s good news for consumers. Not good news.”

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