Victoria city council recently approved the largest rental development project in its history. Starlight Investments’ Harris Green Village is lauded as a significant contribution to solving the city’s housing crisis.
Starlight is Canada’s largest financial landlord, having secured a 2018 multi-family real estate partnership with U.S. Blackstone Property Partners, the world’s largest private equity investor.
Ten years ago, this Toronto-based real estate conglomerate purchased six multi-storey apartment buildings in James Bay. They displaced and evicted hundreds of tenants to undertake renovations – later increasing rents and fees. Doing nothing to protect these tenants facing turmoil and a bleak future, the city claimed renters were the province’s responsibility, not Victoria’s.
Today Starlight’s partnership with a Victoria property management firm has achieved a ‘quasi-monopoly status’ in the city’s rental market. Although the multi-year Harris Green Village project will provide 1,700 rental units, only five per cent will be offered at below-market rates; the remainder will be promoted as prime location luxury townhome/apartment leases.
Starlight secured its approval by offering the city one small amenity – 10,000 square feet of ‘free’ community space (about the same size as the 47-year-old James Bay New Horizons Seniors’ Community Centre, valued at roughly $2 million). It’s a drop in the bucket for this lucrative investment project.
Was council aware Starlight presented the same proposal to the City of Burnaby? When Starlight couldn’t bend Burnaby’s housing policy, (mandating at least 20 per cent of all housing units built must be secured at below-market rental rates), they sought greener pastures elsewhere.
Why does Victoria have so little regard for two-thirds of its residents trying to survive in a housing crisis?
Do they share the CEO of Starlight’s view: “We think there is a definite shortage or almost a crisis level in Canada … and that is good news for investors as there is no easy solution in sight. That is not good news for consumers.”