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Vancouver's Estimated $50 million loss on Olympic Village Doesn't Include $180 million Loss On Land

Whether the troubled Olympic Village condo project will cost taxpayers $50 million or $230 million depends on how you do the math.

At a briefing for reporters last week, city manager Penny Ballem said the city's loss on the project would likely be $40 million to $50 million after all the units are sold and the construction loan paid off.

However, Ballem's estimate did not include the $178.4 million the city is still owed — and will never be repaid — for the land the project was built on.

The city sold the land to Millennium Developments for $200 million, but Millennium only paid a small amount of that up front.

Adding in that unpaid loan brings the total cost to taxpayers of the project to between $220 million and $230 million.

No one was immediately available from the city, or the Vision Vancouver council, to comment on why the unpaid land loan wasn't included in the final tally.

However Suzanne Anton, the lone Non-Partisan Association member of council, said she's not convinced the loan should have been included.

"You can't look at it like the city paid $200 million for the property," she said. "It's not like we're out of pocket. We're not."

Anton said the city bought up the land in question many years ago for much less than what it sold the property to Millennium for.

A more complicated question, said Anton, is whether the project's final tally to taxpayers should include all the money the city spent on infrastructure improvements around the Village, such as parks, the seawall and a community centre.

Those are out-of-pocket expenses for the city, said Anton, and were supposed to have been covered out of the funds Millennium paid for the land.

For now, said Anton, the city's auditors have decided the cost of those improvements can be partly covered out of fees paid by other developments in the neighbourhood.

Anton said the cost to taxpayers has been made worse because of Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson's constant criticism of the Olympic Village, including during the 2008 election, when he attacked the governing NPA over the project's costs.

"He used Vancouver's most significant at-risk asset as a political football," said Anton. "He spent two years talking about the evil NPA ... billion-dollar boondoggle. And that put it under a cloud, so people lost faith in the project and, until recently, there were no sales at all."

The city forced Millennium into "voluntary" receivership in November to try and recoup nearly $750 million in taxpayer funds that had been poured into the project.