Olympic Village social-housing tenants still seeking long-term relief from high energy bills

Tenants at the two social-housing properties at Vancouver’s Olympic Village aren’t getting long-term relief in their energy billings.

In a letter dated August 10, COHO Property Management Society informed residents at 80 and 122 Walter Hardwick Avenue that billings by Enerpro Systems Corp., a North Vancouver-based company, will resume in September this year.

COHO had earlier told the tenants not to pay until their complaints about excessive energy charges are resolved.

Unlike most Vancouver residents, those living at the Olympic Village get two bills for their energy usage: one from B.C. Hydro for their electricity, and another from Enerpro to cover heating, hot water, cooling, and cold water.

The building at 80 Walter Hardwick Avenue has been touted by the city as a net-zero building, meaning it’s a model of energy efficiency and one that produces as much energy as it consumes.

In the letter, COHO executive director Thom Armstrong stated that the City of Vancouver will cover tenant energy costs from June 2011 to August 2011.

In June this year, Pam Burge, a resident at 80 Walter Hardwick who lives alone in a one-bedroom apartment, showed the Straight her Enerpro bill that covered the period April 7 to April 30.

Her bill was for a total of $85.16, which included an activation charge of $28. This was separate from her B.C. Hydro bill.

In his letter, Armstrong also stated that cold water costs will be removed for two years, 2011 and 2012.

James Cooper, another resident, wrote Vision Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer after Armstrong’s letter was distributed to the tenants.

Cooper told Reimer that he spoke with Urszula Prodzinski, and Linda Hykin, manager and assistant, respectively, of COHO while they were distributing the notices.

“I asked Urszula and Linda about the impact of the additional Enerpro costs for hot water and heat for low income tenants in ”˜non-market’ units based on 30% of their incomes,” Cooper wrote. “I said water, hot water, and heat are typically included in the rent for apartments and its unusual for it to be charged as a separate cost. I explained the Enerpro costs would skew the ”˜affordability’ of non-market rental costs.”

According to Cooper, Hykin told him that residents would have to appeal to Enerpro and B.C. Hydro.

“We were led to believe by COHO on sign-up for non-market rental units that our rent will be based on 30% of our income and that we would pay for electricity from BC Hydro and that heating costs would be minimal because it was a ”˜net zero’ building,” Cooper wrote Reimer. “We believe that the non-market tenants were not properly informed and some didn’t know about Enerpro. Some received bills from Enerpro addressed to the occupant. Others received bills when the unit wasn’t occupied.”

Comments

3 Comments

canadianveggie

Aug 13, 2011 at 10:17am

My perspective, from a resident of Olympic Village paying market rent: http://canadianveggie.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/olympic-village-enerpro-b...

When it comes to heating costs, you need to keep in mind that the village was barely occupied last winter, so I doubt the heat recovery system was operating at peak efficiency. Also, when buildings are only partially occupied, each occupied unit is leaking heat to its unoccupied neighbours. I've lived in apartments before where I never had to turn on the heat in the winter, because there was so much heat radiated from the hallways and my neighbours' walls. I'm guessing with more people living in the village that heating costs will drop next winter.

In the net-zero building, heat is supposed to be recovered from the grocery store below, but that grocery store doesn't exist yet. Once it does, then heating costs will drop even further.

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RealityCheck

Aug 13, 2011 at 11:38am

What's odd is that no one has actually explained what tangible service this company actually provides, and whether it was legal in the first place to privatize the city's water supply to this development.

All very fishy, and very questionable.

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James G

Aug 14, 2011 at 11:29am

In the last municipal election, Vision capitalized on the NPA's controversial manipulation of the bid process to help the bid from Millennium over superior bids. The secrecy council employed fed suspicion as to whether kickbacks also funded NPA campaigns. Nothing was ever put so bluntly of course but given the disgraceful nature of municipal campaign finance rules, a suspicion remained, which Vision cheerfully mined for votes.

Now it is Vision's turn. If it cannot produce a dated document, such as the one signed on behalf of the City by COHO with Enerpro, that shows that that company was engaged before their swearing-in, then the very same type of suspicion will haunt them.

Talking to neighbors about the upcoming civic election, it is clear that although there is nostalgia for COPE and respect for some council incumbents of all parties across the board, there is a mood for change in the air. Yes, the riots and the bike lanes hurt Vision but their NPA opponents had no real way to capitalize. A conflict of interest situation for a party that rode into office on just that issue is another matter. Show us some documentation backing up the claim that the NPA chose Enerpro as you claim, Vision, or it is goodbye (and I hope forever).

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