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Michael Geller clarifies his position on Olympic Village social housing

Michael Geller in a photograph by Linda Solomon

"I'm just a soul whose intentions are good. Oh, Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood." Michael Geller said he can't get that song out of his head lately and he sang it as I photographed him outside Elysian Coffee today after a one hour interview.

He said he has good reason to feel that way. The architect and  one-time City Council candidate took a recent battering in the press, including by  Jim Green, writing in the Vancouver Sun. Geller was criticised for his interview with Globe and Mail reporter Frances Bula where he discussed mixing high-income residents with difficult-to-house residents and explained it in a way he now regrets.  He talked about potential Olympic Village residents from wealthy to poor as: "A,B,C,D, and E."  People read this to mean A=wealthy and E=poor, but Geller never said that.  People projected that into what he said, he pointed out.

Geller said today that the amount of public discussion around the Olympic Village is mainly political and "isn't helping." He wasn't sure that talking to another member of the media was a great idea, particularly one named Linda Solomon. But he graciously set aside any problems he had with Vancouver Observer's coverage or editorial policy and spoke openly about The Olympic Village, dirty politics, and how most issues are more complex than people like to make them out to be.

MG:  I'm a complete fool for having this conversation with you.

LS: I disagree!

MG: (Laughing.) I'd rather be forthright and take my chances.

One of the interesting things is that when I speak people assume that because I'm a failed NPA candidate, I'm speaking for the NPA. And I'm not. I don't mind apologizing for, or being accountable for what I have to say.  But I'm definitely not a spokesperson for the NPA. I'm not that involved, I'm not on the board and I'm not running for mayor.

LS: You're not?

MG: No.

LS: Let's talk about that a little later. But let's start with the Olympic Village. You took criticism last week for comments you made about social housing and the Olympic Village. What ARE your real thoughts about it? Were you unfairly treated by Jim Green last week? How are you feeling about it all now?

MG: If the social housing at the Olympic Village had not initially come in significantly over budget, and if the city wasn't facing significant financial challenges, as the mayor pointed out, I would never have commented on the social housing. It is an accepted fact that the large scale projects in Vancouver comprise a mix of market and non market housing. 

When the costs of the social housing were first coming to light, that's what prompted me to suggest that the city consider doing what VanCity and SFU had done at UniverCity: sell housing on leasehold land with certain conditions to make it more affordable to people who can't purchase market housing.

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