CCAP goes to Mayor’s Roundtable

Mostly developers attended this Roundtable Discussion on how to build more Affordable and Rental Housing. The developers came up with all kinds of ideas about how to bring costs down so they can “afford” to build market rate rentals ($936/month for average 1 bedroom at market rate in Vancouver). Some of their ideas: no parking stall requirements, smaller suites, no community space, using land set aside for social housing as land for market rentals, waiving taxes and fees and allowing them to build taller buildings. Some developers think it “might” be possible to build rentals below this market rate, but they would need to build huge condo towers to pay for it. CCAP says the only way to get enough housing for the poor and working poor is to get senior governments to pay for it. The Mayor asked CCAP for our suggestions to get more affordable housing and this is what we gave them BELOW ~wp

1. The city must find a way to keep existing shelters open past June 30th, until they are not needed, and must open more so that every homeless person can be inside if they want to. Have you checked out the bottom floors of provincially owned hotels as possible additional shelter sites?

2. The city must get a proactive plan to replace all hotel rooms (3700 privately owned plus 1300 government or non-profit owned) in the boundaries of the Downtown Eastside. Many people who are forced by poverty to live in SROs feel disrespected by society as a whole. For those who have health issues, this disrespect can slow recovery. Everyone in this rich country needs to have a private bathroom and kitchen and a little bit of space for their stuff and their lives. The SROs are not upgraded to modern earthquake standards. City policy calls for replacing the SROs with decent housing, but there is no proactive strategy to do this. At the current rate, it could take up to 40 years. Because the DTES is changing quickly and lots are being taken up for condos, the city should support a local area planning process to better understand how to protect the founding communities and culture of the area: Indigenous, Chinese, Japanese and Working Class/Poor and to prevent more homelessness as a result of poorly-planned land use policies. The city should acquire more DTES lots for low-income housing and embark on a well-thought out lobby campaign with all sectors in Vancouver and with other cities, to get federal and provincial funds committed to low-income housing.

3. The city must find a way to shelter the 3,700 hotel residents in the DTES from the potential impact of the Olympics. SRO’s are allowed to legally rent out 10% of their rooms which represents 370 rooms in total. A number of hotels are already advertising as hostels on the internet. CCAP is doing a hotel survey right now and found the Ivanhoe Hotel may be renting more than 10% of their rooms daily/weekly which shows this rule is difficult for city inspectors to monitor. The city should end the 10% daily/weekly rule in Fall 2008 at the latest and possibly reinstate it after March 2010, if it is necessary.

4. Affordable housing for low-income workers in Vancouver would help employers save money on wages and promote less commuting and green house gas emissions. On a city-wide basis, there should be policies that require new housing developments to be 1/3 low-income, 1/3 middle income, and 1/3 higher income as a minimum.
Incentives to create affordable housing: While there may be incentives that help to create low-income housing, at CCAP we don’t want condo towers allowed with the excuse that they might be able to provide a tiny fraction of low-income housing. According to pro-forma work we’ve seen, last year, when the economy was good, it would take 7 to 10 condo units to fund one low-income singles unit. In the DTES, this would overwhelm our community with condos and drive out low-income folks including the founding communities and their housing and services. Now, with the bad economy, it may not be possible to build any new low-income units from anticipated condo profit. This type of incentive won’t work in the DTES.

2. Rental housing: While CCAP agrees that we need more rental housing in Vancouver, Council members should know that market rental will not solve housing problems for SRO dwellers and homeless people, or even the working poor. Last year it cost about $1200 a month to amortize a 400 sq. ft. singles unit. This would require an income of $23.08 an hour, or over $40,000 per year for a new singles unit. This means that the real housing solution for low-income people is government built social housing.