Study shows Downtown Eastside housing situation is getting worse

Still Losing Hotel Rooms: CCAP’s 2009 Hotel Survey and Report

A new Carnegie Community Action Project report says rents in hotel rooms are escalating beyond what low-income Downtown Eastside (DTES) residents can afford. Still Losing Hotel Rooms: CCAP’s 2009 Hotel Survey and Report says at least 694 more rooms are now renting at over $425 per month, $50 above the welfare shelter rate. Last year CCAP found 889 rooms renting at over $425 so this brings the total to 1583 hotel rooms, the last resort before homelessness, that are not affordable to people on welfare, disability or basic seniors pension.

CCAP’s second annual report is based on a door to door survey of privately owned hotels in the DTES by volunteers posing as prospective tenants. CCAP checked out 88 hotels with 3605 rooms and got information from 63 hotels with about 91% of the rooms.

“Even though about 344 previously closed hotel rooms have opened up under non profit management and nearly 338 new units for low income people are expected to open up this year, the number of units for low-income people will be slightly less than last year because of rent increases in privately owned hotels,” explained CCAP organizer and report co-author Wendy Pedersen.

“With the Olympics coming to Vancouver and SFU students coming to the new Woodwards, competition for hotel rooms could push up prices even more and drive more people into homelessness,” said co-author Jean Swanson.

The report also found 12 more hotels charging exorbitant double bunking rents since last year, and illegal guest fees in at least 5 to 8 buildings. CCAP found several hotels renting on a daily/weekly basis and fears they may evict permanent residents during the Olympics so they can get more money.

CCAP also reports on the number of hotels slated to open up thanks to the purchase and lease of rooms by the provincial government and non-profits. Although necessary, these rooms are still a form of temporary housing and will not solve the housing crisis. They are not real permanent homes where tenants can unpack, put down roots and be equal members in the community. The report also found that the city’s goal of replacing about 5000 hotel rooms with new self-contained homes for DTES residents will take 53 years at the current rate.

CCAP’s recommendations include building more social housing, making rent control effective, ending the law that allows owners to rent 10% of their rooms on a daily/weekly basis, and raising welfare and minimum wage.