City to study impact of Woodwards

In January the city passed a motion saying “that a social impact study be conducted to assess the effect on the existing low-income community of new developments in the historic area and where opportunities for enhanced affordability and live-ability may be achieved.”

OK, this may sound good, but what will the study look at exactly?  Why did they agree to do this?

Jean, Hugh, Gena, Stacey and Wendy went to city hall recently to present CCAP’s draft vision for the DTES to city planners. Photo by Gena Thompson

As you may remember, in January CCAP and others pushed hard to hold off new condos in the western part of the DTES until the future of the low-income community is secured.  We also called for the city to do a study on the impact of Woodward’s and other new condos on the low-income community.  We said if they did the study after approving condos it would be like measuring the water in the Titanic while it’s sinking.  But Vision, the majority party of city council, voted to allow developers to build up to seven new 15 story towers (probably mostly for condos). We don’t know when the study will happen, but CCAP is bugging the city to make it happen soon.  Maybe we can slow the sinking ship down with this study.  It may help us save the next areas from rapid market development – the Oppenheimer district and Hastings Corridor which are up for review next year.

A few weeks ago, CCAP met with city staff and told them what we would like to see in this study.  We said it should answer this question:

What has been the social and economic impact of the Woodwards development and other market housing development in the DTES on the tenure and assets of the low-income and Aboriginal DTES community?

We reminded staff of the 11  DTES neighbourhood assets that are defined in CCAP’s mapping report:

  1. Social housing that provides a stable base for thousands of residents;
  2. The rich cultural and community heritage;
  3. Necessities that are cheap or free and nearby;
  4. Health and social services that are close, available, needed and appreciated;
  5. The many places to volunteer and participate;
  6. Green spaces that help residents make a connection to nature and have become spiritually important;
  7. Many residents have empathy for homeless people and people with health and/or addiction issues;
  8. Residents feel accepted and at home in the DTES;
  9. The sense of community is strong;
  10. Because the DTES is a poor community and people experience many human rights violations, many residents work for social justice.

Plus, after feedback from the community, CCAP added another asset:

11.   Arts practices and programs that involve many community members.

CCAP told staff that “tenure” relates to the ability of low-income and Aboriginal residents who depend on welfare, disability, OAP/GIS and low wage and/or part time work to continue to live in the DTES community.

CCAP wants this study to investigate questions such as:

  • Are rents in privately owned residential hotels still affordable to low-income DTES residents who depend on welfare, disability and OAP/GIS for their income?
  • Do new stores and services opening up in the DTES serve DTES residents who depend on welfare, disability, OAP/GIS?
  • Do low-income residents benefit from having more condos in the DTES?  If so, how?
  • How will the assets of the low income DTES community likely be affected by market development?
  • Are some hotels upgrading in anticipation of tenants who can afford higher rents than current low-income DTES residents?

There are no guarantees that the city will use CCAP’s terms for their study.  But we hope they will adopt it.  It is really important that the city understand the impact of condos on low-income DTES residents before they approve more.