On Jan 20th City Council is scheduled to hear speakers on what is basically, the future of the low-income community in the Downtown Eastside. Everyone who cares about the future of the DTES for low income people needs to come to City Council and speak out.
The issue is this: Will Council adopt a new policy that allows developers to build higher condo towers in the DTES?
Council will consider a staff report that recommends higher towers at these sites:
• 99 W. Pender (Budget car rental site): from 7 stories allowed last year to 15 recommended in the report;
• 425 Carrall (B C Electric Building): From 7 stories
allowed last year to 15 in the report;
• Chinatown South: from 9 stories allowed last year to 12 stories except for Main Street between Keefer and Union which can go up to 15 stories.
What’s wrong with higher buildings in the DTES? The worst thing about higher buildings in the DTES is that they will almost certainly be market condo buildings. Market condos have ripple effects throughout the neighbourhood as we can see already from the Woodwards development. The more expensive condos push up land prices in the surrounding area. With higher land prices, hotels increase their rents so low income people
can’t afford to rent a cheap room, the last stop before homelessness. Low-income people are pushed out of the neighbourhood. More
people become homeless. The Carnegie Community Action Project’s 2010 hotel report, Pushed Out, found that only 12% of hotel rooms are now renting for the welfare shelter allowance of $375 per month.
It goes on: Rents and taxes for small businesses that serve low-income residents increase and these businesses have to close. They are replaced by businesses that serve condo residents. You can see this in Gastown with new restaurants serving soup that costs $9.50 a bowl in places where low-income people feel really uncomfortable and unwanted. Hotels like the American and Burns Block close and are renovated for richer residents. Police and security guards harass low-income people that business doesn’t want near them. The power structure in the neighbourhood changes. More residents start lobbying to stop the social housing and services that low-income residents need. The sense of community and acceptance that low-income people have because they are the majority weakens and the Downtown Eastside, the Soul of Vancouver could be wiped out like Hogan’s Alley was.
CCAP’s position on the Historic Area Height Study (January 2011):
Council needs to vote against the staff recommendation for added density in the DTES. It also needs to ensure that:
1. The Social Impact Study & the DTES Strategy are done, and
2. Every homeless person and hotel room resident has decent self contained housing they can afford, and the good things about the low-income community, as identified in CCAP’s community vision report, are secured.
3. The city buys at least 10 sites a year for low income social housing in the DTES.