Jean Swanson speaks for CCAP at City Hall Watch forum on taller towers at the Vancouver Public Library
1st, the DTES is an enormously creative and unique community that some of us call the Soul of Vancouver. We have problems, yes, but lots of good things too.
CCAP spent 2 years consulting with 1200 low income community members in DTES . 70 % of residents live below the poverty line. We came up with a list of good things about the DTES: our strong sense of community, the feeling of being accepted and at home, the empathy we feel for people with health and addiction issues, we like having our necessities close and cheap cause we can’t afford transportation, not even buses. We also came up with a concensus on our community vision for change .
Our vision calls for more social housing, higher welfare and minimum wage, improving safety, legal and regulated drugs, employment for local residents, involvement of local residents in decisions about the community, and a new image that honours and respects low income residents.
The mayor told us our vision was a “gift to the city.”
Now we are faced with policies that will make implementing our vision impossible. We call the Historic Area Height Review the Condo Tower Plan because it would drop at least 7 more condo towers in our ‘hood. To us this is way more important than views or aesthetics or urban design.
We have seen with Woodwards that condos have what we call ripple effects. 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. 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 expensive restaurants and stores selling dog clothes and fancy furniture. 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. 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.
We don’t need more density in our community. Just with the existing density another 9000 people could live there.
That’s why we are going to be asking council to reject the recommendations of its staff in the HAHR report: No more density. No more height.
We also want them to:
1. Complete the Social Impact Study & the DTES Strategy with local residents;
2. Ensure that 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. Buy at least 10 sites a year for low-income social housing in the DTES.