Response to poor bashing Vancouver Sun article – published

Condo towers do not provide affordable housing to residents

By Jean Swanson, Vancouver Sun February 1, 2011

Re: Giving a lift to the Downtown Eastside: Build taller buildings, Editorial, Jan. 27

Poor bashing often increases when profits are threatened.

To define the downtown as “a gloomy ghetto of misery, destitution and squalor” is to be utterly blind to the sense of community, caring, volunteering, beauty and innovation (the only Safe Injection Site in North America) that is the Downtown Eastside.

To assume that “activists” want to “preserve the status quo” is to be ignorant of two years of work done by the Carnegie Community Action Project with 1,200 people: A Community Vision for Change that was developed by the low-income community.

To accuse volunteers who spend hours and days learning about zoning and gentrification and city hall and how to read planners’ reports and how to write speeches of having a “vested interest” in preserving “squalor” is to use name-calling to discredit rather than help people understand.

To blindly assert that low-income housing has not been lost is to ignore rent increases in hotels, especially the ones close to Woodwards.

Only 12 per cent of privately owned rooms are now renting for the welfare shelter allowance of $375 a month (from CCAP’s hotel survey, Pushed Out, 2010).

Many are over $500, making it nearly impossible to survive on welfare of $610 a month.

We do need housing but it has to be affordable to Downtown Eastside residents and other low-income people in the city. Condo towers don’t provide affordable housing. They do have bad ripple effects like increasing property values and rents in neighbourhood housing and businesses, pushing low income residents out and increasing homelessness. But they also provide profit for developers.