6 reasons to oppose the Sequel Condos on 100 block Hastings

6 reasons why we want the developer’s proposal to be rejected by the city:

1) Putting more condos in the DTES contradicts the “without displacement” part of the city’s policy of “revitalization without displacement” in the DTES.

Condos cause higher property values, higher rents in SROs, and displacement of low income people from the SROs as we have seen with Woodwards.

2) The 100-block of East Hastings is symbolically important because it includes single room occupancy housing for about 400 low-income people. It also includes key gathering places where low-income DTES residents feel comfortable.

The Carnegie Community Centre serves 5000 low-income people and is a hub for food and library services as well as recreational and cultural activities. Insite ensures access to critical health services for thousands of IV drug users who suffer from discrimination in other spaces. The Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre – which is a drop in and safe-space for thousands of low-income women including Chinese seniors, Indigenous women, single mothers, homeless and low-income women – is on the very edge of the 100-block. So is the Aboriginal Front Door Society, the only centre in the area run by and for Indigenous people who are disproportionately impacted by homelessness and poverty as a result of the legacy of colonialism.

Bringing condos to this block could change all of this. The condo-social housing mixed development at Woodward’s caused rents in neighbouring hotels to increase and pushed out residents who depend on welfare and old-age pension. Expensive restaurants and boutique stores replaced low-income serving stores and services. More private security guards and police pushed low-income people out of public spaces.

This is what “revitalization” (i.e. gentrification) looks like. It impacts all low-income people, especially those who are Indigenous, racialized, homeless, drug-users, street youth, transgendered people, and women in the sex trade.

3) The Pantages parcel is in the Downtown Eastside Oppenheimer District (DEOD), the only zoning area of the DTES that requires 20% social housing in all new developments.

This requirement has kept condos out of the DEOD and ensured that the area remains a sanctuary for low-income people. It has also kept land prices lower than in other areas, so lots are cheaper for governments to buy for social housing. If the Pantages development brings condos to the DEOD, it will open a flood of other condo developments.

4) Building more social housing as well as defending and preserving our DTES community assets are more important – and more life saving – than letting developers make millions in the DTES.

Worthington Properties bought the Pantages Theatre in 2004 for $440,000 and added it to four adjacent properties. The 2010 assessed value of all five of these properties was $3.7 million; probably about three-times the purchase price. The Vancouver Sun reported that Worthington posted the properties for sale in July 2010 for $9 million, almost 7 times the estimated purchase price.

The Pantages site is an opportunity to create a project that works for the low-income community in the heart of the Downtown Eastside. A 100% social housing project at Pantages can focus on the current needs of the DTES. The communities that will be most terribly impacted by a condo development on the 100-block are also those who understand and can plan a 100% social housing project to meet those needs.

5) Allowing condos at the Pantages will violate the city’s Housing Plan which calls for (page 6) “the pace of development of new market and low-income housing” to be similar.

The city’s DTES Housing Plan calls for monitoring the ratio of market to social housing development in the DTES. According to city housing staff who met with CCAP on May 31, almost 500 units of market housing are in the planning stages for the DTES’s future:

Pantages: 79 market units
424 and 452 W. Pender: at least 80 market units
Atira at United We can site: about 80 market units
900 E. Hastings: about 80 market units
58 W. Hastings: about 160 market units
Total market housing: 499
Social housing units planned include:
Pantages: 18
Atira: about 20
900 E. Hastings: 10
Remand centre: 95 but only 24 will be at welfare rates
Above library on E. Hastings: 15-20 at welfare rates
Total social housing: 163 maximum

This means market housing is outpacing social housing by a rate of 3 to 1 at least.

And it gets worse: social housing only means that the housing is owned by the government or a non profit. It does not mean that rents will be affordable to the vast majority of current DTES residents who can only afford $375 for rent. For example, some of the units at the Remand Centre will rent for $758 or more. Most social housing has to rent at levels that would be 30% of an income that is about $10,000 a year above the Stats Canada low income cut-off line, or about $32,000 a year ($800 a month for rent) for a single person.
If we look at a comparison of market housing planned vs. welfare rate housing planned, we get 499 to 44, with market housing outpacing housing for people on welfare, disability, basic old age pension and part time and/or low wage work at a ratio of 11 to 1.

The DTES Housing Plan clearly states (page 6): “The pace of development of new market and low-income housing should be similar.” If the Pantages and other condo developments are allowed to proceed before social housing for low income residents is in place, market housing will be outpacing social housing by a ratio of at least 3 to 1; and in reality for low income DTES residents, by 11 to 1.
Therefore the Pantages project should be stopped because it is contrary to policy in the city’s Housing Plan.

6) The community clearly does not want more condos in the DTES until decent, affordable housing for current residents is secured.
This is shown by over 1100 petition signatures as well as 33 groups that have signed the Community resolution calling on the city to stop the Pantages development.