UPSCALE: The downside of gentrification (2011 CCAP SRO hotel report)

Carnegie Community Action Project SRO hotel report: UPSCALE: The downside of gentrification

December 14, 2011

GENTRIFICATION IS WORSENING THE DOWNTOWN EASTSIDE HOUSING EMERGENCY. This is the conclusion of the Carnegie Community Action Project’s 4th annual hotel report, Upscaled, the Downside of Gentrification.

VANCOUVER, UNCEDED COAST SALISH TERRITORY:  Hotel rooms that used to be the housing of last resort for low income people, are being upgraded and rented to students and young workers at rents that low income residents can’t afford.  The annual survey of privately owned DTES hotels found that only 7% of rooms (235) are in buildings where all rents are $375 or lower, down from 12% in 2010 and 29% in 2009.

At least 700 people are literally homeless and living in DTES shelters, not counting people living on the streets or couch surfing says the report, released today. Thousands more live in about 3,500 privately owned SRO rooms. Many of these have deplorable conditions with poor management, rodents, cockroaches, bedbugs, and danger, especially for women, transgender people and people with health issues. Another 1,500 people live in government or non-profit owned SROs that are usually cleaner and better managed but are still tiny and don’t have private bathrooms or kitchens or meet modern earthquake standards.

This year CCAP’s fourth annual hotel report also found:

  • More hotels are excluding low income DTES residents from desperately needed housing by high prices and by class, racial and health profiling done by desk clerks;
  • The number of rooms in hotels where the lowest rent is $425 or more declined slightly (122 rooms) from last year;
  • The number of rooms in hotels where the lowest rent is $600 or more increased by 227 from last year;
  • Vacancies remain minimal with only two in rooms that rent for $375 or less;
  • At least 13 hotels charge between $200 and $375 extra when two

people share a tiny room;

  • More hotels seem to be renting illegally on a daily or weekly basis.

“We are seeing more discrimination based on class, race and health stereotypes,” said Ivan Drury, one of the report’s authors.  “For example, when I tried to rent a room at the Lotus, I was told that rent was $600 a month and a room would be available at the end of the month.  Fifteen minutes later Robert Bonner tried to rent a room and was told rent was $800 and there were no vacancies.”

“We also found that only 7% of the rooms are in hotels where all the rooms rent for $375 or less,” said Jean Swanson, co-author of the report.  “This is down from 12% last year and 29% in 2009,” she added.

Herb Varley, a York Hotel resident, said he fears that the new owner of his hotel will upscale the building so it is no longer affordable by low income residents.  “Where will people live when the rents go up?” he asked.

The report makes recommendations for all three levels of government, including:

  • The city should buy 10 sites a year for social housing in the DTES and stop condo development until all current DTES residents have decent housing;
  • The province should spend its $250 million Housing Endowment Fund on housing now, make rent control apply to the unit, not the person, and make “social condition” a prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Human Rights Code.
  • The federal and provincial governments should provide funds to replace 1000 SROs a year for the next 5 years with self contained social housing that current residents can afford.

The report is available at