No place to go: Losing affordable housing and community
CCAP has released its 2013 Hotel and Housing report. Click here for the full report.
Seven hundred and thirty-one homeless people live in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) according to the City of Vancouver.(2) Approximately 5000 more live on the edge of homelessness in tiny Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotel rooms, with no private kitchen or bathroom, and often poor management, mice, rats, cockroaches and bedbugs. Most of these people rely on welfare and basic pension and desperately need new self contained social housing.
This year’s Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) hotel and housing report found that SROs in the DTES are more expensive than ever and that fewer still are available to low-income individuals looking for rooms.
Increasingly, residents looking for rooms find new forms of discrimination instead. Many hotel owners are attempting to get rid of current low-income tenants so they can renovate rooms and raise rents to the highest rate the market will allow. This means these rooms are unavailable to many on welfare, disability and basic pension. These “improved” buildings tend to cater to students and workers, advertise online only, and have intensive screening processes designed to filter out low-income individuals.
Because, above all else, cost determines low-income tenants’ access to these spaces, every year CCAP surveys the privately owned and run SRO hotels in the DTES to track the number of hotel rooms that are affordable to low-income people. CCAP’s sixth annual (2013) survey of privately owned and run hotels found:
• Vacancies are minimal and no rooms are renting for the welfare shelter rate of $375;
• Last year’s average hotel rent was $452 per month and this year’s average rent is $469 per month. These figures are based on the lowest rent found in each hotel;
• This year alone, at least 236 more rooms were lost to low income people because their lowest rents increased to $425 or higher;
• Fourteen hotels, with 614 rooms, rent all their rooms at $500 or more;
• Along with higher rents, other barriers are preventing low-income people from renting hotel rooms. These include background checks, reference forms, online only advertising, and requirements for an explanation as to why applicants would be selected to live in the building;
• A number of hotels allow sharing but charge as much as $375 extra when two people share a tiny room;
• New social housing construction is still totally failing to keep pace with hotel room losses. While over 200 SRO rooms were lost to higher rents this year, a mere 8 units of new self contained social housing at welfare rate opened.