Homeless Count Reveals Escalating Housing Crisis in Vancouver

News Release

– For Immediate Release –

Homeless Count Reveals Escalating Housing Crisis in Vancouver

“Renovictions” from SROs and failure to build social housing behind increase in homelessness

Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territories, April 23, 2014 – The Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) is calling on all three levels of government to take action to eliminate homelessness in Vancouver.

“We are disappointed but not surprised that the numbers in this year’s homelessness count are so high”, said CCAP’s King-mong Chan. “The City has not taken action to protect low-income housing, the province has failed to build the social housing we desperately need and the federal government has all but divested from low-income housing.”

CCAP points to the housing crisis in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) as a reason behind escalating homelessness in Vancouver.

“Single Room Occupancy (SRO) Hotels are the last stop before homeless for thousands of people in the city and most are located in the DTES. We’ve been tracking rising hotel rents in the neighbourhood for six years”, continued Chan. “Our 2013 study showed that DTES residents have to pay more of their limited income for an SRO room in despicable condition if they want to remain housed in their neighbourhood.

CCAP’s 2013 study, which was released in February, indicated that at least 236 units were lost to low-income people due to rent increases. Over 600 rooms were renting for $500 or more, which is completely out of the reach of people on welfare, disability or basic pension. With dozens of evictions from two more hotels already recorded in 2014 and several other buildings listed for sale, next year’s report already looks dismal.

“The result of inaction is a tidal wave of low-income people that are now being ‘renovicted’ and displaced,” said CCAP’s Tamara Herman. “The SROs that used to be low-income housing are now being marketed for students, artists and others with higher incomes. Because of the critical shortages of social housing, there is simply nowhere left for low-income people to go.”

CCAP argued for more social housing and stronger controls on rising rents in SROs during the DTES Local Area Planning Process. Instead, most new housing will be too expensive for low-income people and no protection will be put in place for low-income residents facing renovictions from SROs.

“The housing crisis in Vancouver is engineered”, stated Herman. “But it can also be solved. This year’s homeless count shows that the Mayor’s election promise to reduce homelessness can’t be met without stronger action. We call on the City and the province to work together and put in place an effective rent control program for privately-owned SROs. We are demanding that the City, the province and the federal government to build 5,000 new units of self-contained social housing in the DTES.”

The CCAP 2013 Hotel and Housing report is available online at http://ccapvancouver.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/ccap-hotel-and-housing-report-2013.pdf

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Tamara Herman, Coordinator, Carnegie Community Action Project – tamaraccap@gmail.com

King-mong Chan, Organizer/Researcher, Carnegie Community Action Project -kingmong_chan@hotmail.com