MEDIA RELEASE: Development Fever Threatens the Future of Vancouver’s Chinatown. Chinatown community group calls for a temporary moratorium on market development to protect Chinatown
Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territories, January 15, 2015 – The Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) has started a petition campaign, calling on the City of Vancouver to immediately place a moratorium on all new market development projects in Chinatown until there is comprehensive community consultation and clear policies to protect the future of Vancouver’s Chinatown.
“We need clear binding policies that will protect and preserve Vancouver’s Chinatown because the current development situation and transformation of the neighbourhood threaten to wipe Chinatown out,” said CCAP’s King-mong Chan, who facilitates CCAP’s Chinatown Planning Group, the group that started the petition campaign. “We want Chinatown to be strong and revitalized but at present we are very concerned because instead we are seeing the loss of Chinatown’s distinct character as well as its low-income housing being threatened as land values and property taxes continue to rise as a result of the development fever.”
Wilson Liang, a Downtown Eastside resident and a member of the Chinatown Planning Group, fears for the future of Chinatown. “If Chinatown continues to develop like this, Chinatown won’t be Chinatown anymore,” said Liang. “Chinatown’s history will be forgotten and the heritage and cultural assets will all be gone. Chinatown will just become another Gastown or Yaletown. That’s why we need a temporary moratorium, to put in place policies to prevent that from happening.”
Ivy Su, another Downtown Eastside resident and group member echoed the same concerns. “Chinatown is very important. My friends and I always say, ‘let’s go to Chinatown to buy groceries’ but we are worried that in the future there won’t even be a Chinatown for us to go to,” Su said through an interpreter. “Right now at my age, I can travel outside Chinatown to places like on Victoria Dr. or even to Richmond but when we are older and not as mobile, where will we go to buy groceries if there isn’t a Chinatown? Or where we will go to see a doctor? What about the elders living in Chinatown right now? Where will they go?”
In addition to demanding for a temporary moratorium on market development, the petition also asks the City of Vancouver to create inclusionary zoning policy to require that at least 50% of all new housing built in Chinatown are developed as social housing and to define social housing in Chinatown to mean housing in which all units are rented at rates no higher than $375/month (for singles).
“Including the project at 219 E Georgia St. completed last year and the proposed developments in Chinatown, the neighbourhood is looking at 778 new units of unaffordable housing and only 11 units of affordable housing,” said Wilson Liang. “That’s a ratio of almost 71:1. The Chinese Downtown Eastside-Chinatown residents at our Town Hall meetings, many of them seniors, want to see a ratio of 1:1.”
“When we talk about ‘affordable housing,’ our group believes that singles who can only afford $375 a month should be able to afford ‘social housing,’ ” continued Liang. “Currently according to the Zoning & Development by-law, in Chinatown, the only requirement is that the rents do not exceed the BC Housing Income Limits for 30% of the ‘social housing’ units, which is approximately $850 a month in Chinatown for singles. That’s not affordable for a lot of people.”
“While our group is calling for all three points to be put in place, people signing the petition circle which points, if not all three, that they support,” explained King-mong Chan. “Our primary call is for a moratorium on market development in Chinatown. The second and third points are policies we want to see in place for the low-income community of Chinatown, following the moratorium.”
Over the next few weeks, CCAP will continue to collect signatures on the streets of Downtown Eastside and Chinatown. At present, over 200 people, English-speaking and Chinese-speaking, have already signed the paper petition. The online petition calling for a moratorium on all new market development started collecting signatures today and can be found at http://bit.ly/unite4chinatown.