Out of control: Record high rent in Downtown Eastside SRO hotels

Homelessness in the DTES is a humanitarian crisis. For the first time in history, the number of homeless people in the community escalated to over 1000 in 2016. 1 in 18 people is homeless in our neighbourhood while the average rent is at a record high.

On Monday, March 20, the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) released its 8th Annual Housing and Hotel Report, Out of Control: Rents and Rate of Change and in the Downtown Eastside. CCAP’s Annual Housing and Hotel Report is conducted each year to monitor rent and gentrification in the DTES. In 2016, CCAP surveyed 84 privately owned and operated single SRO hotels. Rent information was gathered from 68 of these hotels with 3,170 rooms or 95% of the rooms in all the privately owned and operated hotels.

The 2016 report found that the average lowest rent has increased to $548, leaving people on welfare with $62 or approximately $2 a day for necessities after rent is paid. CCAP found 10 SRO hotels with rents above $1,000. The average rent in these hotels was $1,100. In 2016, 510 new unaffordable units opened while only 11 units at welfare rate opened in the DTES. In Chinatown, the rate of change is event worse with a whopping and inexcusable 362 unaffordable units to an actual loss of 4 SRO units.

A press conference was held this afternoon outside the Arlington Hotel on E. Pender, an SRO hotel recently placed on the market CCAP wants the city to buy to preserve the 30 rooms.”The rate of change shows that more and more rich people are moving into the neighborhood and that there is almost no new housing for low-income people,” said Wallstam. “If the rate of change continues at the same pace the low-income community in the Downtown Eastside will be displaced and destroyed.”

CCAP Organizer, Lama Mugabo also spoke at the press conference. “Welfare rates have remained stagnant for the past 10 years, despite the galloping cost of living,” said Mugabo. “It’s highly critical that the provincial government raises the welfare rates to at least $1,500 a month to allow people on social assistance to be able to meet the cost of living.”

“In the 40 years I’ve been working in the DTES, homelessness has never been so bad,” said Jean Swanson, CCAP volunteer. “The two facts that you need to know about homelessness are that homelessness causes people to have half the life expectancy as other people and ending homelessness is cheaper than maintaining it. Yet, governments continue to churn it out with their policies.”

CCAP recommends all levels of government take immediate action to prevent homelessness from continuing to escalate in Vancouver. A few recommendations include for the Federal and Provincial Government to build 10,00 units a year of low income affordable social housing throughout BC, and for the Municipal Government to buy or lease SRO hotels to prevent them from gentrifying and pushing out low-income residents.

“Our recommendation also calls for the provincial government to raise pension rate to $1,800 and minimum wage to at least $15 a month,” said Mugabo. “The average rent in the DTES is $548 a month and this leaves only 62 to spend on transportation, food and other needs. It’s inhuman.”

For more recommendations and details, read the report, here.

View photos from the press conference, here. 

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