Challenging Mayor Sullivan’s Numbers

Mayor Sullivan takes credit on his website and in speeches for the creation of 3000 new homes in Vancouver. CCAP took a closer look at his numbers and presented this at the December 12, 2007 Council meeting. Exaggerating housing gains and minimize housing losses is a typical pattern where Olympics and other hallmark events happen as these events allow governments to quickly consolidate their plans like “DTES revitalization.”

How many new units of housing that people in poverty can afford are really being added to Vancouver’s housing stock?” (Dec 12, 2007)

(An analysis by the Carnegie Community Action Project with help from our friends)

Let’s look at the Mayor’s list:

“Social Housing Projects Completed in 2007 (from the Mayor’s list)”

These include Grace Mansion (85 units), Helping Spirit Lodge (36), Triage on Fraser (30), Jackson Ave (23), and the Vivian (24). The Mayor’s list inaccurately lists Triage on Fraser as converted units. They are really new.

Total converted units completed in 2007: 168

New units include Triage on Fraser (30) and Southview Heights (57). Southview Heights is an assisted living building for seniors which previously came out of the health budget, not housing.

Total new units for low income people completed in 2007: 30

This was not on the Mayor’s list: Low income units lost in 2007 (this is not a complete list—only what CCAP is aware of):
Little Mountain (224 units, to be replaced after 2010)
Pandora (50 units, due to terrible conditions)
Phoenix Apartments (12 units closed)
334 Carrall St (20 units, people evicted for redevelopment)
Dominion Hotel (67 units, evicted for renovations)
Columbia Hotel (73 units, rent increases to $250 per week)
Marie Gomez (76 units to be demolished and replace after 2010)
Picadilly Hotel (39 units evicted due to poor conditions)
Total low income units lost in 2007: 561

Net low income units lost in 2007: 531

“Social Housing Projects Under Construction (from the Mayor’s list):”

226 units are assisted living (Beulah Gardens, 89; St. Vincents, 60; Icelandic Lodge, 77).

The Pennsylvania Hotel (44) is being renovated and is not new housing.

While the Mayor lists 200 units at Woodwards, low income people will only be able to afford 23 of the 75 family units, meaning the total for low income people at Woodwards will be 148 (including 125 units for singles).

Woodwards (148) plus Kindred Place (87) plus Triage on Hastings (92) plus the Passlin (46) equal 373 units for low income people under construction.

Total new units for low income people under construction: 373

“Social Housing Projects Funded and in Development (Mayor’s list)”

Portland on Main (80), Small Suite Demo (120), Lu’ma (30), Trio (30) will provide 260 new units, although the small suite project is only transitional because it does not provide the size of accommodation that would allow people to set down roots in the community.

Three parcels of the Olympic Village will provide 256 units of housing, but the Director of the Housing Centre has told us that there is no commitment that even 25 of these will be for core need (affordable by people on welfare). So we’ll hope that at least 25 of these units will be for people at welfare income and add that to the total of new units.

The Mayor’s list says the Union Gospel Mission project is for 133 beds, rooms and units. But only 36 of these will be for housing and those rooms are tiny transitional units.

The Mayor lists the 10 hotels bought by the province for 596 rooms. These are not new housing, and most are not suitable for permanent housing as they are still single rooms with no bathrooms. The Circle of Eagles project (17) is also a conversion.

Total new units for low income people funded and in development: 321

New social housing announcement

The city and province plan to build 1100-1200 units on 12 city-owned sites. About 600 units are to be ready by mid-2010.

Total new units of housing affordable by low income people by mid 2010 if everything goes well and there are no hold-ups:
30 completed in 2007
373 under construction
321 funded and in development
500-600 by mid 2010

Total: 1224-1324 or about 319 units per year for 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010.

Other relevant statistics:

Annual number of market low income units that could be lost based on the number lost in 2007, and not counting the impact of losing the SRA bylaw: 261
Total number of low income units that could be lost over 4 years: 1044
Number of new units needed to meet Olympic Commitments (excluding Olympic Village and hotel purchase): 3200
Number of new units per year the city’s Homeless Action Plan says we need: 800
Annual number of new units needed to meet city’s own plan in addition to those planned: 481
Amount of 2006/7 provincial budget surplus: $4.1 billion
Amount of 2007 federal budget surplus: $14 billion

Development tsunami could squeeze more into homelessness

Development tsunami could squeeze more into homelessness. Carnegie Action asks for urgent meeting with City Councillors

The Carnegie Action Project (CCAP) has asked for an urgent meeting with City Councillors.”We need to insulate the Downtown Eastside from the eco density plan,” said CCAP’s Wendy Pedersen.”The city’s own numbers show that even without greater density, condo development is almost tripling social housing and is beginning to overwhelm the low income neighbourhood and destroy our community.”The city’s Housing Centre says 557 social housing units and 1597 market units will be built in the DTES between 2005 and 2010.Only 111 of the market units are rental and the rest condos.

In addition, the city is now looking at 50 sites in the neighbourhood that could potentially accommodate condo towers.”If low income residents are pushed out of the neighbourhood,” said Pedersen, “they have to go somewhere. They tell us that if they lose their housing in the DTES they will go to alleys, Broadway and Commercial, jail, Broadway and Fraser, East Van, West Van., shelters, Surrey, New West and Burnaby. Some say they will commit suicide or die. Many say they will move to the streets.”

“Insulating the DTES from ecodensity is only the first step,” said Pedersen.”We also need to put the brakes on condo development which is taking up land needed for social housing and driving up land prices.”Already condo development in the community is almost three times what the city’s DTES Housing Plan predicted in 2005, and poor bashing of local residents by condo owners has started up again with the proposal for social housing at 1005 Station Street.”

CCAP’s letter to council members is attached.

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Jean Swanson 604 729-2380

Eek O’ Density – DTES residents give list of questions to city planners

On March 22, 2008, 60-100 DTES residents packed the Carnegie Theatre to talk about condo towers coming to the DTES. Paper and pensils were passed around the theatre and residents wrote questions about eco-density for the senior planners and put them in a box. These are the questions we didn’t have time to answer. We sent them to the planners and hope to get some answers.

1. Will the Planning Department recommend that council delete action item 12 (which names the DTES for eco-density)?

2. Why does the city reward slumlords by letting them speculate for huge profits?

3. What are the objectives to preserve Heritage Bldgs and to renovate SROs/hotels social housing (rundown)?

4. Why did city council (NPA) choose eco-density over social affordable housing?

5. Density-eco? DTES is dense with poverty and homelessness. We do not want condos. We want affordable housing for many people of low income as a PRIORITY. What is ecological about condos?

6. How would the new plan benefit the poor on the eastside?

7. What will happen to the family fabric as the building from block to block speeds up?

8. Why isn’t social housing part of eco-density?

9. Exactly how does the planning dept. think it can persuade the city to protect the low income community in the dtes?

10. Where do you want to push the poor to? And will the city help move and accommodate them?
11. We need more green space, not anymore concrete slabs.

12. Why don’t you recommend rescinding eco-density Action 12?

13. 1 for 1 replacement. What about homeless, working poor, couples, families, seniors, people with disabilities?

14. What % of your position as planning staff caters to council as opposed to the community at large?

15. Do you not think that more density (ie condos) in this area will not be over-crowding? Look at Yaletown! Do we really want to look like all those condos over there?

16. Who’s responsible for providing the amenities that DTES condo owners will need? What guarantee is there that this responsibility will be fulfilled?

17. Brent and Jessica keep mentioning the ‘tools’ they have. Re: the power they say they don’t have. Why don’t they as planners, recommending to COV, suggest checks and balances to/for developers?
Eg, if a developer does guarantee “x” (in support of housing for current DTES residents), then said developer will be allowed /get “y”. Without this, the developer will call all the shots.

18. What of the water sources needed and the recycling encouragement, garbage generated?

19. Who planned where the Olympic Athletes village is located? Convince people this isn’t a quick cover-up to gentrify this area.

20. Is it possible to keep the zoning re: the buildings not to exceed 10 stories for this area? Social housing, not condos.

21. With the working poor being displaced resulting in them receiving higher priority for the available social housing units, do you propose to amend this in a timely manner?

22. Eco-Density doesn’t go with environment natural disasters Earthquake/windstorm/ fewer green-land, setting up for failures for Vancouver. Just beautifying before 2010 obviously.

23. You have said that our neighbourhood is denser than any other part of the city. If so, why would the DTES be considered for eco-density?

24. Article 12 repudiates the 2000 Gastown Heritage Management plan which repeatedly stressed retention of the “saw-tooth” architecture style of heritage buildings in Gastown. When was it decided that this no longer matters? Why does the public realm in the DE deserve different treatment when our architecture is identical?

25. Social housing programs have long waiting lists. How are we gonna rectify the problem? Homelessness/families low income. What is happening with Storyeum?

26. Why are the most basic shelter requirements not adequately provided? Many times, the Crosswalk, Belkin House, Catholic Charities, The Beacon, the Anchor, and Union Gospel Mission have all been full in recent months, especially on Sunday nights. But also sometimes on other nights. Lots of people end up sleeping on hard chairs at the contact centre, which also becomes filled to capacity. Lots of people end up outside on nights which don’t seem to meet the city’s criteria for extreme weather but seem rather cold and wet to those left outside.

26. Relaxation of building height shall be applied to social housing and seniors housing only to curb the escalating land costs in our eastside neighbourhood now. God bless the poor people.

27. It is possible for developers to place 25% of the units in their project for social housing, 2 bedroom homes for families. Why not?

28. What do you plan to do with shelters? We need more.

29. Too much rezoning is not only hurting the poor, but many small businesses in Gastown, dtes. What are your thoughts/plans on these matters?

30. The downtown eastside is too dense already. Cease and desist.

31. What’s gonna happen to CRAB beach? Are you gonna take over that too? Keep your buildings out of our neighbourhood.

32. Cost of reducing poverty: priceless.

33. Is pay in lieu still operating to eliminate social housing projects? We are supposed to have some social housing.

34. I’m roger. I’ve lived 60 years of my life in the eastside, when the Woodwards closed down all Fields, Fedcos, Woolworths, all closed so I see all the devastation of living quarters have gone from good to the worst. From Cambie and Hastings to Main and Hastings, you can see the devastation of all this area.

Eek O’Density Crowd Packs Theatre

On March 20th about 60 people without homes, who live in hotels and in social housing packed into the Carnegie Theatre to discuss condo towers and zoning changes in the DTES with city hall Planning Department staff, Brent Toderian (Senior Planner), Jessica Chen (DTES Planner) and Ben Johnson (Housing Centre). City plans for eco-density can be viewed here.

The Carnegie Action Project is really concerned about a proposal to let developers build dense condo towers or blocks on “signature sites” in Chinatown, Gastown and on Hastings Street. The staff at city hall have a lot of power. They could put forward amazing progressive recommendations to the elected mayor and council to be passed or rejected. In the past we have not always been listened to, but we have examples to show that in some cases we were. Lobbying staff is important but also politicians—staff usually won’t put forth anything that they anticipate politicians will disagree with.

We hope the collective wisdom and concerns of those attending (we represent 10-12,000 of the DTES population) will influence the city staff as they help council decide the fate of our hood. We don’t have the same kind of influence that Developers have. It’s no surprise that developers give their dough $$$ to City politicians because it’s the City that controls land use and the ability of land-owners to make more money. Those of us in the theatre last Thursday don’t have any money, but we outnumber developers and our need is greater.

Each person in the theatre on Thursday had a chance to speak about their concerns. Also, most people wrote a question down for City Staff and these questions were drawn out of a box for the planners to answer. Here is how the planners answered some of the questions:

CCAP has heard developers and others say that the DTES could be home to 10 40 storey, mostly condo towers. Brent Toderian, the head planner told our Town Hall meeting that “The Planning Department has not proposed and won’t, 10, 40 story towers.”

 

 

 

 

Later Toderian added, “We focus on density, not height.” None of this means that we should relax about having more condos in our ‘hood without social housing. Developers will still be pushing council for bigger and bigger condo buildings. And you don’t have to have towers; the city could simply increase density (allow more square feet of building) and keep a height limit.
Toderian replied to a question about condo towers increasing land prices and creating homelessness. He said, “You potentially increase the assumed value of the land (with condo towers). We’re seeing that already. I don’t know if that causes homelessness directly. It could be offset by building social housing.” While that is true, right now no level of government is building enough social housing to meet the need.

We were also concerned that if condos start to overwhelm the neighbourhood, business will start coming with services for the rich, like the Nestors grocery store at Woodwards. Toderian said, “I know what you’re nervous about, gradually creating an environment and culture to push out residents.”
DTES planner Jessica Chen acknowledged what people at our meeting were saying. “We heard the fear: do we have the tools to actually achieve “one for one replacement of SRO’s”?
Could rezoning create a “march of towers down Hastings? I share that fear,” said Toderian.

In general, the planners seemed to hear some of our concerns but it remains to be seen if they will make strong recommendations to council to save our community for low income residents.
There were many more questions collected in the box and those will be typed up and sent to city staff. We hope to get some more answers and then publish more in the next newsletter insert.

City Council will decide what to do with action item number 12 for eek o-density, which could allow towers in the DTES. Some of us should attend council to witness their decision making. Contact Wendy at CCAP if you are interested to go. Notes from this meeting are avail at our office too.

Originally published in Carnegie Newsletter, April 1, 2008