“A-wake”: A Procession STOP CONCORD PACIFIC’S “DISCOVERY” OF THE DTES

Saturday July 5th – Meet at 2 pm
Pigeon Park (Hastings and Carrall)
EVERYONE WELCOME! COME OUT!
Concord Pacific \

58 West Hastings is the site of a new condominium development by Concord Pacific. They are “discovering and developing” the DTES just like colonizers. New luxury condos will replace low-income housing and more poor people will be displaced and homeless.

There are over 1500 market housing units planned for the DTES in the years leading upto the 2010 Olympics, while around 1000 units of low-income housing have been lost in the DTES due to closures, rent increases, and slow conversions including for tourist use. According to the City’s own reports, market housing is currently being built at a rate of 3 units to every 1 unit of social housing in the DTES.

We demand no displacement, no evictions, and a moratorium on condo development. Condo construction means community destruction.

Organized by an ad-hoc group of DTES residents along with Carnegie Community Action Project, Vancour Area Network of Drug Users, DTES Women Center Power of Women Project, Streams of Justice, Pivot Legal Society, DTES Neighbourhood House, Citywide Housing Coalition, and others.

For information contact us at DEWC at 778 885 0040.

Visit http://www.streamsofjustice.org for updates.

* BACKGROUND ON THE RECENT CAMPAIGN AGAINST CONCORD PACIFIC *

Professor of Urban Studies speech at Concord Development Permit Hearing

 

Further Comments from the Development Permit Board Hearing on 58 West Hastings, June 23, 2008

On June 23, 2008 about 30 Downtown Eastside residents and friends descended on City Hall to tell the Development Permit Board to stop the Concord Pacific proposal for 154 condos in their community. The Carnegie Community Action Project had already collected and sent 201 letters opposing the proposal to the board and city councilors.

First, city staff outlined the project, trying to anticipate every argument they thought we would bring. Jill Davidson from the city’s Housing Centre assured the board that the city’s policy of replacing each SRO unit with a new unit of social housing is being met, using statistics that counted provincially owned SROs as replacements for SROS and ignoring the fact that many hotels are inaccessible to low income people because of high rents, daily/weekly and student only rentals.

Then about 30 people spoke. Every speaker asked the board to turn down the proposal.

Here’s what some of the them said:

Wendy Pedersen, CCAP organizer: “We need some indication that there is a future here for low income people. Otherwise condos at 58 are like a slap in the face. It is so disrespectful to build half million dollar homes for the rich when people are dying in the streets.”

“I understand that many people want our community to change. We want change too. But we want healthy change, not the dysfunctional change where one group of people takes over …and people get pushed around and pushed out.”

Wendy quoted the Director of the city’s Housing Center, Cameron Gray: “The pace of development is like a hurricane and is going twice as fast as the DTES Housing Plan predicted.”

“Neighbourhood change should not be driven by the market. It should be driven by a plan.”

Joe LeBlanc a DTES resident recently elected to the Carnegie Board: “I’ve traveled all over and the support I’ve received in the DTES has made a huge difference in my life….We have to stop the condos at this point and build a lot of social housing.”

Lora Constantinescue lives in Grandview: “The DTES is a community where I am inspired…. It’s undeniable that homeless people need homes….Wealthy people are disrespectfully surging through the community.”

Glyn Shepard lives on Keefer St.: “We live in the 400 block Keefer deliberately because of the people who are our neighbourbors, because of the community….Hold the word community in your mind in all the things you do.”

Jean Swanson of CCAP: “SROs are not replacements for SROs….If you allow condos to take up land and push up prices in the DTES, hotels will push out more low income people who will become homeless on the street. This is more important that cornices, or “variability and syncopations of the retail elevation.”

Matthew Matthew, president of the Carnegie Centre Community Association: “people with HIV can get medication for free that costs several thousand dollars a month, but they can’t get housing….It appears that money speaks louder than all the voices here….Every unit of new market housing is more than just something that’s not for us. It means our shops and servies will disappear because they’ll serve the new people….Where will we go to? Will we be just some footnote somewhere?”

Harsha Wallia, Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre: “The reality of 1 for 1 replacement is a myth….About 1200 units have been lost since 2003. The city is selecting and fudging figures to serve interests of corporate developers like Concord Pacific…Every single person in this room is committed to fighting these condo’s. Either you do the right thing or take on the community.”

Rev. Mother Emily Smith, Anglican Church: “The Anglican Church is not known as a hotbed of radicals….When you get church ladies mad, you’re in trouble….Greed is not a family value to uphold. We have a responsibility to act with love, compassion and justice, and not for profit.”

Dave Diewert works with Streams of Justice: “People can do evil without intent….People in the DTES are about to be rendered superfluous to developer’s ambitions. We need something better. People are dying because they have no housing.”

Father Mathew Johnson of St. James Anglican Church: “58 W. Hastings has become a potent symbot for the DTES, a symbol of a system that works for affluence.”

Elvin Wylie, an assistant professor of Geography at UBC: “We need rate of change management tools.”

Mike Wartman, a DTES condo owner: “We already have a community. What we need are homes. Let’s not bring other people in until we take care of people who are here.”

Ayisha Faruk, CCAP volunteer: From a Third workd country’s perspective, this is a damn shame….The community doesn’t want crumbs that fall from the devlopers table. The rich are getting richer and the poor are watching.”

Mike Powar, UBC student: “People effectively deconstructed all the arguments (for the proposal) on every front. How much role will the people play? The project has no grounds to continue.”

Jay Black, city worker: “Its time to slow everything down…Allow residents to have a say in visioning and creating a community. Concord Pacific, how about giving something back for a change? Why not make it all social housing?”

Muriel Williams, DTES resident: “I pray you really hear or maybe have some backbone, and if you don’t, maybe you’ll have trouble sleeping.”

Stephen Rathjen, “recovering yuppie” from Kitsilano who volunteers at Union Gospel Mission: “I still buy Starbucks….I used to go thru the DTES on the bus and hope no one got on. I didn’t want to see it, to know it. All I wanted to think was ‘those people need to get jobs.’….Something else is going on. You can’t put it in statistics. The lives that have put people there. Residential school abuse, foster child abuse, evictions… All I do is hand out coffee. Sometimes people come in in the morning and are so blue they can’t put the coffee to their mouth….These groups are just bandaids…. In this room today there’s a choice that can affect these people and not be just a bandaid….What needs to be said to you guys to get you to understand that this doesn’t make sense?”

At the end the board approved the proposal, making two small “considerations” as a result of the opposition. A consideration is not a requirement. One consideration was “that staff and Concord Pacific work to educate and inform prospective purchasers of the goal of supporting and retaining low income housing in the DTES. The other was, “That the applicants and staff continue to consult with the DTES community prior to the release of the permit.”

Did we win anything, even though the proposal will go ahead? A few more people on the Development Permit Board got a lesson on how the DTES is a real community. The city and Concord Pacific were warned that the DTES will fight more condos if the needs of existing residents are not met. City staff had to deal with more pressure for them to allow DTES residents to create their own vision and for staff to create mechanisms to control the rate of change in the area, as well as pressure to get more social housing built. Concord may try throwing a few crumbs to the community to get us to back off.

“We don’t want crumbs,” said Pedersen. “We want Concord and other developers to back off until we have a proper community vision and until the city is willing to control the rate of change effectively, and build more housing.” Community members are invited to a meeting today at 2 pm at VANDU to plan a protest against the developer.

Development Permit Board June 23, 2008, Jean Swanson’s speach

When you are considering this today, urge you to expand you role as broadly as you can ; to realize that we have a huge homeless problem in Van and that building expensive condos in the dtes is taking up land that could be used for social housing, increasing land values and making desperately needed social housing less likely, and converting the shops and services in the neighbourhood to serve the well-off, not current residents.

Notification letter: “The Board will also need to consider City bylaw regulations, and council-adopted policies and guidelines.”

Assume that would include the DTES HP

I want to deal with 3 parts of the dtes HP:

One for One: The HC report claims that SROs are being replaced one for one in the dtes. The only way they can say this is by including the sros that the province bought. Ok. Its good that the province bought them but sros are not replacements for sros. They are still one tiny room with a bathroom down the hall and no kitchen. They are still seismic disasters waiting to happen. They don’t provide permanent, community building type of housing.

Secondly, the HC report ignores soft conversions. Soft conversions happen when hotels that house low income people go upscale. This week a report is going to council that says the Columbia Hotel, which used to house low income residents, now has only 29 permanent residents for its 60 or so rooms, and is renting for $800 to $1000 a month, while a person on welfare gets $610 in total. Other hotels are renting daily/weekly like this. CCAP’s hotel survey found 889 rooms, in addition, that rent for over $425 a month and are not affordable to people on welfare. Some hotels rent only to students.

The latest homeless count said that there are about 3000 homeless people in the region. If you allow condos to take up land and push up prices in the dtes, those hotels are going to be emptying out even more low income people who will become homeless on the st. This is more important than cornices, or building massing, or “variability and syncopations of the retail elevation.” This is why these condos at 58 W. Hastings will not be “a great benefit to the neighbourhood.”

Affordability: The dtes HP says at least 17 times that new development should be affordable and affordable rental. I don’t know what definition you’re using for affordable. But here’s a reasonable one. The average wage for a Canadian worker in 2008 was about $42,000 a year, about twice the poverty line for a single person. How about affordable, as opposed to low income, being something that a person earning between the poverty line of $21,000 and the average wage of $42,000 can afford at 30% of income. That means we need a range of rents of around $525 to $1050 per month to be affordable. In this development we’re dealing with small suites so its doubtful if a working couple would occupy them. According to pro forma’s that we’ve seen, it would cost $1100 a month to pay for a 400 sf unit in the dtes. So these units are not going to be affordable by the sales and service woerkes in the the DT (average $28,000), or even by the average business, financial and administrative worker ($40,000).

Pace: The DTES HP says at least 7 times that the rate of change should be monitored and at least 7 times that mecnahisms to control the rate of change should be developed. At least once it says “a key implementation piece in the hP is the development of mednanisms to manage the rate of change…(p6). Last spring the HC produce a report which shows that the real rate of change, not the one that counts sros as replacements for sros and ignores conversion, but the real rate of change is about 3 new market housing units being build to 1 new social housing unit. The hp says at least 6 times that the dtes should be a primarily low income community. If 3 condos are built for every one social housing unit, this is not going to happen. We need those rate of change mechanisms now and one of them is for you to just say no to this development—or you could sit down with the developer and work on a way for him to turn it into social housing.

The Panel thinks this development would be of great benefit to the neighbourhood. This development is an insult to the neighbourhood. We have a real community in the DTES where people feel comfortable, say hi on the street, need the services, and yes some of them are desperately poor and sick.

 

DPB Hearing for 58 West Hastings: Elvin’s speech

The Word is No – Comments on the Development Permit Application for 58 West Hastings Street

Elvin Wyly

Chair, Urban Studies Program
Department of Geography
University of British Columbia

June 23, 2008

Honorable Chair and Members of the Development Permit Board, thank you for the opportunity to comment on this application.  My name is Elvin Wyly.  I’m an Associate Professor of Geography and Urban Studies at UBC.  I study housing and neighborhood change.

The staff report on this application is a fascinating document.  In response to the overwhelming low-income community opposition in the written comments, the staff report observes that “Many of the issues raised relate to issues broader than this particular development application,”[1] and “staff note that there is no obligation on any individual developer to provide non-market housing.”[2] The implication is that we should evaluate this application on its own merits, in isolation.  And yet many pages in the staff report are devoted to a careful, selective reading of the evidence to argue that this application is entirely consistent with existing policies on 1:1 replacement and development mix.  We are also told that “Affordability continues to be an issue faced by many Vancouver residents, both renters and owners,”[3] and that addressing the affordability crisis must include “the addition of housing stock.  Price is a function of supply and demand and restructuring supply of housing when there is an increase in demand will result in an increase in prices.  Restricting supply only exacerbates affordability.”[4]

So Milton Friedman has come to haunt 58 West Hastings, and to promote a fundamentally flawed theory of urban housing markets.  As you consider this application, take note of two serious contradictions.

First, added supply is not easing affordability.  Quite the opposite.  Among the many different housing types monitored by Royal LePage, the fastest Vancouver price increases over the last five years have been in those housing types where supply has increased the fastest:  prices rose 143 percent between 2002 and 2007 for standard condos on the east side, 138 percent for eastside luxury condos, and 128 percent for westside standard condos.[5] Increasing supply drove prices higher rather than easing affordability.  This is easy to understand if we remember that housing is not just supply and demand for people who need a place to live, but supply and demand for those who are mainly interested in capital gains.

Second, affordability may indeed be an issue faced by many Vancouver residents, both renters and owners.  But by definition, affordability matters most for those who cannot afford.  Owners at least have security of tenure and a chance for capital gains.  Renters, especially low-income renters, have neither.  The Downtown Eastside is primarily a low-income community, and a community of renters.  Renters, at least for now, still outnumber owners by nearly ten to one in this census tract, and four-fifths of the households are single-person households; their median income is only a little more than ten thousand dollars a year.[6] The possibility that some of the units in this development will be “mid-market” rentals is used to suggest that this project will ease affordability.  But the only way to meet the definition of affordability for the median resident of this neighborhood is to provide units renting for no more than $258 per month.  Adding market-rate condominiums to this neighborhood will not ease affordability problems.

And we should not forget that anyone who buys land or housing in this kind of neighborhood has no interest in affordability.  For the low-income renter, high prices present true hardship.  For the owner, rising prices are called capital gain.  With no trace of irony, owners routinely talk about “equity.”  The last thing they want is to see those prices reduced to “affordable” levels.

The Downtown Eastside is in the eye of Hurricane Condominia.  The levees are about to break.  The region’s last concentration of truly affordable housing is at risk.  The affordability crisis is multidimensional, and we do need the many long-term solutions described in the staff report.  But approval of this application is not what we need.  We need social housing, and we need a pause to allow a genuine community vision that respects the low-income residents.  We also need what the staff promises for later this year — the development of what are called “rate of change management tools.”  That’s a mouthful — seven syllables.  The most powerful rate of change management tool has just one syllable, and it can be used right now.  It is pronounced like this:  No.


[1] City of Vancouver, Community Services Group (2008).  Development Permit Staff Committee Report, 58 West Hastings Street (Complete Application), DE411789.  May 21.  Vancouver:  City of Vancouver, p. 11.

[2] City of Vancouver, Committee Report, p. 9.

[3] City of Vancouver, Committee Report, p. 13.

[4] City of Vancouver, Committee Report, p. 13.

[5] Royal LePage (2008).  House Pricing Historical Database.  Don Mills, ON:  Royal LePage Real Estate Services.  http://www.royallepage.ca, last accessed June 23.  Figures and comparisons refer to October 2002 and October 2007 prices for standard condominium apartment, luxury condominium, detached bungalow, standard two-storey, executive detached two-storey, senior executive, and standard townhouse.

[6] Statistics Canada (2008).  Census Tract Profile, 2006 Census.  Tract 59.06.  Ottawa:  Statistics Canada.  http://www.statcan.ca, last accessed June 23.

CCAP response to city staff report “Housing Stock in the DTES, 2003-2008″ (June 9, 2008)

Summary of what city says: Basically the staff think that the goal of replacing SRO’s one for one with a good unit of non market housing is being met.  They admit that market housing is proceeding more quickly than envisioned by the DTES Housing Plan but don’t think that is a problem.

What’s wrong with the report? There are three major problems with the report:

  1. Staff include provincially owned hotels as new non market housing;
  2. They ignore soft conversions of SRO’s (conversions due to rent increases, student only use, daily/weekly rental, etc);
  3. They ignore the DTES Housing Plan’s repeated assurances that new market housing should be affordable.

Provincially owned hotels included as new non market housing: Almost 800 rooms are in this category.  CCAP considers that these hotels are safe from closure, hopefully better managed and upgraded, and rented at welfare rates, which is good.  But they are not additional housing since most were full when purchased.  And they are not adequate housing because the rooms are small and do not have bathroom and kitchen facilities or seismic safety.  So it is just confusing and misleading for the city to first subtract them from the list of replacement SROs and then add them back in.  The only thing new about them is their owner (the government).

Soft conversions ignored: The City’s figures deal only with buildings that have physically closed.  It does not count the number of units that have become unavailable to low income residents because of high rents (889 rooms rent for over $425 according to CCAP’s hotel survey), student only requirements (at least 39 rooms according to CCAP), and daily-weekly rental (unknown, but could legally be about 400 and illegally might be more).

No mention of affordable market housing: The DTES Housing Plan mentions at least 17 times that new market housing in the community should be affordable and affordable rental.  The staff report ignores this but does report that only 182 of the planned 1993 market units are rental, with the rest being condos, which are not “affordable,” although we need a definition of this.

What’s the impact of this misleading report?  While the actual numbers used in the report may be accurate, the report creates the impression that the DTES housing situation is ok.

In fact, new, expensive (not affordable) market housing is outstripping new social housing by a ratio of 3 to 1 and threatening the low income nature of the community and its services for low income people.

In fact, at the current rate that new social housing is being built in the DTES, folks will have to continue to live in deplorable SROs for another 48 years.

In fact, as residential hotels increase rents, turn to student only tenants (with Woodwards housing SFU), and rent out more rooms on a daily/weekly basis (a grave danger with the Olympics), the number of low income DTES residents who are pushed into homelessness could continue to escalate.

In addition, the report stops at the end of 2010.  To our knowledge there is only one more social housing building on Abbott St. scheduled to be built with about 100 units.  Now is the time to be buying land so that more social housing, with a 2-3 year building time, can come on stream in future years.

Coles Notes – Downtown Eastside Housing Plan (2005)

The DTES Housing Plan is strong about the pace of development in the DTES.

It says at least 7 times that the rate of change should be monitored and at least 4 times that the community should be involved in monitoring the rate of change. HP says the city will report on development activity every month (p. 69)

It says at least 7 times that mechanisms to control the rate of change should be developed and at least once that these mechanisms are key to controlling the rate of change. “A key implementation piece in the HP is the development of mechanisms to manage the rate of change in the DTES…” (P. 6)

It says that new market and social housing should proceed at a similar pace at least 3 times.

We do have one sort of monitoring report released earlier this year. The one that said 1597 market units were planned or built between 2005 and 2010 (111 of them rental) and 557 new social housing units planned for same period). This report clearly indicates that new market and social housing are not proceeding at a similar pace. CCAP has been begging for mechanisms and been put off by Planning Dept and council.

The HP is also strong about wanting new development to be affordable and affordable rental, which is mentioned 17 times.

It also says at least 6 times that the DTES should be a primarily low income community and more than 4 times that there should be no displacement of current residents.

The HP also says that the number of units for low income people will remain constant over time at 10,000 (p3).

It says, P. 5, that the total market housing is expected to almost double in 10 years (2005 to 2015) and be 1/3 of the total housing stock (4000 units). We have 3850 market units built or in process now counting 58 W. Hastings.

The HP only wants about 100 new soc. housing units in the DTES per year (p. 6) and predicts that market housing will increase by 100-120 units per year over the next 20 years (p. 19).

HP wants 30-40 more low income singles units/yr in DT south and 30-50/yr more in rest of city.

HP says there are about 1000 units of privately owned rental housing in the DTES (p37) and that 40% of condo units in area are rented (p39).

Some good pages to quote:

p. 18:  “Development of new mkt housing and low income housing must proceed together for dtes to be sustainable.”

p. 18: “If …market housing surges ahead, the ability to replace sro’s 1 for 1…may be compromised as sites develop and land prices increase.”

p. 83:  social housing capacity:  there is a capacity in the dtes to build 9500 social housing units of 500 sf.

P. 70:  affordability should be emphasized; they predict a near doubling of market housing over the next 10 years to one quarter of total stock.

p. 70 recommends community advisory cttee for feedback on development proposals in light of community interests; p. 67 has terms of ref for community advisory body–