Don’t Displace the Soul of Vancouver

Attitudes about gentrification seem to be getting really polarized. In the DTES low income people can feel their community assets slipping away. These are the assets Wendy and I wrote about in our CCAP vision and mapping project: things like a feeling of belonging, of comfort, of not being judged, of being in a place where you can exist and socialize without money, of valuing caring, empathy, providing sanctuary for people who aren’t welcome in other places, empathizing with those who are suffering—this feeling that its all slipping away has sparked some people in the community to picket the Pigdin restaurant as a symbol of gentrification.

I remember coming here to speak on the DTES Housing Plan as a delegation back in 2005 and knowing it wasn’t everything we needed but being comforted by the no displacement part. Continue reading

The lesson from Woodward’s is that condos in Chinatown are a low-income extinguishment project

I’m speaking against the rezoning application

I want to acknowledge the unceded territory of the Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam and Squamish nations. In 1913 city council passed a bylaw outlawing “Indian camps” in the city limits and the major Musqueam village Snauq was displaced by barge. No doubt a lot of the language used to justify the displacement of Snauq exactly 100 years ago is deja vu’d in the coming great displacement of our time, what Clr. Jang called the “deliberate policy of our council to make [the DTES] a mixed community”. And no doubt that language of justification was used in council chambers, in the media, and at the respectable beer parlours or whatever passed for twitter in those days, all enforcing eachother into a chorus so loud it appeared to be consensus and so ubiquitous it appeared to be true. But they were wrong; with the benefit of 100-years of hindsight and different social consensuses and truths we can see that now.

But isn’t that hyperbole? It’s one thing to displace an entire Musqueam village by decree to engineer white settlement, it’s another to revitalize the DTES. Whether that’s true or not hinges on the question of what SOCIAL MIX is. Continue reading

Stop displacement in Chinatown! Speak out at 611 Main St condo rezoning, Thurs Feb 21

Following the Historic Area Height Review for Chinatown passed at City Council in 2011 there has been an onslaught of condo development proposed and approved along and around the Main Street corridor. The 17-storey condo tower proposal at 611 Main is the first really major development. It could have terrible gentrifying effects on the low-income housing and assets surrounding blocks.

Come to city hall to speak out against this rezoning proposal and demand council protect the existing low-income community.

To sign up to speak call or email the city clerk and leave your name and contact information publichearing@vancouver.ca  604.829.4238

For more information read Jean’s article City ignoring displacement of low-income residents in Chinatown

Social mix has displaced low-income people at Woodward’s (Map and analysis)

woodward's housing losses

Download a printable pdf of this Woodward’s area map here: 2005-2012_Woodwards map of hotel gentrification

Social mix has displaced low-income people at Woodward’s
(Excerpt from CCAP’s 2012 hotel report. Download here and view online here)

Before Woodward’s and accompanying condos were built the western section of the Downtown Eastside was a majority-low-income area. In the 2006 census the highest percentage low-income population area of the Downtown Eastside was Victory Square; with over 70% low-income residents.

When Woodward’s condos were built the City called them the “social mix” future of development for the Downtown Eastside. “Social mix” is a euphemism for diluting the low-income community in the Downtown Eastside with more higher-income people. Woodward’s was the city’s model social-mix project because the plan included expensive condos, family housing with some subsidies, and welfare-rate social housing. It was also planned to have both higher-end retail shops and low-income community space too.

What has social mix meant for the low-income community?
The redeveloped Woodward’s building was opened in 2009 and after three-years there is some evidence available about the real effects of this project and what social mix means for the Downtown Eastside low-income community.

  1. Social mix is welfare for the rich. To incentivize London Drugs and Nester’s Market to open in Woodward’s the City gifted them ten-year tax holidays. Council also awarded the condo developers an unprecedented height increase to build a tower for condo buyers separate from the social housing.
  2. Social mix is a poor-bashing philosophy. New residences exclude the poor with separate entrances and amenities. New businesses exclude low-income residents by price and culture. Security guards and higher-income shoppers and residents treat them with scorn. The unique sense of belonging low-income DTES residents have has been eroded in the Woodward’s area.
  3. Social mix covers for tax cuts. As the Federal and Provincial government have cut taxes and social housing programs City Hall seeks to use Community Benefit Agreements in the name of social mix to squeeze some social housing crumbs out of condo developments, but:
  4. Social mix destroys more low-income housing than it creates. Although Woodward’s includes 125 units of welfare-rate social housing the climate of investment and gentrification it produced destroyed at least 404 privately owned SRO hotel rooms.

The low-income community is now facing liquidation in Chinatown
Chinatown is home to the second largest concentration of privately owned SRO hotels still renting to low-income people. (See the map tracking hotel rents here)

There are currently 561 condo units planned and proposed for the Chinatown-south area. Like at Woodward’s these condos were incentivized by City Hall with major height increases passed at council in 2011. Also, like at Woodward’s, retail shops are being incentivized with storefront and facade grants. But unlike Woodward’s there is almost no social housing part of these developments; only 11 units at welfare-rate overall.

Map of Downtown Eastside gentrification by low-income housing losses

Maps of hotel losses & gentrification

The maps of gentrified SRO hotels included in this report show that the great majority of SRO hotels are unaffordable and insecure for low-income people. However, most of these hotels are still homes to thousands of low-income people. Many of the buildings coded red (where the lowest rent is over $425) are still functionally low-income housing. But those coded red and crossed out are no longer functionally low-income peoples’ housing. Concentrated in condo-ified and gentrified areas of the DTES, these hotels are now housing students and workers with some housing choices and excluding low-income people on welfare and pension.

It is also important to notice the leased buildings coded purple. Some of these buildings (Wonder, Palace, Colonial) were leased and managed by non-profits when this survey was conducted and are now back in private hands. These are not secure low-income housing.

2012 DTES hotel gentrification_MAP_WEB_FULL

Download the printable pdf of the map (11X17) here