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.