Tuesday Morning Paragraph – This Area is a Stronghold


Carnegie Community Action Project

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dear Mayor & Council,

Why should we preserve the Downtown Eastside as a low-income community?

This area is like a stronghold

These are notes from CCAP mapping and visioning sessions recorded in 2008-2009.

“This area is like a stronghold. It’s a place that even though you are backed in you are completely safe. It’s like a last stand and you know who you are.”

“Here you don’t have to justify who you are.”

“There’s a lack of judg(ing) and a strong sense of loyalty.”

“I don’t feel stared at.”

“I’m scared that classism will come with condos.”

“The people here are unpretentious. I don’t feel alienated here.”

“I have 1000’s of friends here.”

“You can be with people and not have to change.”

“We’re all equal.”

(These Tuesday morning paragraphs are brought to you by the Carnegie Community Action Project to help you understand why the DTES should continue to be a low-income community and not be overwhelmed with condos.)

Tuesday Morning Paragraph – Social Inclusion


Carnegie Community Action Project

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dear Mayor & Council,

Why should we preserve the Downtown Eastside as a low-income community?

To stop “social exclusion”

The city’s plan for the DTES is to encourage market housing and maintain low income housing. Woodward’s is a prime example. Here’s an excerpt of the description of the amenity room for Woodward’s condo owners: “Owners will have full access to an amazing array of rooftop views and amenities including a glass-flanked gym, stacked media room and glamorous lounge. Live large in the soaring double-height space. Read. Flirt. Meditate. Invite your friends to a movie or barbeque. Dine outside on the deck. Get steamy or wet. There’s even a giant hot tub (yes-in the shape of a W).” “Plus, Club W is rumoured to have the sexiest restrooms on the continent.” Where do the social housing residents of Woodward’s go for their amenities?

(These Tuesday morning paragraphs are brought to you by the Carnegie Community Action Project to help you understand why the DTES should continue to be a low-income community and not be overwhelmed with condos.)

LILAHC: The Low-income Land use And Housing Coalition

“Nothing about us without us”

(Motto courtesy of VANDU)
 May 14, 2009

Dear DTES neighbours and allies:

Please consider adding your name to a list of DTES resident groups, service providers and allies who support the motion below. This motion is championed by the Carnegie Community Action Project and LILAHC (Low-Income Land Use and Housing Coalition*). The City of Vancouver has been asking us if we support a Local Area Planning Process in the DTES as they are considering whether or not to recommend it to council. Low-income residents are in a good position to negotiate for a few key terms for this planning process. Please feel free to contact us for more information or just send us your group’s name and we’ll add it to the list. There is no deadline for  endorsements at this point.

Given that:

1) Low-income residents of the DTES make up 75% of the population;

2) Low-income residents need social housing, health services, neighbourhood oriented retail and better incomes to have a low-income friendly neighbourhood;

3) City-led planning processes must reflect the composition of the resident base in the DTES;

4) The DTES includes all seven sub-areas: Oppenheimer District, Gastown, Chinatown, Strathcona, Thorton Park, Chinatown, Industrial and Victory Square;

5) The definition of low-income is based on the Federal Government’s 2007 LICO (low-income cut off) which defines a single person in a city as low-income if they have under $22,000 a year or $35,000 for a two parent family with 2 children.

Therefore the following organizations support or will participate in a local area planning process that:

1) Has a vision, goal and implementation mechanisms to create and maintain a safe, affordable and healthy low-income neighbourhood;

2) Has a steering committee made up of low-income DTES residents and their representatives in proportion to their population;

3) And will take about one year.

Endorsed by:

Aboriginal Front Door
ACCESS Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity Society
Atira Women’s Resource Society
BC Person’s With AIDS Society
Carnegie Community Action Project
Carnegie Community Centre Association
Carnegie Seniors Centre
Citywide Housing Coalition
CRAB: Water for Life
DTES Community Arts Network
DTES Centre for the Arts
DTES Neighbourhood House
DTES Women Centre Power to Women Group
Environmental Youth Alliance
EWMA Enterprising Women Making Art
Faithful Public Witness Committee of the Vancouver-Burrard Presbytery
Fearless TV
February 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee
Flux Design (area business)
Four Sisters Housing Co-op
Four Sisters Co-op Child & Youth Committee
Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement
Gallery Gachet
Grandview Woodlands Area Council
Homelessness & Mental Health Action Group, St. Andrew’s-Wesley Church
Impact on Communities Coalition
Lookout Emergency Aid Society
Longhouse Council of Native Ministry
Lore Krill Housing Cooperative
Low-Income Land Use and Housing Coalition
Lutheran Urban Mission
Mission Possible
PIVOT Legal Society
Portland Hotel Society
Prostitution Alternatives Counceling & Education (PACE)
Senior’s Stitch ‘n’ Time Group
SFU Teaching Staff and Support Union
Solidarity Notes Labour Choir
Streams of Justice
Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction
Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users
VANDU Women’s Group
Vancouver Flying University
Vancouver Women’s Health Collective
WISH Drop In Centre Society

*More info about LILAHC can be found at:

Tuesday Morning Paragraph – We Care About Each Other

Carnegie Community Action Project

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dear Mayor & Council,

Why should we preserve the Downtown Eastside as a low-income community?

We care about each other.

These are notes from a CCAP mapping session at a housing co-op in the DTES:

“[This community] makes us feel human and that everyone is human. Someone on the street who is ill is not someone to be afraid of. When we walk to school and see someone…we talk about the illness and not the person. It’s done something to [my children] as human beings that may not have happened if we lived somewhere else.”

“I am proud of who I am and that I grew up here. I’ve been watching my kids come up and their level of bias is so much lower than other kids. They are much less judgmental than their peers. Two of my three kids grew up not worshipping the almighty dollar.”

About the Carnegie cafeteria: “It’s the glory of the cafeteria there. Everyone stands in line. Everyone sits down together. They look like the scum of the earth but someone is leaning over cutting up someone else’s food. There are three guys in the corner and there are guitars and they have jams. Nobody is threatened by them. When my brothers come to town we go there to eat.”

“I’ll tell you my worst experience growing up here. When I was about 14 two cops stopped me one night. I was wearing a hooded jacket. They lectured me and said prostitution was illegal. I was thinking: I’m on the honour role. I’m thinking this and of people’s judgment of the area. I decided I’m going to be proud of where I live and join all the other cool people here.”

(These Tuesday morning paragraphs brought to you by the Carnegie Community Action Project to help you understand why the DTES should continue to be a low income community and not be overwhelmed with condos.)

CCAP goes to Mayor’s Roundtable

Mostly developers attended this Roundtable Discussion on how to build more Affordable and Rental Housing. The developers came up with all kinds of ideas about how to bring costs down so they can “afford” to build market rate rentals ($936/month for average 1 bedroom at market rate in Vancouver). Some of their ideas: no parking stall requirements, smaller suites, no community space, using land set aside for social housing as land for market rentals, waiving taxes and fees and allowing them to build taller buildings. Some developers think it “might” be possible to build rentals below this market rate, but they would need to build huge condo towers to pay for it. CCAP says the only way to get enough housing for the poor and working poor is to get senior governments to pay for it. The Mayor asked CCAP for our suggestions to get more affordable housing and this is what we gave them BELOW ~wp

1. The city must find a way to keep existing shelters open past June 30th, until they are not needed, and must open more so that every homeless person can be inside if they want to. Have you checked out the bottom floors of provincially owned hotels as possible additional shelter sites?

2. The city must get a proactive plan to replace all hotel rooms (3700 privately owned plus 1300 government or non-profit owned) in the boundaries of the Downtown Eastside. Many people who are forced by poverty to live in SROs feel disrespected by society as a whole. For those who have health issues, this disrespect can slow recovery. Everyone in this rich country needs to have a private bathroom and kitchen and a little bit of space for their stuff and their lives. The SROs are not upgraded to modern earthquake standards. City policy calls for replacing the SROs with decent housing, but there is no proactive strategy to do this. At the current rate, it could take up to 40 years. Because the DTES is changing quickly and lots are being taken up for condos, the city should support a local area planning process to better understand how to protect the founding communities and culture of the area: Indigenous, Chinese, Japanese and Working Class/Poor and to prevent more homelessness as a result of poorly-planned land use policies. The city should acquire more DTES lots for low-income housing and embark on a well-thought out lobby campaign with all sectors in Vancouver and with other cities, to get federal and provincial funds committed to low-income housing.

3. The city must find a way to shelter the 3,700 hotel residents in the DTES from the potential impact of the Olympics. SRO’s are allowed to legally rent out 10% of their rooms which represents 370 rooms in total. A number of hotels are already advertising as hostels on the internet. CCAP is doing a hotel survey right now and found the Ivanhoe Hotel may be renting more than 10% of their rooms daily/weekly which shows this rule is difficult for city inspectors to monitor. The city should end the 10% daily/weekly rule in Fall 2008 at the latest and possibly reinstate it after March 2010, if it is necessary.

4. Affordable housing for low-income workers in Vancouver would help employers save money on wages and promote less commuting and green house gas emissions. On a city-wide basis, there should be policies that require new housing developments to be 1/3 low-income, 1/3 middle income, and 1/3 higher income as a minimum.
Incentives to create affordable housing: While there may be incentives that help to create low-income housing, at CCAP we don’t want condo towers allowed with the excuse that they might be able to provide a tiny fraction of low-income housing. According to pro-forma work we’ve seen, last year, when the economy was good, it would take 7 to 10 condo units to fund one low-income singles unit. In the DTES, this would overwhelm our community with condos and drive out low-income folks including the founding communities and their housing and services. Now, with the bad economy, it may not be possible to build any new low-income units from anticipated condo profit. This type of incentive won’t work in the DTES.

2. Rental housing: While CCAP agrees that we need more rental housing in Vancouver, Council members should know that market rental will not solve housing problems for SRO dwellers and homeless people, or even the working poor. Last year it cost about $1200 a month to amortize a 400 sq. ft. singles unit. This would require an income of $23.08 an hour, or over $40,000 per year for a new singles unit. This means that the real housing solution for low-income people is government built social housing.

Want to try out a mapping session?


The Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) is doing more community mapping this month. It’s part of our work to get the information about what low income residents want in the DTES. Last month we did four informative and fun sessions at PACE. We also did sessions with the Carnegie Seniors and residents of the Jim Green building.

What is a mapping session like? First, everyone is welcomed and gets some snacks or a meal to eat. Usually about 8 to 12 people participate in one group. Then we put a huge sheet of paper on the table and Wendy asks: What is the most meaningful place in the DTES to you? People then start drawing their meaningful places on the blank “map.” We have lots of coloured felt pens for this and some people are great artists. Some don’t even want to draw their place so someone else will do it for them. No pressure. Then Wendy asks: “Why are the places meaningful?” And a note taker writes down all the answers. For example, at one of the PACE sessions a person said First United Church was a meaningful place to her because “They helped me. I had my dad’s memorial there. And they did advocacy fighting the ministry for schedule C…It’s a place where I have good feelings.” Another person said Carnegie because, “On Sundays they have free movies. I used to volunteer there and they gave you work and food and friendship and you meet new people there.” When everyone is done saying what their most meaningful places are, they get 3 dots to place on the places the most meaningful places that they and others have drawn.

Then Wendy asks: what is the best housing in the DTES? And the best place to get food? And we go through the process again. Then it’s time to bring out another blank “map” and we put the most dangerous or unsafe, unwelcoming places on. Lots of people put condos on this map. Then we ask what can be done to make those places safer and get some good ideas. And that’s it.

It’s fun, people bond together, and it gives us some info we need to fight for a low income friendly community.