Unlimited condo development could wipe out good things about DTES

Carnegie Community Action Project
Press Release:

September 16, 2009, Vancouver, B.C: Most of the things low-income residents like about the DTES could be wiped out if the city continues to allow unlimited condo development in the area. That’s the conclusion of a report on community mapping released today by CCAP.

The democratic mapping process involved over 200 residents at 18 DTES community hubs. Participants were asked to draw their most meaningful place in the DTES on a blank map. Then they were asked where the best housing and best place to get food and shop were. Everyone was asked why they chose the places they chose and extensive notes of their answers were taken.

The DTES is a real community where low-income people feel accepted. “We’re on no levels here and I don’t know anywhere else where that happens,” said one of the 200 participants. The mapping process also showed that DTES residents like being able to get the things they need without using a car or transit (which many can’t afford), and can volunteer and participate in numerous organizations to help others and themselves.
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The DTES is also a place where people who live in some of the 5000 social housing units feel that they have a strong base and network of support, where the green spaces are greatly appreciated, and where there is a lot of empathy for people who are homeless or have health and addiction issues. And it is a place where many people who experience human rights violations work for social justice.

“Developers and politicians are always telling residents what is needed in this community,” said Wendy Pedersen, a DTES resident and one of the co-authors. “With this report it’s the residents who are saying what’s good about the community and what needs to be preserved.”

The mapping report challenges the unproven theory that only neighbourhoods that include rich and poor can be healthy. “Mixing rich and poor is already creating a clash, rather than a mix in the DTES,” said Pedersen. “Some condo residents are already organizing to keep out services and housing that low income people need,”

“More condo development will increase land prices and taxes, pushing out stores that cater to low income people and increasing hotel rents. Upscale businesses exclude residents with prices and security guards,” added Pedersen.

Mapping participants were also asked about unsafe and uncomfortable places in the DTES. These included gentrifying places where people felt excluded, like condos, Gastown and Tinseltown. Mappers also said they feared violence from a number of sources including police, non-resident drinkers, security guards, predators and drug dealers.

The mapping project is one phase of CCAP’s process to develop a vision, some principles and strategies for achieving a safe, secure, affordable, and authentic low income neighbourhood in the DTES. ***