Low-income Downtown Eastside residents to draw a line in the sand

Come to a news conference/action to:

—Hear Downtown Eastside residents speak out about the impact of Woodwards

on our community;

—Learn what residents think about the City plan to allow more condo towers

in our neighbourhood, to be debated January 19th and 22nd at city hall;

—Meet Mr. Condo King, a 12-foot-tall developer, and his friends who

believe “height is might” and who want a “Tower of Power” for themselves and

only crumbs for the poor; and,

—Get updated news on new hotels recently closed and rent increases in the area.

When: 11:00 am Tuesday, January 19th

Where: Pigeon Park, Carrall and Hastings St. (across from potential new tower)

Organized by Carnegie Community Action Project and Vancouver Action

CCAP: 604-839-0379; Vancouver Action: 778-836-9877

Updated Backgrounder:

The Mayor of Vancouver wants to end homelessness, but there is a big hole in

what he is trying to do. That hole is the impact of Woodwards and

gentrification on the low income community in the DTES.

Higher buildings mean more condos. Condos are already outpacing new social

housing in the DTES by a ratio of about 3 to 1. And the condos in the

Woodwards and other developments are having ripple effects throughout the

neighbourhood:

We hope Vision, COPE and the NPA will consider these facts before making a

decision to increase density in the Historic Area (western part of the

Downtown Eastside) on Jan 19th and Jan 22, 2010 at City Hall:

The SROs are the last housing before homelessness.

Displacement Fact #1: Rents are increasing.

Hotel rents are escalating beyond what people on welfare, disability and

seniors can afford. According to CCAP’s hotel survey, the number of hotel

rooms renting for over $425, $50 above what people on welfare and disability

have for rent, increased by 44% between 2008 and 2009. In other words,

about half of the privately owned SROs are renting for more than low income

people can afford. Probably as a result of these rent increases, CCAP also

found that the number of hotels where two people are staying in one tiny

room quadrupled between 2008 and 2009.

Displacement Fact #2: Hotels near Woodward’s have the highest rents.

According to data from CCAP’s 2009 hotel survey, 10 hotels with about 450

rooms, East of Main, are renting rooms at over $425 a month. But 15 hotels

with about 1130 rooms, West of Main, are renting rooms at over $425. This

statistic shows that, in general, the hotels closer to Woodward’s have the

highest rents.

Displacement Fact #3: More empty rooms.

According to a survey by the Jodyne Keller of the VPD in December 2009, some

hotels have large numbers of vacant rooms, which are not for rent. In

CCAP’s experience this usually means they are getting ready to sell or to

upgrade and rent at increased rents (maybe to students of the new SFU Arts

School). These hotels include the Colonial Hotel (90 vacant units), and

Argyle Hotel (40 vacant units). The Golden Crown Hotel (28 units) is empty

and renovating as is the Burns Block (28 units). Other hotels may be doing

this also. With increased rents these hotels will not be available to

current low-income DTES residents. These hotels are all located near

Woodward’s.

Displacement Fact #4: The City counting method doesn’t give a clear picture.

City staff continually inform council that its 1 for 1 replacement policy

(for every 1 SRO that is lost, a new social housing unit should be built) is

being met. However, the city does not take into account rent increases that

make the SROs unaffordable to very low-income people. Nor is it examining

the impact on low-income DTES residents of owners holding rooms vacant. And

the city includes provincially owned hotels as new social housing when they

are newly social but not new accommodation.

For these reasons CCAP believes it is crucial that the city take a step back

from its “revitalization” policies to gage whether or not the “without

displacement” part is actually happening too. If low income people are

being displaced, as CCAP believes they are, then homelessness will keep

increasing.

This is why CCAP wants a social-economic study of the impact of Woodward’s

and new condos in the DTES BEFORE more density is allowed. The study should

look at what has been the impact of Woodward’s and condos on the assets and

tenure of the low income community and on homelessness.

Another consideration about the Height Review: Planning staff have told

CCAP that they want extra height so they can get amenities from developers.

The “amenity” that low income DTES residents want the most, according to our

research, is housing. But we have seen pro formas from the Building

Communities Society that show very few social housing units will be built by

condo developers as amenities. For every 7-10 condos we might get one

social housing unit in good economic times. This means that to get the 6000

units of social housing that the DTES needs, we’d have to have 42,000

condos, which would totally wipe out all the assets of the low income

community that we uncovered in our mapping with over 200 residents. Our

other fears are that the community would be split arguing over whether

heritage, housing, childcare, etc were the most appropriate amenities, or if

the amenities were designed for the benefit of the new richer residents and

not for more vulnerable low income residents.

What CCAP wants: the city should not consider “outright” or even

“conditional” height increases, or any additional supportive regulatory

framework to facilitate increased development within the DTES Heritage Areas

under review. These proposed policies will lead to demolition of heritage

buildings and further displacement of low-income residents. Instead, we

recommend the following:

1. A social-economic study of the impact of Woodward’s and other condos on

the tenure and assets of the Aboriginal and low-income communities and on

homelessness.

2. A vision for the whole DTES neighbourhood (which includes all 7 sub-areas

of the DTES as defined by the city).

3. A short term local area planning process in which Aboriginal and

low-income residents have a say proportionate to their numbers and with a

goal of designing a plan to ensure Vancouver’s low-income and heritage

districts are secured.

Something else to consider:

CCAP could consider the staff’s proposal for a “moderate” height increase in

the historic district “if” we can get these things in place first:

* a social-economic study of the impact of Woodward’s and other condos on

the tenure and assets of the Aboriginal and low-income communities and on

homelessness.

* a National Housing program,

* a 50% raise in welfare,

* a vision for the DTES that secures the tenure and assets of the low-income

and Aboriginal community and historic district, and

* a plan for how to achieve the vision, with

* Aboriginal and low-income reps on the vision and planning committee

represented in proportion to their population (about 70%).

Council could consider “holding back” approval for 12 months conditional

upon a serious effort made by reps from Chinatown, business and developers

work with the Aboriginal and low-income community on this. The national

housing strategy could help the DTES community build housing for Chinese

families, Aboriginal families, working families, seniors, low-income singles

as well as supportive housing and indirectly preserve the historic district

as well. New zoning is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Council could use

the energy that is pushing for zoning change to help the Mayor achieve his

goal of building affordable housing and ending homelessness in Vancouver.