Talking points for city council: Protect the low-income community from gentrifying condos in the DEOD!

You will be speaking about Guideline 1. Development Applications in the DTES Oppenheimer District (DEOD). It says:

“In the areas governed by the existing Downtown Eastside Oppenheimer Official Development Plan (DEOD ODP), any development permit application for residential development over 1 FSR must include 20% social housing. For the purposes of these Development Management Guidelines and interpretation of the DEOD ODP, “social housing” means residential units that are owned and/or operated by government or a Council-approved non-profit, with at least 50% of these units where the tenant contribution to rent is no more than the shelter component of income assistance for a single individual ($375) and the remaining 50% of units with a maximum monthly rent of 30% of BC Housing’s Housing Income Limits (HILs) or CMHC market rent (whichever is lower).” [This means that the 50% not renting at welfare rate could rent for up to $837.50 to $925 depending on whether they are bachelor or one-bedroom units.]

Stopping this policy change from going is urgent because the DTES Oppenheimer District (DEOD) is the only sub-area of the DTES with special zoning that requires 20% social housing in every project. This policy will cut this 20% requirement in half by defining only half of this social housing at welfare rate. The 20% requirement (which has not yet been defined in terms of rent-costs) has managed to significantly limit condo development in this area. If it is weakened it will send a signal to developers with speculation properties they have been sitting on in the area: The DEOD is open for business!

Points to make against lowering the welfare-rate social housing requirement in the DTES Oppenheimer District

  1. If this definition is passed, it will guarantee that the Pantages project and other similar condo projects with only 10% welfare-rate housing can overrun the DEOD. The ripple effects of gentrification will be devastating for the low-income community, especially the hundreds of low-income residents and the vital services on the 100-block.
  2. Talk about how much the low-income community means to you and how comfortable you are there.
  3. The development permit application for 138 E. Hastings (Sequel 138 / Pantages condos) will go before the board on April 23. The Development Permit Board is mandated to consider applications only on their technical and legal merit; they do no take into consideration the social impacts of the project. The LAPP guideline above will be a legal definition of social housing that will allow Sequel 138 to go ahead.
  4. Ideally market housing developments should be halted until the pace of condo construction is matched by the construction of new, self-contained welfare rate social housing, as stated in the DTES Housing Plan.
  5. There is broad consensus in the DTES community that Sequel 138, once completed, will result in displacement and exclusion for low-income residents living nearby, and threaten the viability of businesses and services that support them. To date, over 2000 individuals and 45 organizations have signed a community resolution calling on developer Marc Williams to sell the property to the City for 100% community controlled social housing and amenity spaces.
  6. If Sequel goes ahead it will be impossible to implement the DTES Housing Plan in the Oppenheimer District. According to page 58 of the city’s DTES Housing Plan: “If land values get to a point where market development is attractive despite having to incorporate a 20% social housing component, it is unlikely that 1 for 1 replacement of the existing 2000 SRO units will be possible in the DEOD.” Sequel 138 is the thin edge of the wedge that will prevent the replacement of SROs with good housing for low-income residents.
  7. The Sequel project does not fit with the DTES Housing Plan’s Action 9.4.1 which says the official development plan should be reviewed to “ensure the ability of the zoning to secure at least 1 for 1 replacement of at least 2000 existing SRO units with housing for low-income singles with the capacity to make up the shortfall in 1 for 1 replacement elsewhere in the city.”
  8. The violence of displacement and the increase in human suffering that will spread throughout the neighbourhood as a result of this development can only be halted by stopping the project immediately.

I am asking you to reject this definition of social housing and to define social housing in the DEOD as housing that rents for the welfare shelter amount. This will make the housing accessible to abour 10,000 low-income people who rely on welfare, disability and basic Old Age Security. It will also make it less likely that condo developers will be able to invade the DEOD, displacing low-income poeple with gentrification during the next year.


[1] The four other packages we know of, besides 138–144 E. Hastings include: 121 Main St; 319 Main St; 337, 341, 357 E. Hastings around Flowers restaurant; and the 500-block of Cordova.