Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Vancouver's wilful ignorance on social housing

Via Matthew Good, this post from Pivot Legal Society lawyer David Eby.

The City of Vancouver staff are advancing a report that suggests sufficient social housing is under construction in the City to consider demolition and conversion of the last remaining Single Room Occupancy hotels in Vancouver.

Single Room Occupancy hotels and lodging houses are the last privately owned housing in the Vancouver affordable to people on welfare, and are currently somewhat protected by City bylaws.

One would think that with homelessness increasing at a rate that city staff disagree on, but is anywhere from between 800 to 1,000 more homeless than we had just 2 years ago, the City would be scrambling to preserve the housing we have, as well as build more housing.


The administrative report, coming before council on December 12, 2007, reads as follows:

The SRA By-law has been effective in limiting conversions and demolitions, and the stock of housing in the downtown that is affordable to low income singles has been holding steady at approximately 14,000 units.

I have to take a break here to expose this first whopper. The City ignores the fact that SROs have steadily been converting to higher income renters like international students and low wage workers, and people on welfare are ending up on the street. The City also conveniently ignores the fact that we know of hundreds of rooms that have closed or are closing in the next few months, including the Carl Rooms, The Picadilly, the Dominion, the Phoenix Apartments, 336 Carrall Street, and Marie Gomez Place.

That willful blindness sets up the following, which should rapidly accelerate already out of control real estate speculation on these low-cost rental buildings in Vancouver's poorest neighbourhood:

The proposed partnership should result in social housing completions exceeding SRO losses, and, when the replacement housing is completed, the controlled conversion or demolition of SROs should be considered. Staff are to report back on the status of the SRA By-law in 2008 and in that report will consider the issues related to the controlled conversion or demolition of SROs including timing, relocation of tenants, etc.

There isn't even funding in place to build the 1,200 units that the Province supposedly is going to build, and already City staff are writing reports on how to demolish the last remaining privately held low-cost rental housing in Vancouver. If you think we've got a lot of homelessness right now, you haven't seen anything yet.

Read the entire article here.