Chinatown might soon be the site of yet another high-end condominium development. The Beedie Group wants to build a 13-storey condo tower at 105 Keefer Street, at the intersection of Columbia and Keefer. If approved, community organizers fear that the tower’s 127 market rate units will add to the displacement pressures currently facing Chinatown.
This Sunday an unusual Affordable Housing Rally will be held at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The stated goal of the rally is to attract Vancouver’s middle class residents, “young professionals,” and “well educated people” who #DontHave1Million. In the words of the organizers, the rally seeks to amplify the voices of those “increasingly incensed population of Vancouverites who by comparison live pretty privileged lives.” In a city with deepening poverty and a long history of working class housing movements, the event has been interpreted as a bold shift towards highlighting the housing aspirations of Vancouver’s relatively affluent.
Last week, on November 22nd, a Vancouver Police Department (VPD) officer shot and killed a 51 year old man at the intersection of East 41st Avenue and Knight Street. The man was Phuong Na (Tony) Du. Within one minute of arriving at the scene, one of the officers drew his gun and shot Du to death. Before the shooting, Du was visibly distraught. According to eyewitnesses, Du was talking to himself while waving a piece of two-by-four wood on an empty sidewalk.
Like many of today’s major cities, Vancouver is a city of slum-landlords – owners of substandard housing where building maintenance codes are ignored, tenants are dispensable, and legislation around rental housing, like the BC Residential Tenancy Act, is rarely followed. This year, far more than any previous election, Vision Vancouver is being financed by those slumlords.
Ignore the fact that tanker traffic has doubled in the Burrard Inlet under Vision’s watch, up by over 100%. Set aside the fact that Vancouver has among the lowest business property taxes in the world, making it a haven for the majority of the world’s mining corporations. Overlook the fact that Vision Vancouver’s big answer to the global climate crisis is green business and tax breaks for venture capitalists.
Vancouver’s housing crisis has never been worse. That’s not just a turn of phrase – 2014 marks the largest homeless population ever recorded in the city’s history.
The latest homeless count recorded 2,770 street homeless in Metro Vancouver. A total of 1,798 people were recorded homeless in the City of Vancouver alone, a 249% increase since the last regional count in 2011. And while the number is high, it likely underestimates the real homelessness numbers. For the past couple of years, the annual homelessness count has been conducted a week or two before the closure of the annual winter shelters, which means that the count misses the actual number of people who live on the streets for the large majority of the year.
If you have been reading the newspapers the last week you will have heard about the City’s Local Area Plan (LAP) for the Downtown Eastside area.
At the forefront is the “60/40” rental-only policy for the DTES Oppenheimer District (DEOD), which the Courier is calling “the most controversial piece of the plan.” While the city is proposing mostly condos for the rest of the Downtown Eastside and Chinatown, this Oppenheimer rent-only plan is inspiring a heated debate.
The 60/40 clause stipulates that all future rezonings in the Downtown Eastside Oppenheimer District (DEOD) must have a 60 to 40 ratio of “social housing” to “market rental.” Developers are opposing the clause, arguing that it will hinder further market development in the area. The Carnegie Community Action Project has raised strong criticism of the overall LAP but agrees that the clause is the “only concrete and definitive measure in the LAP that addresses [community] concerns.”
While there has been an intense debate about the topic, few articles have explored the meaning and the consequences of the 60/40 commitment. What exactly is the 60/40 proposal? What does social housing mean in this context? What will be the range of rents? Will it actually hinder market development?