58 pic 1 [emily vance twitter]

For years, an empty lot at 58 West Hastings has been at the centre of a fight for social housing in the Downtown Eastside (DTES). The present article covers the years from 2016 to 2018, detailing the City’s efforts to defer and ultimately dismantle the promise of 100% welfare- and pension-rate housing at 58 West Hastings.

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“Every day that the Liberals delay allowing a new government to be formed,” said NDP’s Spencer Chandra Herbert earlier this month, “is a day that more people lose their homes.” With today’s vote of non-confidence, a feeling of optimism is now in the air. But will an NDP-Green government actually address homelessness? Will it fund non-market housing or even minimally alter the rules of the housing market?

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In their annual Housing and Homelessness Report Card, the City of Vancouver reports that 1,683 units of new social housing are in development or have been built since 2012. Yet based on research by the authors, under 6% of the new social housing is guaranteed for people on welfare. The vast majority of Vancouver’s “social housing”, therefore, will be unavailable for the 1,847 people reported as homeless in Vancouver this year, the highest number since counts began.

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April of this year marks nine years since welfare rates – still frozen at $610 a month for a single person – have gone up. Although the provincial government plans to increase disability rates by $77 a month in September, they also plan to begin charging people who receive the disability pension $669 a year for a bus pass that they now get for $45 a year. This means giving with one hand and taking with the other, and the decision has enraged the many people trying to get by on meagre benefits across this province.

The housing crisis has never been worse in Vancouver, across the Lower Mainland, and throughout the unceded Coast Salish Territories of British Columbia. The number of people displaced, living on the streets and in shelters has never been higher. Literally. On the eve of the federal elections let’s assemble to demand a national housing strategy that addresses the root causes of the housing crisis.