Saturday, February 13, 2016

Homeless News

The Big Squeeze

Group worries low-income housing plan may go awry

Maria Wallstam, Carnegie Community Action Project


Protestors outside the Main & Hastings cop shop.


ancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is asking the federal government for half a billion dollars to build social housing on $250-million worth of city-owned land. We welcome the City's plan to put aside city-owned land for social housing, but we are worried that this plan will exclude homeless people and low-income people on fixed income: the very people who need housing the most.


That's because the City changed the definition of social housing in 2014. The new definition means that not a single unit of "social housing" outside the DTES will be required to rent at the welfare shelter rate ($375). Worse still, according to the City's definition the majority of units don't even have to be remotely affordable to low income people. 

The new city-wide definition of social housing states that social housing is rental housing where at least 30% of tenants have incomes below the BC Housing Income Limits. HILs represents the income required to pay the average market rent for an appropriately sized unit in the private market. In Vancouver, the income required to afford a bachelor apartment is $36,500. This means that if an affordable rent is deemed to be ⅓ of a person's income, the HILs market rent for a bachelor can be up to $912 a month.

The HILs also change with the market conditions. In 2014, the HIL rate for a bachelor unit was $875 and by 2015 it had risen to $912. The only requirement for the other 70% of units is that they are rental units owned by a non-profit and governed by a housing agreement with the City. There are no upper caps on rents for these units.

While the City's proposal to the Federal government would only provide 225 units in the Downtown Eastside over the next 6 years, of those, only one-third, or 74 units would have to be at welfare rate. That's a mere 12 units per year to deal with 836 already homeless people and hundreds more people being forced from SRO hotels because of high rents.

"The City should use the opportunity of federal infrastructure money to tackle homelessness," said Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) organizer Maria Wallsam. "Vancouver is going to end homelessness, the City needs to be building social housing for low-income people on fixed income and they also need to start lobbying the provincial government for rent control."

According to CCAP organizer Debra Mcnaught "We need social housing, yesterday. Why is the city not listening to the need of the people in the Downtown Eastside, who need housing at the shelter rate? Fraser Stuart, also volunteer with CCAP, says social housing that rents for $900 will not end homelessness in Vancouver."

You can read the City's 2014 amendment to the definition of social housing, here.

The Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) works mostly on housing, income, and land use issues in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) of Vancouver so that the area can remain a low income friendly community. CCAP works with DTES residents in speaking out on their own behalf for the changes they would like to see in their neighbourhood.



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