March 12, 2018
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Downtown Eastside Housing Crisis Worse than it’s ever been


Vancouver, BC, Unceded Coast Salish Territories – 2017 was the worst year for homeless Downtown Eastside (DTES) residents since the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) began doing annual housing and hotel reports in 2008.  Last year 500 tenants were evicted from their homes through no fault of their own, only 21 new units of housing at welfare rate were opened, and average rents in privately owned and run hotels ramped up to $687 a month.

Lama Mugabo, CCAP organizer. Photo / Lenee Son

“Average rents went up $139 a month in privately owned and run hotels,” said CCAP organizer Lama Mugabo.  “Before this, the highest annual average rent increase CCAP found was $30 between 2015 and 2016.  This increase means that people on welfare of the meager $710 a month only have $23 a month left to spend on food and everything else if they are paying the average SRO rent.”

“Last year we lost 173 rooms at the Balmoral, 78 at the Jubilee and 157 at Roddan Lodge,” said CCAP co-ordinator Lenee Son.  “We lost the Balmoral because the city refused to enforce the Standards of Maintenance bylaw.  Roddan Lodge was closed by the city.  And the Jubilee Rooms was sold empty to a company involving the worst gentrifier in the DTES, Steven Lippman. We also lost 157 rooms at the Quality Inn which housed a lot of DTES residents.  While most of the people who were evicted from these places got homes,” said Son, “it meant that there was no housing for others who live on the street or in shelters.” 

Jean Swanson, CCAP volunteer. Photo / Lenee Son

“Only 21 units of new social housing opened up in 2017 in the DTES,” added CCAP volunteer Jean Swanson.  “These were the units over the new Strathcona library on Hastings St.  Over the next 7 years or so about 1500 new units ofmarket and unaffordable social housing have been proposed or approved,” added Swanson.  Only 544 affordable units have been proposed or approved, about enough to make up for the units lost in 2017 to closures, but not enough to make up for units lost to rent increases just last year.”  None of the new affordable units except for 19 to replace 22 existing units in theBonnis Properties development, are proposed for Chinatown even though 282 unaffordable units are planned there.  

CCAP insists that all three levels of government need to take immediate action to stop homeless people from having early deaths and to improve conditions for people living in SROs.  

Recommendations include:

Municipal Government: 
  • Buy or lease SRO hotels to prevent them from gentrifying and pushing out low-income residents and ensure they are well-managed. 
  • Use City powers to impose non-profit management on hotels with outstanding Standards of Maintenance violations, ensuring that tenants have the protection of the Residential Tenancy Act.
  • Designate enough land for 5,000 units of social housing in the Downtown Eastside to show senior levels of government that the City is serious about solving the housing crisis.
  • Amend the SRA bylaw to define SRO hotel “conversion” to mean raising rents above welfare and pension level shelter rates.  Include zero-eviction conditions in all renovation and building permits.
  • Stop market housing development in the DTES to keep property values low and preserved for social housing until SRO hotels have been replaced with safe, secure, self-contained, resident-controlled, and low-income social housing and until no one needs to sleep on the streets or in shelters.
  • Change the City’s definition of social housing so that low-income people are not excluded from any social housing.
    people are not excluded from any social housing.low income   Change the City’s definition of social housing so that
  • Adopt and implement the People’s Vision for Chinatown.

 Provincial government:

  • Raise disability to $300 more than welfare.
  • Raise minimum wage to at least $15 an hour with regular increases after that up to a Living Wage (about $21/hour in Vancouver).
  • Reform the Residential Tenancy Act to provide effective rent control by the rental unit rather than the tenant. This will stop giving landlords an incentive to evict low-income people and end renovictions. The Province should also implement a rent freeze and end the annual allowable rent increase (4% in 2018).
  • Ensure that residents of all non-profit social housing, including SRO rooms, supportive housing projects and emergency shelters, have full tenant rights under the Residential Tenancy Act.
  • Provide funds to build 10,000 units a year of low income social housing throughout the province.  Replace 1,000 SRO units with self-contained, resident controlled social housing every year for five years in the DTES.
  • Amend the BC Human Rights Code and Residential Tenancy Act to make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of social condition including class, poverty, and drug use.
  • Ensure that immigration status is not a barrier to social housing.
  • Provide funds to Chinese societies in the Downtown Eastside that have housing units and are financially unable to upgrade their building to remain habitable on the condition that the rents in upgraded units are guaranteed to not exceed the welfare/pension rate.
  • Ensure that women and children fleeing violence have priority for decent social housing.

Federal government:

  • Provide funds to build low-income social housing in the DTES to replace 1,000 SRO units per year for the next five years.
  • Provide funds to Chinese societies in the Downtown Eastside that have housing units and are financially unable to upgrade their building to remain habitable on the condition that the rents in upgraded units are guaranteed to not exceed the welfare/pension rate.
  • Provide funds to build enough social housing to end homelessness.  
Read the full report here.

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About Carnegie Community Action Project
The Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) is a project of the board of the Carnegie Community Centre Association. 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 English speaking and Chinese speaking DTES residents in speaking out on their own behalf for the changes they would like to see in their 

To download high-resolution versions of the photographs featured above as well as other photos from our press conference, visit our Flickr. Photos are the property of CCAP and may be used by journalists with attribution.

Media Contact
Lenée Son, CCAP Coordinator
Phone: 604-828-7183

Lama Mugabo, CCAP Organizer
Phone: 604-715-9565

Jean Swanson, CCAP Volunteer
Phone: 604-729-2380

Our mailing address is: 
Carnegie Community Action Project
401 Main Street, Unceded Coast Salish Territory
Vancouver, BC V6A 2T7

Copyright © 2017 Carnegie Community Action Project, All rights reserved. 
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