This week Mayor Gregor Robertson delivered the keynote address at the National Conference on Ending Homelessness in Ottawa, emphasizing homelessness as a national challenge and stressing the need for bold action, clear goals, and innovative partnerships to make a difference:
Affordable Housing and Support for Renters
Mayor Gregor Robertson was joined by fellow municipal leaders from two other provinces today to launch a new national campaign to fix Canada’s housing crunch and create more affordable housing in our communities. As Chair of the Big City Mayors Caucus for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), Mayor Robertson is working with cities from across the country to lead advocacy for a stronger federal role in affordable housing in advance of the 2014 budget. The campaign calls on the federal government and all political parties to work with provincial, territorial and municipal leaders, as well as the private sector, to develop a credible long-term housing plan.
Joining Mayor Robertson at the campaign launch were Luc Montreuil, City Councillor for Gatineau, and Ana Bailão, Toronto City Councillor and Toronto’s housing campaign lead.
"Our cities and communities need a stable and secure housing market that creates jobs, attracts new workers, meets the needs of seniors and young families, and keeps our most vulnerable citizens off the streets," said Gregor Robertson, Mayor of Vancouver. “Housing affordability is a major concern not just in Vancouver but in cities and communities of all sizes across Canada, and without greater federal investment it will continue to have costly effects on families and our economy.”
A project approved by the Mayor and City Council at last night’s Public Hearing will deliver substantial new social and rental housing in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, with a special focus on housing for low-income women.
The fourteen-storey mixed-use building at 33-49 West Hastings will provide 102 new units of social/supportive housing and 67 units of new affordable rental housing, ensuring a diverse, balanced mix of housing opportunities. 11,074 sq. ft. of commercial space in the project’s first two floors is also currently planned for use as a low-cost food and grocery store, primarily aimed at serving low-income residents in the neighbourhood.
52 of the supportive housing units will rent at the shelter component of income assistance (currently $375 per month for a single individual and $525 per month for a couple). This Atira project would prioritize housing for women and residents needing support with ongoing mental health challenges, in partnership with a variety of community-based mental health support organizations.
In its first year of operation, the Vancouver Rent Bank (VRB) program has prevented evictions for over 200 people through the use of small, interest-free loans to help them through a temporary financial crisis.
Since October 2012, the VRB has approved 137 interest-free loans, helping 228 people - including 39 children - avoid losing their homes due to eviction. The loans are granted to people in imminent danger of losing their housing, and are interest free up to 24 months.
The Vancouver Rent Bank is a multi-partner initiative involving the City of Vancouver, Streetohome Foundation, Vancouver Foundation, UBC and the Vancity Community Foundation. The program is administered by the Network of Inner City Community Services Society (NICCSS).
“The Rent Bank has proven to be a successful tool for helping low-income renters keep their homes in crisis situations,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “It is gratifying to see that one year later, the Rent Bank is making a real difference in people’s lives, preventing homelessness and delivering housing stability for people who need it. This is a key part of our Affordable Housing and Homelessness Plan and I want to thank all of our partners who have helped make it so effective.”
Mayor Gregor Robertson launched Homelessness Action Week today, running from October 13-19 in Vancouver, with an official proclamation to members of the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society.
Susan Tatoosh and Harold Michell from the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society received the proclamation from the Mayor in a ceremony at City Hall. The Society operates a low-barrier homeless shelter that serves a predominantly aboriginal population at 201 Central, and has focused on meeting the needs of aboriginal people making the transition to the urban Vancouver community for over 50 years.
“Vancouver has made important progress in our work to end street homelessness, and Homelessness Action Week is an opportunity to engage all of the community in meeting that crucial goal,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “The Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society is an excellent example of one of the many organizations doing great work in our community. I encourage all residents to get involved in one of the many Homelessness Action Week events taking place across Vancouver.”
A staff report coming to city council recommends seeking a legal injunction from the Supreme Court of BC against the owner of a rental building on East Hastings, as part of efforts to improve safety standards and support renters.
The building, located at 3683 East Hastings, has a history of non-compliance of various safety bylaws, with its residential units vacant since 2005. In May of this year, a City inspection discovered that 60 tenants had moved in to the building without the owner completing safety inspections. The building lacked a fire alarm system, sprinkler systems, and sufficient fire exits, among other violations.