Yesterday, I met with representatives of the “Our Homes Can’t Wait” campaign in the Downtown Eastside to discuss issues of housing affordability and poverty in the neighbourhood. It was a good meeting with a clear articulation from residents about their frustrations with stagnant welfare rates, rising housing costs, and a dire need for renewal of decrepit SRO rooms in the neighbourhood. I was joined by Councillor Andrea Reimer and several senior members of our housing, planning and community services staff.
Several agreements came out of the meeting.
I committed to working with the community to bring forward a proposal for rezoning by June 2017 to build 100% subsidized social housing, at welfare and old-age pension rates, on the City-owned site at 58 West Hastings.
Collectively, we will work together over the coming months to advocate to the provincial and federal governments to urgently invest in housing so that we can deliver new homes affordable for people on social assistance.
We're also re-stablishing the City’s SRO Task Force, to take next steps on addressing safety and affordability issues in low-income housing in the Downtown Eastside. We have invited representatives from “Our Homes Can’t Wait” to assist in ensuring representation on the Task Force from SRO tenants, alongside non-profits and other stakeholders.
We also discussed the growing concerns about the safety of the encampment at 58 West Hastings. Residents at the encampment committed to providing a liaison to meet on a daily basis with a designated City liaison to ensure health and safety issues are being addressed.
While our outreach staff are working to find housing for those in need, Vancouver’s homeless shelters are currently at capacity, which speaks to the level of crisis in Vancouver and throughout BC, as we see homeless camps across the province.
At the City, we will continue to use the tools we have to protect and build new housing, like offering 20 city-owned sites worth $250 million for affordable housing, as well as using injunctions to take negligent landlords to court to ensuring existing affordable housing is safe. We will also advocate for increased investments by the senior levels of government to support our most vulnerable residents, including a raise to welfare rates which have been frozen for nine years. All levels of government have a role to play and Vancouver City Hall will continue to do more than our share.
- Mayor Gregor Robertson