Council approves balanced, community-driven plan for Downtown Eastside

Mayor Gregor Robertson and City Council voted today to approve a balanced and community-driven plan for Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) that will build significant new affordable housing and revitalize the neighbourhood’s heritage character.

The plan’s approval follows three years of development by a resident-led committee, and the hosting of over 300 meetings and consultation events.

“The Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan represents a thoughtful, balanced, and resident-driven vision for Vancouver’s oldest and most diverse neighbourhood,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “This plan reflects residents’ aspirations for a community with safer and more stable housing, protections for low-income residents, stronger support for mental health and addictions, and a more vibrant local economy.

"This plan will create a healthier, more inclusive neighbourhood - but not at the expense of low-income residents."

Strong new measures are incorporated to protect and improve existing low-income housing while adding new affordable options both in and outside of the neighbourhood, including 3,350 social housing units outside the DTES over the next 30 years.

A ‘rental only’ section in the heart of the community will prevent land speculation and reduce pressures that have been forcing residents out of the neighbourhood. In the past decade, land values in the DTES have increased by over 300%.

At the same time, the plan will add middle-income residents to the community with new rental housing and allow for new home ownership in areas of the Downtown Eastside that won’t displace existing residents.

The new DTES plan also focuses on strengthening the local economy. It will enable 3,500 new employment opportunities and attain a significant reduction in the number of empty storefronts. It aims to re-establish Hastings as an economic engine and “high street” while offering community facilities and services for every age and income, and preserving and revitalizing the heritage character of the community. Important pieces in the plan include maintaining existing zoning in Strathcona, incentives for heritage preservation in Gastown and Japantown, and concentrating new development at hubs like Clark and Hastings.

“After three years of community input, the approval of this plan marks an historic opportunity to protect the best of the Downtown Eastside and to shape a more hopeful future for the neighbourhood and its residents,” added Mayor Robertson.

The Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan has been public since mid-December. City Council approved the plan following two days of hearing from over 100 speakers, with amendments for the following:

  • Prioritize the resourcing and implementation of a local economy plan for the DTES;
  • Ensure that at least 1/3 of new social housing units in the Downtown Eastside must be rented at shelter rates;
  • Have staff report back on the partners and funding needed to establish an Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre.

The Downtown Eastside is home to more than 18,500 residents, up to 67% of whom are low-income. The neighbourhood’s median household income is just $13,691, compared to $47,299 citywide, with over 6,300 people living on some form of social assistance.

To view the Executive Summary of the plan, click here:
https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/executive-summary-dtes-local-area-plan-2014-feb-27.pdf

To view the Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan in full, click here:
http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20140312/documents/cfsc5.PDF