SUBMISSION TO THE VANCOUVER DEVELOPMENT PERMIT BOARD
Monday, April 23, 2012
I write in support of the application for the development proposed for 138 East Hastings on behalf of the False Creek Residents Association and its member organizations including - the City Gate Inter Tower Group and the Crosstown Residents Association. Our resident associations represent a growing contingent of Vancouverites who live around Northeast False Creek, Chinatown, Thornton Park, Gastown and the DTES.
Thirty years ago my daughter attended childcare across the street from Oppenheimer Park. Twenty-five years ago, she attended Lord Strathcona Elementary School. Why shouldn’t she now return as an adult to buy her first home, near her father and me, in the same community in which she was raised? Market housing in our neighbourhood is an important element in keeping families together.
Our vision for a community is an inclusive one where everyone can thrive. We seek a
balanced community with a sustainable economic base and a rich and tolerant social
While the design of this particular development may not be perfect, we support the development because it will contribute to the revitalization of our community. The Vancouver Network of Drug Users says it will destabilize the drug market. To this, we say: Hooray!
The current scene of open drug dealing is not acceptable. The level of violence and intimidation on public streets is not acceptable - regardless of whether the perpetrators are local dealers or young guys from the suburbs who come down to the neighbourhood to drink and party. These people need to know that acceptable norms of behaviour involve respect and inclusion. Of course, these concepts are not obvious given the level of garbage permitted on our streets, or the open air market of stolen goods and selling of contraband cigarettes. We welcome a residential development that will support a different set of norms - standards that are more humane and respectful. Standards that reflect the values of a caring society.
Standards that respect the reality that this district is now, and always has been, home to many children and families. Many of our neighbours in non-market and/or low-income housing support development.
However, they are afraid to vocalize that support because of the strong opposing view held by organizations such as the Downtown Eastside Neighourhood Council (DNC) and the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP). They feel too intimidated to speak out. They want to raise their children in an inclusive and balanced community. They want standards and norms that contribute to healthy and inclusive communities. They are not represented on the Local Area
Planning Process which risks becoming just another soapbox for the DNC and CCAP.
It is unfortunate that successive governments at all levels have underfunded vulnerable populations. They have deinstitutionalized people with mental illness without the necessary supports to provide for successful community living. Successive governments have underfunded welfare. Successive governments have failed to bring back a national housing strategy. Our streets have been turned into the province’s mental health wards - a last resort for the hopelessly addicted and street entrenched paupers. This is unacceptable. We support a proactive Housing First program that provides for stable housing and associated support services. However, we don’t believe that the answer to these complex problems is to hive off a
section of our community as the exclusive preserve of any one socio economic group or class.
I have spoken with many of the area’s service providers. They have located their offices in this district for the ongoing ease of access to their client groups. Many of these organizations do not support the project and some will likely speak with you today. The organizations I spoke with indicated that they prefer to have a critical mass of clients in one place for the convenience and cost-effectiveness of their service. And when their offices close, staff return to their homes in
White Rock or Dunbar. I urge this Board not to be concerned with the views of service providers who do not themselves live in the community they seek to serve. And we urge the City not to continue to promote the concentration of services in only one part of the city, but to ensure more equitable distribution of supports and services throughout the municipality.
You have received a letter from a group of instructors at local post secondary institutions. By and large, these academics work for institutions like UBC and Simon Fraser University - institutions which make important contributions to uplifting and, dare I say, “gentrifying” the community. It concerns me that these academics claim there is broad based community consensus to block this project with no independent empirical evidence of such. Perhaps they have measured the loudness of the voices. They are seriously misinformed about the Local
Area Planning process as they appear to believe that process to be inclusive and respectful of the many voices in the community. In fact the LAPP is currently challenged with charges of religious intolerance, mis-use of public funds and lack of a workable governance model. The Inner City Neighbourhood Coalition has emerged to counter the information transmitted to City officials from LAPP. The coalition includes those groups, such as the Strathcona Residents Association, who will not take up their seat at the LAPP table because they have reason to fear reprisals.
I want to be clear that we fully support the City’s requirement that developments in this area include a provision for 20% social housing or, in some cases, appropriate cash in lieu. We would go further and insist that social housing in the DTES first be made available to current residents, rather than to the whole wait list of the agency operating the social housing component. I also want to address the demand that 100% of the housing be provided at the welfare rate. I served as the province’s assistant deputy minister of housing policy in the development of HomesBC in the early nineties. From that experience, I know that including a range of need into
the definition of “social housing” is a long tradition in Canada. This allows for the good management of non-market housing. It allows for maintaining an individual in stable housing if he or she looses a job and is unable to pay the 30% charge that is “Rent Geared to Income”. And conversely, it allows for maintaining stable housing for someone who has gotten work and just managed to get off income assistance. This kind of flexibility is imperative. Perhaps for some, welfare is a continuous state, but the data tells us that for most people, welfare is an ’on again, off again’ situation. Maintaining flexibility in ‘social housing’ means that a person’s housing is stable regardless of where they are on that cycle. Those who want 100%
welfare rate housing would have you evict someone when they get manage to get gainful employment.
In summary, our members believe in a mixed and balanced community. We support the project at 138 East Hastings because it is just that. It will provide housing on a lot that has never before provided housing. It will provide social housing at the proportion required by the City, and it will provide market housing at a more accessible cost than is normally available in town. The development is a form of “Scattered Site’ housing that provides ‘low impact’ social housing
rather than large scale supported housing projects that leech off of existing community amenities. There is a wealth of data that shows this type of scattered site housing provides for more successful community re-integration of vulnerable populations than does the large higher impact developments of supportive housing that are much more common in Vancouver. We doubt that the demand for 100% social housing can be met within the existing tax structure, and further, we do not believe that 100% Social housing provides for balanced communities.
We urge the development permit board to support the aspirations of many DTES families who, while they may be poor, nonetheless, want and deserve to live in a safe and secure environment where the standards of behaviour are recognizable as those of a typical Canadian city.
False Creek Residents Association — www.falsecreekresidents.org