Vancouver city council will hear from the public this Thursday before deciding on the final approval of social housing at the intersection of Broadway and Fraser. The 11-storey project involves 103 units of social housing and 24 market rental units, to be operated by the Vancouver Native Housing Society. The project was formed under the previous NPA council of Sam Sullivan as part of the 12 sites to be built by the province, promised in an agreement between the city and the province in 2007.
Last month, after years of broken promises (construction on the sites was supposed to start no later than 2008), the provincial government announced that funding would be made available for the 12 sites, plus two additional sites. However, rather than putting forward dedicated funding for the sites as promised, the provincial government will now be using the money gained from the destruction and sale of social housing at Little Mountain, even while the case for demolishing hundreds of positive units at Little Mountain hinged on the guarantee of a one-for-one construction of new sites elsewhere in the city, not sites already promised in years past.
Now, one of the fourteen sites is in danger of either elimination or downsizing, even as Vancouver experiences a major housing crisis.* The project at Broadway and Fraser is being met with resistance from property owners in the Mount Pleasant area. Residents have formed a group called Mount Pleasant Neighbors, unified on the principle that “utilization of the 12 sites to the best advantage of their surrounding communities, would in fact involve a significant reduction in the number of units, not an increase.”
Last night (June 22), Mount Pleasant Neighbors sent a group to speak at City Hall. While some of the group’s members argued directly against the presence of poor people in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, citing negative impacts on property values and allegedly “unmanageable” increases in crime, some members alluded instead to the well-being of the future residents themselves. One member of Mount Pleasant Neighbors, Megan Rider, argued that the project would “stigmatize” low-income residents, although the concern about stigmatization quickly become a threat to stigmatize: “forget it, there’s no way we’re going to support supportive housing, because council is not listening to what’s important for the neighborhood.”
Mount Pleasant Neighbors hope to speak for the community as a whole by relying on the appearance of consensus around “what’s important for the neighborhood,” as implied in the generic title of the group itself. This framing overlooks that more than 70% of the future residents at Broadway and Fraser already identify as residents of Mount Pleasant, many of who currently use the Broadway Youth Resource Centre (BYRC will be housed on the first two floors of the new development). It also ignores that, in spite of increased gentrification, Mount Pleasant continues to be a progressive neighborhood of renters, low-income and working-class Vancouverites, not property owners with free time for conservative nimby politics. It is for this reason that Mount Pleasant will be part of the solution to the housing crisis, not part of the problem.
To voice your support for housing at Broadway and Fraser, please register to speak at City Council on Thursday, June 24th, 7:30pm. For registration, contact Terri Burke at 604 871 6399 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For city staff’s summary of the project proposal, see here: http://vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20100622/documents/phea8-SR.pdf
*The Streetohome Foundation estimates a current low-income housing gap of almost 4,000 units in Vancouver proper. Metro Vancouver reports detail major housing shortages, calling for the immediate construction of 4,700 new affordable housing units per year.