Archive for May, 2010

Housing activists criticize provincial government housing announcement

May 26, 2010

|| Attention all News Editors, for immediate release ||

HOMELESSNESS AND HOUSING ACTIVISTS CRITICIZE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT’S RECENT HOUSING ANNOUNCEMENT

May 26 2009, Vancouver – In the coming weeks, activists are hoping to place emphasis on the government’s failure to provide solutions to the housing crisis in Vancouver. In a recent announcement to contribute $205 million to social housing in Vancouver, the provincial government is seeking to re-package its current broken promises as “new” housing commitments, according to Vancouver Action activist Nathan Crompton. “The promise for these specific sites was made in an agreement between the city and the province in 2007, and construction was supposed to start in 2008. How on earth are they framing this as a ‘new’ commitment?”

Dave Diewert, of Streams of Justice, stresses “3,200 units of social housing were promised for completion prior to the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games. When these 14 sites are finally constructed, the overall promises will still be broken because the Olympic Bid Book put our government on the line for 800 new units of social housing per year, which itself is meager in a city where there are up to 4,000 new condo units constructed per year.”

The completion of the promised buildings will be financed mostly by the sale and redevelopment of Little Mountain housing. Lauren Gill, of Community Advocates for Little Mountain (CALM), criticizes what she calls a “government shell game”. “The province’s needless destruction of Little Mountain last year caused the loss of hundreds of units of affordable housing, all destroyed for the benefit of private developer Holborn. It is absolutely scandalous that the money from the destruction of Little Mountain will now be retroactively funneled into a provincial housing initiative that was already promised years ago.”

Lauren Gill adds: “The current model is to sell off existing social housing units, like at Little Mountain and the Olympic Village, in order to construct some mostly-hypothetical units elsewhere. That is not a workable strategy. It’s not workable because of how fast low-income people across the city are being evicted for market up-scaling and rent increases. The strategy results in an overall loss of affordable options, giving the developers the keys to the city.”

In addition to the $205m from the provincial government, $20m will be provided for construction by private donors and developers. Tristan Markle, of Vancouver Action, says, “it’s offensive that the very same people causing the problem are being credited with providing the solution. Real-estate tycoons and property speculators are creating a citywide housing crisis by driving up existing property values and pushing people out the bottom. Yesterday these same millionaires donated a small fraction of their profits to distract from their culpability. But this inadequate response shows, above all, that the policy of relying on developers and their speculator networks to solve the housing crisis they created has come to an end. We need new, neighborhood-based leadership.”

Media Contacts:

Questions:

Tristan Markle, Vancouver Action (Van.Act) 778-836-9877

Nathan Crompton, Vancouver Action (Van.Act) 778 628 6252

To coordinate interviews with DTES residents:

Harsh Walia, DTES Women’s Centre, 778-885-0040

download PDF of press release here: Housing Press Release MAY26

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Pamphlet

May 14, 2010

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download PDF of pamphlet here: theflyer5-2

False Promises on False Creek

May 10, 2010

Mayor Gregor Robertson’s recent homeless count shows a 12% increase in homelessness since 2008, the year of his election to office. While Gregor ran on a platform to end homelessness, he and the Vision caucus have responded to this increase with the unaccompanied strategy of millions of dollars for increased policing. Now, as of April 20, the vast majority of the promised low-income units in the Olympic Village are being handed over to the police and other “essential” City workers.

During the 2008 election campaign, Gregor and Vision smeared their opponents for not hiring extra police officers and for being soft on crime [1]. This strategy included criticizing mayoral opponent Peter Ladner for having once voted against a Police Department budget increase earmarked for additional street cops under Vancouver’s Project Civil City.[2] Gregor’s rapprochement with Project Civil City was a forewarning, because since taking power his police department has been circulating Vancouver’s poor population through the jails daily, with endless charges for petty offenses introduced under the quota-enforced rules of Civil City – offenses like jaywalking, spitting, unlicensed pets, and street vending.

The VPD’s 2008 Annual Business Plan projected a 20% increase in charges falling under Project Civil City and the Safe Streets Act dealing with “street disorder.”[3] To meet the staffing demands of this new “results-based” approach, whereby results are pre-determined through the enforcement of ticketing quotas, Gregor has hired 100 extra cops, giving an extra $13 million to the VPD in 2009 alone.[4] Now, in order to house these new cops, Gregor has voted for a staff recommendation that eliminates all promised dedicated low-income social housing in the Olympic Village.[5]

Gregor has announced that his plans would “honour our commitment to affordable housing in the Olympic village.”[6] We can navigate past this lie by looking at the original plans themselves. Until 2006, the city’s Official Development Plan (ODP) for the Olympic Village was for roughly 400 units of low-income social housing. In other words, 33% of the total units at the village were for the homeless and those at risk of homelessness.[7] This ODP established a three-way breakdown for the overall project: 1/3 social housing (“deep core need”), 1/3 affordable housing (“shallow need”) and 1/3 market condos.[7]

Those commitments were then reduced under Mayor Sam Sullivan. In March of 2007, city council approved a reduction from the promised 66% non-market down to 20% non-market, represented by the 250 units now familiar to journalists and the public. Those 250 units were to be divided three ways: 40% “deep core” social housing, 40% “shallow need” affordable housing, 20% low-market housing. In other words, the original 33% for low-income social housing was reduced to 8%.[8]

With council’s recent reduction, half of the 250 will now rent for market rates. Most importantly, the 33%-cum-8% low-income element has been reduced to almost 0%. The staff recommended that zero units be dedicated low-income units (“deep core”), but due to a last-minute amendment forced through by housing advocates, there will be “some” deep core units mixed into to meager 126 non-market units, although zero parameters have been set for this token amount.

Gregor’s campaign promise was to End Homelessness. Without any clarification of a plan, or even a definition of what “End” means as a political terminology, what results is a deferral to the barbaric strategies of imprisonment and displacement that are already systematic in the city’s rapidly gentrifying downtown eastside. As his Olympic housing legacy, the mayor is eliminating social housing from the Olympic Village and handing those units over to those tasked with enforcing the gentrification laws themselves: the VPD and their legacy of Project Civil City. A partnership is at play, since while Gregor facilitates gentrification through zoning policies like the recent Height Review process,[9] the police act on the ground as the literal foot soldiers of gentrification, driving the poor into the institutions and prisons, or – though harassment and impoverishment – out of the city altogether. In each case the way is paved for the settlement of the property-owning classes who would rather suffer themselves than recognize equality as an active concept for our time.

A rally is planned for May 15 at the Grand Opening of the Olympic Village. “False Promises at False Creek”, see more here: http://falsecreekpromises.wordpress.com/

article by N. Crompton

Notes:

[1] For an example, click “Crime” at Vision Vancouver’s 2008 campaign website: http://didntgetitdone.com/

[2] ‘Ladner vows to get tough on crime’, The Province, November 1, 2008 http://www.canada.com/theprovince/news/story.html?id=42563c79-6bb4-4da1-a966-d24d52ee9930

[3] VPD Business Plan 2008: http://www.vancouver.ca/police/assets/pdf/vpd-business-plan-2008.pdf

[4] ‘Budget 2009: Police big winners, arts and culture take back seat’, City Caucus blog, March 23, 2009 http://www.citycaucus.com/2009/03/budget-2009-police-big-winners-arts-and-culture-takes-back-seat

[5] The decision was based on the recommendations of the following city report: http://vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20100422/documents/penv6.pdf

[6] Frances Bula, ‘Olympic Village to cost city another $32-million’, The Globe and Mail, April 21, 2010 http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/olympic-village-to-cost-city-another-32-million/article1540830/?cmpid=rss1

[7] ODP, approved Mar 1 2005, prior to NPA amendments, with accompanying Financial Strategy Report: http://public.zeibin.com/vancouvertowers/images/www.city.vancouver.bc.ca/commsvcs/southeast/index.htm

[8] ODP (2007 update) with NPA amendments, here: http://vancouver.ca/commsvcs/southeast/odp/index.htm; see also the following report: http://vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20100422/documents/penv6.pdf

[9] ‘The new gentrification package for Vancouver’s downtown Eastside’, Rabble, January 20, 2010 http://www.rabble.ca/news/2010/01/new-gentrification-package-vancouvers-downtown-eastside

False Promises on False Creek

May 5, 2010