False Promises on False Creek

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


[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


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