Condo towers could push out poor from DTES: activists
Published Monday, January 17, 2011 9:30PM PST
Residents of Vancouver's impoverished Downtown Eastside are protesting a proposal to allow taller buildings in their neighbourhood, fearing that new condo developments could push out poor families.
Vancouver's "Historic Area Height Review" singles out seven sites in the Downtown Eastside and Chinatown where maximum building heights would be raised to about 46 metres, or roughly 15 floors. The proposal goes before council on Thursday.
At a community protest Monday, residents like Stacey Bonenfant said they fear that allowing more development in the neighbourhood will make it difficult for struggling families to find affordable housing.
"Condo towers are not going to make it more accessible for families in this community to get decent, affordable housing," Bonenfant said.
"Social housing is necessary so that our families can be stress-free, so they can afford their houses, so they don't have to choose over, ‘Do I have a home, or do I feed my children?"
According to Jean Swanson of the Carnegie Community Action Project, new condominium developments could cause property values to skyrocket.
"Condo towers have very bad ripple effects on the low-income community; they cause property values, hotel rents and store rents to go up. Low-income people are pushed out by high rents," she said.
Critics are asking the city to buy 10 sites for use as low-income housing.
The city can't say yet whether low-income housing could be a part of some of the new developments, but says if the plan is approved it will hold public consultations before anything is built.
"The prevailing policy has been revitalization without displacement -- the idea that the low-income community in the Downtown Eastside would remain and we would even provide more stable housing over time," Vancouver's Director of Planning Brent Toderian said.
The city says there could also be opportunities to leverage developers for extras like daycare and rental housing.
"That's something that we'd very much like to investigate through the individual re-zonings," Toderian said.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Maria Weisgarber