Homelessness in Vancouver: Council pushing ahead with emergency options
VANCOUVER -- On Monday night, Vancouver city council unanimously voted to explore emergency options to deal with the city’s homelessness crisis.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart put forward a list of measures last week to address the tent city in Strathcona Park and a lack of housing across Vancouver. A special meeting was scheduled Friday night to hear from members of the public, and councillors then put forward amendments which were discussed and voted on Monday.
The mayor’s proposal included three options: leasing or purchasing housing units like hotels and other available housing stock, establishing a temporary emergency relief encampment on vacant public or private land, or temporarily converting city-owned buildings into emergency housing or shelter space.
Two more options were added Monday: establishing temporary tiny house villages on vacant public or private land and providing a serviced space or spaces for low income RV residents.
Council also moved to declare the housing options as “disaster relief.” Coun. Pete Fry said the change would allow the city to take “a more assertive response and ensuring we’re treating this like we would any other disaster.”
Another proposal included widening the definition of “public or private land” to include land owned by both the provincial and federal governments.
City staff now have two weeks to prepare a report looking at the feasibility of the options, including what funding would be available from higher levels of government.
In a previous interview with CTV News, Stewart acknowledged none of the options will be cheap.
"The city really only has the property tax base to work from and so I think we have to move forward with something but that will mean probably we’ll have to delay some projects and some of the things we’re doing now in order to afford this," he said last week.
The province has already announced some long term housing options, including a 60 bed navigation centre, but it’s not expected to be ready until 2021.
“In the immediate we’re going to need some kind of response,” said Fry. “Winter’s coming, we still have a pandemic on our hands, we have incredibly harsh conditions with the smoke and now the rain, we can’t afford to wait six months.”
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Allison Hurst