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City of Vancouver accused of backtracking on social housing project

Previous image of tent city at 58 West Hastings, Vancouver.
Previous image of tent city at 58 West Hastings, Vancouver. Global BC

A Downtown Eastside housing group is fuming, saying the city of of Vancouver is backtracking on a social housing project.

The group “Our Housing Can’t Wait”,  says Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson promised to turn 58 West Hastings into 100 per cent pension and welfare rate housing, but now says he is reducing that number to just 30 per cent.

Organizer Aiyanas Ormond says it’s time for the city to put the money where its mouth is.

“You only have to walk down the streets of Hastings to see people camped out on the sidewalks, in the alleys – it’s a crisis level. And we feel like even if the city can’t get the funding that they’d like to get from senior levels of government, what they need to do is just spend the money that they have, deal with the crisis now and push the issue with the province.”

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READ MORE: Vancouver tent city given until 7 a.m. Friday to clear out.

He says OHCW doesn’t want the city to move forward until they guarantee all of the units will be at welfare and pension rates.

“It feels like the city isn’t really pursuing their promise of providing the housing that the community actually needs. We understand that they are looking for support from higher levels of government and we also have been working to try to get the province to kick in money for housing at 58 West Hastings.”

Ormond says the city also organized a public hearing for the site on a welfare cheque day, when low-income people wouldn’t be able to attend.

The Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency (VAHA) estimated the cost of turning the empty lot at 58 West Hastings into 100 per cent welfare and pension-rate housing would cost at least $75 million.

CEO Luke Harrison said the entire capital cost, at least $40 million, needs to be raised before it can guarantee the project will be dedicated to those on welfare and pensions.

The Chinatown Foundation is expected to invest $30 million, but Harrison said more investors need to come forward and it needs help from senior government.

“We can really only look at what’s in front of us and that’s the investment that the Chinatown housing group can come forward with and the land value,” he said.

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“We definitely have been talking to the provincial and federal governments about this project. We continue to reach out and look to see if they are going to come in alongside the Chinatowns foundation’s investment and the city’s investment.”

Harrison added with the Chinatown Foundation’s investment, it can push for half of the units to be at welfare and pension rates.

Mayor Robertson has yet to respond to our request for comment.

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