New housing report argues that ‘2017 was the worst year for homeless Downtown Eastside residents’

. The Canadian Press

Despite the millions of dollars all three levels of government say is being poured into the Downtown Eastside, homelessness continues to rise in that community according to a new study by the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP).

The 2017 Hotel Survey & Housing Report found that while the welfare rate has gone up to $710 a month, the average rent of privately owned hotels in the DTES remains $687, which doesn’t leave a lot for a month’s supply of food, medicine or transportation.

That’s assuming would-be renters can even find a place to live. Lenee Son with the CCAP says the number vacancies isn’t keeping up with the rate of housing that’s disappearing.

READ MORE: Temporary housing for women in the Downtown Eastside to be built on Powell Street

“We’d like to see immediate action from the city and provincial and federal governments to build housing to replace what has been lost to gentrification, colonialism, and the loss of the 500 units especially.”

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On that point, the report finds that 500 tenants were evicted from homes in the DTES, while only 21 new units of housing at welfare rate were opened.

Just 10 out of 65 hotels on the Downtown Eastside still have rent under $400 per month, according to the report. Meanwhile, it points to a Vancouver homeless population that has grown to 2,138 people.

READ MORE: Downtown Eastside Vancouver clinic to provide ‘new model of care’

The report says in the 10 years the CCAP has been tracking housing in the DTES, “2017 was the worst year for homeless Downtown Eastside residents.”

It calls on the province to raise disability welfare rates to $300 more than welfare, to reform the Resdiential Tenancy Act to provide rent control by unit rather than by tenant and to ensure residents of non-profit social housing are protected by the act.

It also calls for the province to fund the construction of 10,000 new units of social housing per year, and on both Victoria and Ottawa to each to replace 1,000 Single Room Occupancy hotel units per year with new social housing.

The report further calls on the federal government to fund Chinese societies in the DTES to upgrade housing units in need and keep them at the welfare rate.

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