City unveils $1-billion, 30-year plan
Proposal would see 4,400 new or replacement social-housing units built in area
Vancouver’s troubled Downtown Eastside is about to get a facelift.
The City of Vancouver unveiled an ambitious, $1-billion, 30-year plan for the neighbourhood Thursday.
The complex, 183-page proposal would see 4,400 new or replacement social-housing units built in the area. There would also be a dramatic increase in condos near Clark and Hastings streets, where buildings could be 12 to 15 storeys high.
The city said it hopes to revitalize Hastings as a retail street, yet retain the low-income character of much of the neighbourhood. It projects that housing units in the area will rise from 15,300 to 19,850 in 10 years, and 27,950 in 30 years. The population would rise from about 18,000 today to 30,000 to 35,000 in 2044.
“The plan over the next 10 years will be an increase in the number of these mixed-use projects that we’re trying to achieve in the Downtown Eastside,” said Brian Jackson, Vancouver’s general manager of planning and development. “It will include affordable housing, it will include a number of opportunities for market rental, and market condos. You’re going to see a mixture.”
The controversial part of the plan looks to be a condo-free zone that stretches along Hastings from Carrall in Gastown to Healey Avenue in Strathcona. Any new structures in the rental-only area have to be at least 60-per-cent social housing. The no-condo zone extends to Japantown around Oppenheimer Park.
Jackson said the aim is ensure that low-income people in the DTES won’t be displaced.
“The plan is attempting to achieve balance,” he said after a media briefing. “We have to provide the assurance that through the plan we are making sure the people who want to continue to live in the Downtown Eastside have that opportunity. But it has to be in improved forms of housing.”
In the plan, the DTES isn’t just the area around Hastings and Main; it includes surrounding neighbourhoods such as Gastown, Chinatown, Victory Square, Strathcona and Thornton Park. It was put together during the past two years by city staff in tandem with a city-appointed committee that was mandated to have at least half of its members from the low-income community.
Asked where the money for such an ambitious plan will come from, Jackson said the city will “need partnerships in order to achieve it.”
“We need the other levels of government, we need the non-profits, we need the faith-based groups,” he said. “And we need the development community to help make this real.”
But getting the money to build the social housing called for in the plan may not be easy. Rich Coleman is the provincial minister in charge of housing. Asked if the province has the money to build 4,400 socialhousing units in the DTES, he said: “No, we don’t. And we don’t do housing that way any more, either.”
Coleman said the province’s strategy is to “diversify” the way money is spent on low-income housing, such as providing rent assistance for about 10,000 families around B.C.