Between March 12th and 15th, Council listened to over 100 speakers imploring us to find a solution to the homeless and housing crisis in the Downtown Eastside. The speeches were eloquent, passionate and heart-rending. Very few said vote for the draft Downtown Eastside Plan as presented. Many said the plan should stay as a "draft" until more work is done. Most asked for a new definition of social housing that reflects what most Vancouverites assume: social housing is housing for people on the lowest incomes, renting at basic social assistance shelter rates.
At the end of the hearings, Clr Reimer introduced 25 pages of amendments, including a definition of social housing that was admittedly better than the one in the plan (under which NO housing at basic shelter rates was a possibility), but only requires that one-third of the housing be at shelter rates.
I moved the following: "to Refer the Downtown Eastside Draft Plan to staff to continue to work with the LAPP committee on the definition of social housing and a plan for sufficient housing at basic shelter rates to fully meet the community's needs, and to detail other key plans including plans for the local economy, arts and culture, and an implementation plan that includes how to deliver quick actions such as an Aboriginal Wellness and Healing Centre and how to involve local residents in monitoring the plan's implementation."
Adriane Carr's motion to refer the DTES Draft Plan to continue to work with staff on a plan for genuine and sufficient social housing
My referral was supported by Councillors Affleck and Ball, but was defeated by Vision Councillors Deal, Louie, Meggs, Reimer,Tang and the Mayor.
Following that I moved an amendment to Clr Reimer's definition of social housing, to replace one-third at shelter rates, one-third at Housing Income Limits (HILs) and the remaining third at affordable market rents, with the following definition:
Social Housing is "non-market housing, owned and operated by government or a non-profit society, and accessible to those living on the lowest incomes, including basic social assistance shelter rate or one-third of basic old age pension rate".
Adriane Carr's motion to amend Clr Reimer's definition of social housing
I was the only Councillor who voted in favour of my amendment.
Clr. Meggs called it too aggressive, asking for "nothing to happen".
I think that it is duplicitous to include housing far beyond the reach of those at the lowest income levels in a definition of social housing, then set a goal like 60 percent social housing in the DEOD (Oppenheimer District) but only really deliver one-third of that (20 percent) that meets low income peoples' needs. It may make for a good sound-bite. but I worry it will only make solving the homeless and housing crisis more difficult. It's far better to define social housing honestly as the public understands it and the people in the Downtown Eastside implored us to do. Then, we determine the goal of how much of that REAL social housing we can build on our own without senior government help (because they are shamefully NOT stepping up to the plate right now). If it's only 20 percent, at least we're honest about it rather than hiding the real figure about how much core need housing we're building. That way, too, the gap that has to be filled by senior governments will be that much more apparent.
In the end, I did vote for some parts of Clr Reimer's motion on the Downtown Eastside plan: the parts to fast-track an Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre, thank people for their work on the plan, ensure continuing work on the local economy and arts and culture, develop an advocacy strategy with senior levels of government, extend a moratorium on primary liquor licenses, amend the Parking By-law, and involve local residents in ongoing monitoring. I did not vote for policies and guidelines for upgrading SRO rooms because the by-law required only one-third of the upgraded units be rented at shelter rates. I didn't vote for micro dwellings because there was resistence on this issue by speakers, and I felt it needs more consultation. I didn't vote for the sections that included a definition of social housing in which only one-third would be at shelter rates ($375) because, with the median income in the Downtown Eastide at $13,691 and thus over 9,000 people only able to afford rent of $342 or less, we must define social housing to fit their need.
We must shine a light on how desperate the situation is for far, far too many.
Adriane Carr's closing comments on the DTES Local Area Plan Proposal