We believe that Vancouver should be a model city of compassion and inclusivity, starting with taking care of our most vulnerable citizens. We stand firm against prejudice and violence, and support every effort to ensure peoples’ safety and to celebrate our diversity.
Housing is a human right. Although shelters are just a stop gap measure, they must be upgraded for peoples’ health, safety and well-being. No Single Resident Occupancy dwelling (SRO) should be so decrepit that people would rather sleep on the street. We believe that everyone deserves permanent, decent housing to enable a healthy, dignified life.
Despite years of political promises to end homelessness, the 2014 Homeless Count found almost double the number of our fellow citizens living on our streets as in 2013. In 2007, 67 percent of SRO units rented at the shelter rate of $375 a month. The 2013 survey of SRO rooms by Carnegie Community Action Project found only 4 percent (126 rooms) renting at shelter rate.
It’s a problem that SRO hotels in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) are being bought by developers who are upgrading them to rent to students and others who can afford higher rents of $850 or more a month. In an area where the average income in only $13,691, these “reno-victions” leave people homeless. It’s also a problem that our city’s definition of social housing — with the exception of the Oppenheimer District in the DTES — doesn’t require any units to rent at $375 a month.
Your Vancouver Green Council Team will work for:
Social and supportive housing to fully meet people’s needs
• Re-define social housing to match the true need.
• Identify and acquire more city-owned properties to develop for social housing.
• Require compliance with the city’s 20 percent social housing inclusionary zoning policy and extend the policy to new housing developments or substantial renovations over 10 units and conversions to condominiums.
• Press for commitments from the federal government and federal parties in advance of the 2015 federal election to partner with Vancouver to reach the goal of building 2,900 units of supportive housing, 5,000 units of social housing and upgrading or replacing 5,000 SROs (as outlined in Vancouver’s Housing and Homelessness Strategy, 2011-2021)^TOP
• Increase city inspections of shelters for health and safety.
• Work with shelter providers to improve conditions, provide security for belongings, and ensure sufficient, appropriate shelters for women, families, youth and seniors.
• Consider enabling intentional shelter communities like Portland’s Dignity Village and the Opportunity Village in Eugene, Oregon, where living conditions are far healthier than in shelters, SROs and on the street.^TOP
Upgrading SROs for low-income residents
• Strengthen the SRA (Single Room Accommodation) Bylaw. Tie the definition of SROs to renters on social assistance at rates they can afford. Ensure upgrades resulting in rent increases that displace low income tenants be considered conversions, requiring city approval and payment of a penalty to the City’s Affordable Housing Fund.
• Consider a temporary moratorium on SRO conversions, as Chicago did in June 2014, to give time to create a robust SRO protection plan.
• Fast-track SRO renovations. Seek and prioritize funding sufficient to upgrade the 1,500 SROs currently in poor condition (31 percent of all SROs).
• Attach conditions to the city’s grants to non-profit societies of $5,000 per SRO to upgrade the unit to include private bathroom and cooking facility that the rent on the unit not be increased.
• Ask the provincial government to provide tax benefits for upgrading private SROs by their owners if there is a guarantee of no rent increase.
• Enforce the city’s Standards of Maintenance Bylaw so that buildings do not deteriorate. Apply Section 23 of the Standards of Maintenance Bylaw to do the necessary work on the building without evicting the tenants.
• Require that SRO management be under a non-profit society as a condition of the licence if a private owner is not managing an SRO building properly.
• Require stronger tenant relocation plans in the SRA Bylaw: Require the owner to arrange comparable or better accommodation at a comparable or better rent for residents long-term (not just during renovation, as required in the SRA Bylaw) if the rooms are converted unless the residents are given first right of refusal to re-rent the rooms after renovation at the same rent. Add penalties into the SRA Bylaw for non-compliance with tenant relocation plan requirements.^TOP
Tackle the root causes of poverty and homelessness
• Expand partnerships with VanCity, the Vancouver Foundation and other institutions to increase year-round social enterprise jobs for those with employment barriers like Mission Possible’s Clean Streets project and the Recycling Hub co-venture of United We Can and Recycling Alternatives.
• Strongly advocate with senior governments to tackle root causes of poverty and homelessness by:
- Increasing funding to build new social and supportive housing.
- Increasing addiction treatment, health and mental health programs for the homeless and hard-to-house including the Chez Soi program.
- Supporting programs to assist youth transitioning out of care.
- Immediately increasing welfare and social assistance rates, shelter housing allowances and rent supplements in advance of instituting a guaranteed livable income.^TOP
A safe and inclusive city
• Require SRO hotel policies to ensure the safety of women, youth and seniors.
• Support initiatives that increase the safety of public places.
• Incorporate safety-promoting urban design practices in policies and bylaws such as lively streets, no roll-down shutters, safer night lighting.
• Continue building relations and reconciliation with First Nations including ways to acknowledge Vancouver’s location on the traditional unceded territories of the Coast Salish First Nations, such as re-naming of places and streets.
• Support initiatives that make Vancouver a more welcoming city for new immigrants.
• Support Vancouver being a “Sanctuary City” for refugees.
• Nurture place-based strategies to build healthy communities especially in inner-city neighbourhoods and to design our city with children in mind, like the Harlem Children’s Zone.
• Create urban design guidelines to combat loneliness and promote good health.^TOP
A fair and compassionate city
• Advocate for a $10/day childcare plan as recommended by the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC.
• Adopt a Living Wage policy, like New Westminster did in 2011, to make Vancouver a Living Wage Employer requiring all companies contracted or subcontracted to provide services on city property pay their employees a living wage as calculated by the Living Wage for Families Campaign.
• Adopt a Fair Wage Policy, like Burnaby and Toronto, promoting equality for workers by ensuring City contractors and sub-contractors are paid at least equal or greater wages to comparable City employees.
• Support initiatives that celebrate our city’s diversity and encourage compassion and non-violence.
• Work to affirm Vancouver as a Compassionate City, as part of the global initiative to increase compassion through local initiatives, policies and projects - and formally sign the Charter of Compassion.
• Initiate actions to build volunteerism and community spirit, such as Calgary’s program, “Do Three Things for Calgary”.
• Advocate for increases to welfare rates. ^TOP