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How many social-housing units is Vancouver really getting?

September 14th, 2008 · 4 Comments

I was forwarded this email from Vancouver’s housing planner, Dan Garrison, which gives the detailed list of social housing projects completed, under construction, in development and you name it from 2005-2010. This is helpful for everyone because at least now the various sides in the debate over whether the provincial government and city are doing enough can work from some common figures.

There are lots of annotations to put on this list, to remind people of the history. One of the historical facts that many, many people seem to overlook is that the new B.C. Liberal government froze all social-housing projects not actually under construction in the fall of 2001. Some of the current projects being built are buildings that were originally approved back in 2000 or earlier, like the 87 units at 1321 Richards. I’m sure there are more on that list — perhaps the people who keep even more obsessive track of these things can write in with their historical information.

As well, I see at least four projects that were initiated by previous councils, including the 111 units at the Performing Arts Lodge, the 30 units at the RainCity Triage project, the 45-unit Doug Story building (Jim Green’s favourite, with its replacement of a previous SRO, the Passlin Hotel, by the new Doug Story as part of Millennium’s L’Hermitage project on Richards) and, of course, the 200 singles and family units in Woodward’s.

There is, of course, always the debate over whether the hotels the government and city have bought count as new social housing or just preservation of stock that was always used by people at risk of homelessness.

I await your analysis of whether this list of numbers indicates a serious attempt to grapple with social housing or not.

From: Garrison, Dan
Sent: Thursday, September 11, 2008 5:15 PM
To: Mayor and Council (COV) – DL
Cc: Rogers, Judy; Andrews, Jody; Ridge, James; McLellan, David; Gray, Cameron; Best, Laurie; Young, Jennifer; Toderian, Brent; Davidson, Jill
Subject: Memo re: Clarification of Non-Market Housing Unit Numbers, 2005-2010

Mayor and Council,

I’ve attached a memo on Clarification of Non-Market Housing Unit Numbers, 2005-2010. If you would like to discuss this issue further, please contact Jill Davidson or me .

Rega <<Memo re Clarification of Non-market housing unit numbers, September 10 2008.doc>> rds,


<<Memo re Clarification of Non-market housing unit numbers, September 10 2008.doc>>
Dan Garrison
Housing Centre
City of Vancouver


Housing Centre

MEMORANDUM September 11, 2008

File: 3416


Mayor and Council

J. Rogers, City Manager

J. Ridge, Deputy City Manager

J. Andrews, Deputy City Manager

D. McLellan, General Manager of Community Services

C. Gray, Managing Director of Social Development

L. Best, Director of Communications

J. Young, Assistant Director of Communications

B. Toderian, Director of Planning

J. Davidson, Senior Housing Planner


Dan Garrison, Planner, Housing Centre


Clarification of Non-Market Housing Unit Numbers, 2005-2010

This memo provides an accounting of the number of non-market housing units completed, under construction and in development in the city. The memo clearly identifies the number of non-market units to be completed between 2005 and the end of 2010, which of these units are new construction and which of these units are conversions of private market rental housing (usually SROs) to non-market housing.

This memo also responds to an article in the Vancouver Courier dated August 20, 2008, titled Homeless Issue Numbers Game, in which the author claimed that only 521 new units of non-market housing are being created in the city. This number was taken directly from a June 4, 2007 article in The Tyee (Province’s Boasts of “New” Homeless Units Don’t Add Up). This article was published prior to the City and Province signing the MOU to develop the 12 City-owned sites, and is now out of date.

Table 1 summarizes the gross number of housing units to be added to the non-market stock between 2005 and the end of 2010.

Table 1: Gross Non-Market Housing Additions, 2005-2010 (as of August 21, 2008)1

New Construction

Converted Units

Gross Addition of Units

Complete 2005-2008




Under Construction




In Development








1. In addition to non-market housing, these numbers include 114 SNRF units that target low-income residents.

2. 100 units have been subtracted to reflect existing low-income units that will be lost in the redevelopment of the Drake Hotel (24) and Maria Gomez Place (76). At least 200 units will replace these units when the projects are completed.

From 2005 to the end of 2010, 3,813 units will be added to the non-market housing stock. Of these units, 2,461 are new construction and 1,352 units are conversions from the private rental market.

Projects are included in this summary if they involve non-market units generated through Provincial non-market housing programs or housing agreements with developers. Some SNRF projects are included if they target low-income residents, and these projects are identified in the attached table. This memo reports only on the number of units being produced through recent projects. It does not reflect the net change in the low-income housing stock, which is monitored through the biennial Survey of Low-Income Housing in the Downtown Core.

There has been significant discussion in the community about the value of converting units to non-market housing. Conversion of private market units is consistent with Council policy expressed in both the DTES Housing Plan and the Homeless Action Plan. Conversion is an important method of increasing the non-market stock. Converted units help to stabilize the stock of low-income housing, contributing to City objectives to maintain the stock of low-income housing in the downtown core. In addition to stabilizing low-income units, conversion to non-market results in a new management structure that is more supportive of low-income tenants. Rents are lowered to match the shelter component of Income Assistance (currently $375 per month), significant renovations are usually undertaken, regular maintenance schedules are implemented, and staff support is increased. These measures both assist tenants and extend the life of the stock. In most cases, it is also easier to link to support services in the community in non-market housing than it is in private rental buildings.

To provide as much information and clarity on this issue as possible, we provide quarterly progress reports on the Housing Centre website with details on all new non-market projects. In addition, we will now provide a memo summarizing the unit numbers included in the quarterly reports. We will use 2005 as the base year, as this was the year that Council adopted the City’s two principle housing policy documents, the Homeless Action Plan and the Housing Plan for the Downtown Eastside.

The attached table provides the list of all the projects from which this analysis is derived. If you would like to discuss this issue further, please contact Jill Davidson (7670) or me.

Dan Garrison

Phone: 604.871.6003
Fax: 604.871.6488

Attachment: Non-Market Projects (including SNRFs serving low-income residents), 2005-2010

Appendix A – Non-Market Projects (including SNRFs serving low-income residents), 2005-2010

Project Name


New Construction

Converted Units

Total Non-market Additions

Completed (2005-2008)

Beulah Gardens

3355 5th Ave.


Dany Guincher

1436 W 71st St.


Doug Story

768 Richards St.


Tamura House

396 Powell St.


The Londonderry

5550 Yew St.


Helping Spirit Lodge

1495 Kingsway


Watson House

1125 Pendrell St.


Fraser Place*

5616 Fraser St.


Performing Arts Lodge

581 Cardero St.



137 E. Hastings


Grace Mansion

596 E. Hastings


Granville Residence

1261 Richards St.


The Vivian

512 E. Cordova


Jackson Ave. Coop

231 Jackson Ave.


Smith-Yuen Apts.

475 E. Hastings


Completed Sub-total




Under Construction

Arco Hotel

81-3 Pender St


Carl Rooms

575 E Hastings St


Drake Hotel¹

606 Powell St


Gastown Hotel

110 Water St


Kindred Place

1321 Richards St


The Marble Arch

518 Richards St.


The Marr

401 Powell St


Olympic Village #1

1699 Ontario


Olympic Village #2

199 W 1st Ave.


Olympic Village #3

125 W 1st Ave.


Orange Hall

341 Gore St.


Orwell Hotel

456 E Hastings


Park Hotel

429-33 W Pender St


Pender Hotel

31 W Pender St


Pennsylvania Hotel²

412 Carrall St


Ranier Hotel

307-15 Carrall St


Roosevelt Hotel

166 E Hastings


Savoy Hotel

258 E Hastings


Shaldon Hotel

52-60 E Hastings


St Helens Hotel

1161 Granville St


St Vincents

4875 Heather St


The Lux

65 E Hastings


The Rice

404 Hawks Ave


Walton Hotel

261-5 E Hastings


Woodwards Family

122 W Cordova St


Woodwards Singles

131 W Hastings


Under Construction Sub-total




In Development

Station St

1005 Station


Expo Blvd

1050 Expo Blvd



1134 Burrard St



1237 Howe St



1338 Seymour



1601 W 7th



3595 W 17th



188 E 1st Ave



215 W 2nd Ave



505 Abbott



675-91 E Broadway


AHI Lu’ma

2960 Nanaimo


AHI Mothers

2019 Dundas St


AHI Circle of Eagles

1470 E Broadway


Drake Hotel¹

606 Powell St


Maria Gomez Place

590 Alexander St


Coast on Pender

337 Pender St





Union Gospel4

601 E Hastings


In Development Sub-total








* indicates SNRF projects that serve low-income residents, totalling 114 units.

1. Drake Hotel’s 24 rooms will be used through the 2010 Winter Games after which the site will be redeveloped for a mix of social/supportive housing and other uses.

2. The Pennsylvania Hotel is a complete renovation and heritage upgrade converting 72 rooms into 44 new self contained units. It is considered ‘new’ due to the scale of the renovation and the transformation from rooms to studio units.

3. Trio is a partnership project modelled on the Dr. Peter Centre that will include a drop in centre for Aboriginals with HIV/AIDs, the offices of Vancouver Native Health as well as housing. Funding has been allocated for the housing component but not yet for the services component and a site needs to be found.

4. UGM’s project will provide a continuum of housing from shelters, through transitional housing to independent housing. 94 beds will be provided in addition to the 39 units of housing for a total of 133 beds/units.

5. 100 units have been subtracted to reflect existing low-income units that will be lost in the redevelopment of the Drake Hotel (24) and Maria Gomez Place (76). At least 200 units will replace these units when the projects are completed.

Memo re Clarification of Non-market housing unit numbers, September 10 2008.doc
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  • Wagamuffin

    Bless ya, Frances. It looks very thorough.

    How come no-one else in the media thought about checking with city staff? As per your earlier COPE meeting post when you talked about colleauges worried about the state of newspaper affairs, maybe accuracy (and therefore credibility) of reporting might be an issue?

    Come on folks, don’t just default back to what’s easy to find on the Net. Editors, give your people time to complete assignments properly, like they did in the old days.

    And when I was a kid, we had to walk 15 miles a day, both ways, in the snow.

  • Clavio

    I guess the proof is in the pudding. If you, or Dan Garrison or whoever, walks around to these various addresses (e.g. Main/1st, Fraser/Broadway), you’ll see that constructions has not even begun on these projects.
    The others – the converted ones – are kind of a joke in most cases. For example, Tamura House was never completed; the Drake won’t be ready until 2011 according to Raincity; the Walton and the Savoy have effectively rendered nearly 100 people homeless because of construction.
    I have no doubt that intentions are good and that most of these projects will eventually be completed. The problem is crunching it all into 5 years: an impossible task that creates poor workmanship, a disappointed public and displaced tenants.

  • Jean Swanson

    Frances, a 5 minute look at the list and I get:
    2 of the buildings are assisted living (sort of long term care)–Beulah Gardens and St. vincents
    Non of the Olympic Village units have any guarantee of being for low income people at welfare levels. We have no idea what income range will be allowed in it.
    Many of the last batch are in the city/prov MOU. My memory is that this MOU said that these units would be built over 6 years, not 3 (by the end of 2010).

    Other comments not related to the list: The city’s Housing Action Plan says we need 800 units a year. If you go with the 2461, divided by 6 years, that’s about 400 per year. So it’s better than when the province cancelled housing in 2001, but we’re still getting only about half the new units we need.

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