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East Hastings project demonstrates new way to create social housing units, but draws criticism from DTES groups

October 16th, 2012 · 14 Comments

As my Globe story today says, the project at public hearing tonight from Wall Financial represents the city’s new solution to creating social housing.

Wall Financial is proposing a building at 955 East Hastings that consists of two floors of industrial space in the old Alex Gair building, and 352 condos, of which 70 will be turned over to the city.

Vancouver used to demand that developers reserve 20 per cent of their land for social housing in mega-projects, with the idea that money from provincial and federal housing budgets would provide the construction dollars for whatever building eventually went up. That money has disappeared. The feds ended their funding of basic social housing in 1994. The province is now concentrating only on social housing for people with the most serious disabilities. It has put money into Downtown Eastside residential hotels and 14 new buildings around the city. There’s no more for low-cost housing for just regular people who happen to not earn very much money.

The city is now focused on trying to extract units from developers as the benefit in various new projects in order to build up the pool of housing stock that can be rented out, some with a deep subsidy (so renting at welfare rates), a shallow subsidy (for working people who don’t have very high incomes) and at market rates. That’s the model that used to be used for social housing in all buildings, until the recent focus on only the poorest of the poor by the province.

That means less money available for other things the city used to use its cut of developer profits for. But the Vision council has decided this is the priority for the moment.

As I write, it’s 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 16 and the hearing on this project hasn’t started yet. There’s a raft of speakers set to speak, but I can’t imagine we’ll see council get through many of them tonight. So decision to come much later.


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