Hundreds of much-needed rental hotel rooms have been priced out of reach for low-income residents of the Downtown Eastside, a tenant-advocacy group says.
The Carnegie Community Action Project today (February 20) released its annual hotel survey and housing report, which is based on data gathered from privately owned or operated buildings.
The report shows the number of single room occupancy units in the Downtown Eastside with monthly rent of $425 or higher increased to 2,042 in 2012 from 1,567 in 2011.
The group says such rental rates are not affordable for people living on income assistance. In B.C., the shelter allowance for welfare recipients is $375 a month for a single person.
“People on welfare can only afford $375 and these rooms went up over $425, so that means they have to pay rent out of their food money,” Carnegie Community Action Project spokesperson Jean Swanson told reporters during a news conference.
The report also shows that only 159 rooms in the surveyed hotels have monthly rents of $375 or less, a decrease of 76 from the previous year.
“Our report shows that these hotel losses are not inevitable but they are the result of gentrification in the Downtown Eastside,” Ivan Drury, another Carnegie Community Action Project spokesperson, told reporters.
For the survey, rental information was gathered from 61 buildings in the Downtown Eastside.
The Carnegie Community Action Project is calling on all three levels of government to take steps to address what it describes as a “housing crisis” in the Downtown Eastside.
Among its recommendations, the group wants the province to increase welfare and disability rates and it wants the federal government to create a national housing program.
The group also wants the city to purchase 50 sites in the Downtown Eastside over the next five years for social housing and halt condo development until there is enough of that housing in place.
City Coun. Kerry Jang refuted the Carnegie Community Action Project’s claim the housing situation for low-income people in the Downtown Eastside is getting worse.
“We’ve seen no loss in existing housing stock,” Jang told the Straight by phone. “In fact, we’ve seen an increase in the range of housing and there’s a great deal of social housing coming in in the pipeline.”
The City of Vancouver aims to have 1,500 new units of social housing and 2,140 of supportive housing in the Downtown Eastside and other parts of the city by 2014.