East Hastings housing project brings out critics in Downtown Eastside

A development proposal for a site in East Vancouver is drawing some community opposition as the project goes before a public hearing this week.

As of October 17, 35 people were registered to speak to a proposal to rezone 955 East Hastings Street, when a public hearing continues for a second night at Vancouver City Hall on Thursday (October 18). The site is located across from a B.C. housing development and Ray-cam Co-operative Centre.

The proposal by GBL Architects and the Wall Financial Corporation for a 12-storey mixed-use development includes 282 condo units and 70 social-housing units.

Abi Bond, the city’s assistant director of housing policy, noted that the 70 units will be owned by the city and managed by a nonprofit operator. A third of them will be rented at welfare rates, a third will be subsidized, and a third will go for low-end market rents. According to Bond, this type of proposal reflects a new approach of generating city-owned housing as part of larger developments.

“It’s definitely a new approach that we’re encouraging developers to provide us with what we call turnkey units direct to us, and then we arrange for somebody else to manage them,” she told the Straight by phone.

The proposal has already drawn criticism from some, including members of the Downtown Eastside Local Area Planning Committee. The cochairs of the committee have asked city council to defer their decision on the proposal until the community plan is completed next spring.

“Our big concern is that that ratio [of welfare-rent housing] is very, very low,” cochair Michael Clague said by phone. “It’s not a formula that will address the huge need for welfare-rate housing in the Downtown Eastside.”

Bond noted that when Vancouver city council approved an interim rezoning policy for the Downtown Eastside last spring, it agreed to allow pre-existing proposals to be heard.

Clague said despite that decision, the majority of Downtown Eastside LAPP committee members believe that given the scale of the proposed development, it shouldn't be considered separately from the broader community plan.

“The committee’s concern is that if a major project like this comes along, it can possibly jeopardize the work of the committee in the long run, because this is quite a large project, and it’s one that can set a trend that could influence what follows,” he said.

In his comments to the mayor and council, developer Bruno Wall called the proposal a “unique opportunity to explore how a relatively large-scale development can produce community benefits in a neighbourhood that has seen little change for a number of decades”.

The project is also drawing support from some community groups. Joji Kumagai, the executive director of the Strathcona Business Improvement Association, which is also a member of the LAPP committee, said the group sees the project as helping to fill the housing gap in Strathcona.

The proposal also includes over 64,000 square feet of commercial and light-industrial space.

Comments (10) Add New Comment
Terrible Tim
How come the people who oppose these things never actually build anything of their own?

Instead of wasting their time attacking other people, why don't they get it together and build something themselves?

Do it as a co-op. Do it as a non-profit. Build what they want, down to the doorknobs.

If they actually built something, they would learn how to assemble land, negotiate with a credit union and raise capital, design buildings, overcome local opposition, hire contractors, get the permits and rezonings -- and get the damn job done.

Co-ops have been doing this sort of thing for decades. Time for the complainers in the DTES to step up to the plate, and do the job themselves. At the end of the day, they will have accomplished something real.

That would be a nice change. That would be the real trend that influenced what follows.
Rating: -1
Senior Leta
@Terrible Tim

Do you have any idea how the economy works? In Vancouver, wealthy but small developers can't build projects, let alone the systematically impoverished people who live in the DTES!

First of all, no co-ops have been built in Vancouver in over 10 years. Only Wall, Concord, Westbank, and the other big developers who donate to Vision get any density.

That's why we have a government, so that ALL the people can go. There were about 3 people who were in favour of this development, everyone else was against last night at the hearing.
Rating: +3
Strathcona Resident
I live 2 blocks from this project and strongly disagree with the tone of this article. The bias in your report is strong towards some in the DTES, but leaves out others in another affected community, STRATHCONA. I'm tired of drug users and pimps wagging the dog. They are small in numbers but given a huge soapbox to stand on, thanks to people like your "reporter" Yolande. Some balance would be nice next time.

Its time for us to take our community back.
Rating: -2
Mamun Sultanpur
Rehab has already been completed turnkey rental, including new paint, flooring, kitchen cabinets, updated bathroom, and more rental properties .
Rating: -6
Ive lived a block away fron pigeon park for over 6yrs. You can never build enough welfare housing because the majority of street urchins are drug addicts from Ontario and other provinces who have moved her bevause of the open air drug market. Should be building free walk in rehab clinics and cleaning the area up before these condos tho. 'near' market means paying 1,000/mth for a shoebox bachelor while your crackhead neighbors on welfare keep you up all night destroying their SRO and setting off the fire alarms all the time.
Rating: -7
R U Kiddingme
I'm not sure how to divide 70 by one-third, but it seems like whatever number comes out is the number of additional welfare rate rooms in the neighbourhood. What would be the right percentage, Michael Clague?
Rating: +10
Why is the reporter asking what Michael Clague thinks?
Clague lives in Dunbar, he doesn't live here, — he makes his living here.

Why not ask what the people who actually live here think? — the people at Ray Cam, the people in Strathcona... The Carnegie activist set may oppose this project, but most of us who live here are hopeful that this project will provide some much need community amenities and housing.

The Marxist goon squad coming out of the Carnegie are attempting to expand their influence by using thuggery and intimidation to silence locals, and the city is quite compliant in allowing this injustice to continue. The Local Area Planning Committee is a joke — neither the residents of RayCam nor Strathcona even have representation on it.. It's dominated by the same tiresome bullies that dominate DTES politics.
Rating: -2
Joseph Jones
At bottom of photo, second caption from left = Affordable Housing Entrance. That's SEGREGATION. "Social mix" my foot.
Rating: -3
Disruptive Innovation
The usual suspects who are misinform idealist support keeping the community the way it is, who do these self proclaimed 'activists' really work for needs to be investigated? Where does the money come from to pay for the food, stipends and salaries that enables them to use vulnerable peoples? Gentrification needs to be controlled, it cannot be stopped so how to work with it to mitigate increased homelessness is the real question?

They seek to keep the vulnerable women, youth and seniors in the DTES, why? Who benefits when this many challenged people are corralled together in a violent community? What is the relationship between the 'activists' and those that benefit from stopping progressive development?

The industry around poverty, violence, rape, sexual exploitation of women and youth, murdered and missing women, legal and illegal drugs, alcohol and housing and homelessness needs to be exposed. How can these 'activists' claim to be supporting them when they know the real issues of lateral and systemic violence of the DTES? Why are they silent on this who are they afraid of offending?

So many people of privilege, including the so called 'activist' who make their living off the backs of the vulnerable populations need to be held accountable to the public. This includes the 'social service providers', many who make 6 figure salaries, the businesses that profit from prescription drugs and sale of lysol and other illicit alcohol, drug dealers, pimps and gangs. All these groups make their living off others pain.

Year after year, we hear from the same tired 'activists' demand more charity through demonstrations, marches and sit ins. They criticize all progressive policy or projects that can actually help vulnerable peoples, why?They stand on the backs of the impoverished, take advantage of their vulnerabilities and claim to be their champions. Yet, when you actually talk to the people, they want safe, affordable housing outside of the DTES, education, jobs, in a word, dignity. If the vulnerable people speak up too loudly against the 'activist leadership' they are ostracized from the various groups. How is this empowerment?

I have seen many vulnerable people used, people who are survival sex workers, drug/alcohol addicts, Aboriginals and others. I believe they are beginning to see how the 'activists' are using them and are starting to demand the existing levers of control be removed. I believe they are having some success, the 'activist leadership' are getting challenged by the people they claim to represent and some of them are backing off.

The hearings at City Hall around this project heard from many people and organizations. The parents in this area want the new mixed social housing, training, jobs, they want to move up and out off welfare rate housing, is this so bad? They want space to develop their small business ideas and a food store that is affordable, why should the 'activists' want to block this?

The DTES LAPP has a few of the 'leader activists' on it and they are trying to control it and the more they try to control it, the more they are losing control.
Rating: -2
For the people that choose to live in the affected area, that is your decision. To say you need to take your community back from the people that have formed the community, that is sickening. You chose to live in their community. I agree that this building is a nice idea, however it is not in the right place. People have formed a community/social understanding and they feel safe, they have developed their home. This building encourages further seperation through segratgation of the low income units and "normle" units. One would not go build a shack among milliondollar houses in north van so why does it make sense to build houses that do not suit the majority of the people in this district? All this will cause is relocation of the residense that formed this communtity (weither visitors to the community find it acceptable or not) and it will cause another area of vancouver to be reformed at the cost of the relocated residents. If we are going to "clean up" the downtown eastside and show "growth" within it, the real growth starts through the social aspect of it not the physical appearance or idea of what people deem "acceptable" for lifestyle. Multi-use apparments are great for the right communities. This established community needs help within the boundaries it already has, like enforcing standards for the buildings that already lie within the area versus building a brand new one.
Rating: 0
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