Former COPE councillor Ellen Woodsworth says better protection of affordable housing stock needed
As a local task force released recommendations Monday aimed at increasing the affordable housing supply in Vancouver, a former Coalition of Progressive Electors councillor criticized what she said are insufficient measures being taken to protect the city’s existing stock.
Ellen Woodsworth said she’s concerned recommendations from the city’s housing affordability task force won’t adequately protect existing affordable units such as row housing, an option touted in the interim report.
The former city councillor is basing her comments partially on her own experience. Woodsworth is disputing an eviction notice she received last week from the landlord at her East Vancouver housing complex.
“I’m living in existing affordable row housing stock, and it was sold, and it’s being developed one unit at a time, and the rents are doubling, tripling, quadrupling,” she told the Straight by phone.
Woodsworth has been renting her home for 32 years. She said the complex near Britannia Community Centre has been affordable row housing “since 1920”.
“It’s housed many, many people over many years,” she said. “I support row housing as a very viable, affordable type of housing, and so does the city—but what’s happening is that the existing stock of row housing is being converted into very unaffordable housing.”
The former councillor has a hearing scheduled at the Residential Tenancy Branch on July 11 to dispute the eviction notice. Her landlord has said they have two months to vacate the unit for repairs to be done in the home. Woodsworth plans to argue that the repairs could be done while she and her partner continue to live there.
Woodsworth said her eviction is part of what she sees as a trend of affordable housing being sold to new owners and upgraded into more expensive units across the city.
“I think the developers still see Vancouver as a way that they can buy up existing land, or existing buildings, and flip them and make a huge profit with no penalties,” she said.
“I think number one, you protect existing housing stock—you don’t allow it to be flipped and renovated, and low-income tenants forced out, and the new stock being brought into the market at unaffordable rents.”
Woodsworth added she’s glad to see an independent housing authority was recommended in the task force’s interim report.
“That’s something that we ran on in the last election and having been calling for for a while now,” she said. “I think it’s really critical that we get the real affordability and protect existing affordable stock.”
The housing task force co-chaired by Mayor Gregor Robertson and former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister Olga Ilich recommended that existing social and affordable rental housing be protected, and that strategies be developed through community plans to “repair, renew and expand” the stock.
“Partnership models involving the City, the development community, co-ops and nonprofit housing societies that are nearing the end of their mortgages may be required to both renew old stock and add additional affordable housing units,” the report reads. “This could be achieved in a number of projects through infill and carefully phased redevelopment, while working to protect affordability.”
The report also recommended measures including increasing density at transit hubs, and encouraging forms of housing such as stacked townhouses and row houses in transition zones between transit hubs and single-family neighbourhoods.