Olympic Village social housing units "tokenism", says Vancouver housing activist

The first tenants began moving into affordable housing buildings at the Olympic Village this week, but a Vancouver housing activist is calling the units a token measure compared to the social housing units that were initially promised at the site.

The City of Vancouver announced today (December 22) that the first tenants have started moving into market rental and social housing units at the former athlete’s village site.

Tristan Markle, an organizer with the group Vancouver Action, said while it is heartening when people who really need housing get it, the units are “nowhere near” the two-thirds proportion of affordable housing originally announced by former mayor Sam Sullivan.

“It’s more tokenism now than it is actually a mixed income neighbourhood,” said Markle.

In a news release, Mayor Gregor Robertson said many of the new tenants have been on waiting lists for housing for many months or years.

According to the city, 252 units of affordable housing in the Olympic village are being run by COHO Management Services, under the Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C.

Half of the units will be dedicated to social housing, while half will be rented out at market rates to “essential service workers” such as police and fire personnel and nurses.

Tenants will continue to move into the Olympic Village housing units over the coming weeks.

“We’re very pleased with the progress we’ve made so far,” said Thom Armstrong, executive director of the Co-op Housing Federation, in a news release. “It’s gratifying to see the first families move into their new homes, and its heart-warming to hear their stories about how much living in the Olympic Village will mean to them.”

Markle said “substantial” action is needed in order to meet the shortage of affordable housing units in the city. He said 800 social housing units a year are needed to make up for the gap that was created from 2000 to 2007, when almost no new units were built.

“There’s going to be 1,000 units coming in the next few years, and that’s not bad, that’s great,” he said. “That’s because people protested. But it doesn’t end there, it starts there.”

“There’s lots of work that needs to be done in the Downtown Eastside and throughout the city.”

The Vancouver Action group is planning on erecting a tent city at the Olympic Village in February to draw attention to the issue of homelessness.

“It’s simply a way to make homelessness public,” said Markle. “Rather than having people individually under one bridge, on one bench, you bring it and you make it a public issue so that people are faced with this reality that’s getting worse.”

You can follow Yolande Cole on Twitter at twitter.com/yolandecole.

Comments (28) Add New Comment
Steve Y
You know where there is cheap housing? Kitimat! Let's move the homeless people there. Or are they afraid they won't be able to access as much heroin as they need?
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Scott Clark
Today it is reported 3 people died from living in substandard housing here in Vancouver.

Housing is a human right and in this country with vast amount of wealth produced there is no reason why there should not be a national housing strategy in place. The federal Liberals, in 1996 through the Canadian Health and Social Housing (CHST) devolved programs and services through to the Provinces who in turn devolved it to the cities.

This country once stood for universal social programs, through the Canadian health Act principles, the privatization of services through the CHST has fragmented this cornerstone of Canadian identity.

All levels of government must be at the table to find ways to meet the needs of fulfilling this basic human right, not just here in Vancouver, but the Province and at the national level. The only way this is going to happen is if people demand it and get involved as active community members beyond voting.

I for one will.
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Ziggles
So tell me, why is homelessness getting worse (according to Markle) under a Mayor and Council who won because they promised to "End Homelessness"? And don't be fooled when Gregor keeps saying "we cut STREET homelessness in half." They never, ever used that qualification during the 2008 campaign. They specifically said "END HOMELESSNESS BY 2015," there was no "street" in there at all (whatever that's supposed to mean). Just more politicians talking out of the side of their mouths and hoping we won't notice.
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ds
keep on with the recall so we can have a goverment who cares about the people.
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Rox
Get your facts (Georgia) Straight, Scott. Incorrectly blaming "substandard housing" for a fire when the true cause was a bad extension cord is a terrible launching point for your argument.
Just reviewed Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms and there's no mention of Housing as a human right. You're batting a 1,000 there boy.
By far, health care consumes most of our taxpayer dollars. Sounds to me like you want more taxes sucked out of our paychecks to build housing in Downtown Vancouver for some people who'd rather not seek an affordable lifestyle elsewhere.

Markle's argument is dated and tired - Sulllivan's been out of the office for years. Flexibility from all parties (helloooo Mr. Rennie) is a most important quality that can help taxpayers recover from the Olympic Village issue.
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Bobbie Bees
Let's move Steve Y to Kitimat. He seems to love forced relocation schemes.
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Steve Y
Scott Clark, housing is not a "right". We have democratic rights, mobility rights and legal rights, no such rights to housing. Housing is something most of us spend 50% of our income on and the other 50% goes to the government.
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Human Rights
Article 25 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
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Tami Starlight
Rox and others. (who will probably post later)
Are obviously out of touch with reality in their comfy life online.

The Olympics were a sad joke thrust upon us by greedy ignorant capitalists. Yes, of course, it was all through our dumbed down sad example for media and our politicians, like "Gordo the Magnificent" pushed along with his backroom dealings. Certainly the civic types were no exception. Most levels of government, and yes, the fed's - all drank the olympic koolaid.

What a sad legacy.
Truly Vancouver is really becoming what many social justice activists loathe. A shell of it's former self. Where a community that was basically united, well informed, connected to each other and cared deeply about social justice issues. I have come to believe that many of these folks have left this shitty for good because of what is happening.

Turning Vancouver into a sterile, pseudo/fake community, filled with greedy lil' capitalists who are about as oppressive as one can get.

Even as a social justice advocate and activist I have spoken that I would not want to live there, so why would I wish anyone else to? Surely if people who are low income, etc, and need a place to live - well, there are plenty of vacant spaces in The Athletes (Foot) Olympic Village (People).

At the end of the day.
I am not affiliated with any party. Federal, provincial or municipal. They all seem to be complete sell offs. (with very few exceptions)

I believe our political system is a sham and we can and must do better. Certainly supporting this broken and crooked system is so sad. Corporate mainstream media to boot! (print/online/TV)

I for one support Van.Act in principal and groups like them.
The Downtown Eastside Neighborhod Council is another. Along with CCAP - Carnegie Community Action Project.
Democratic, non oppressive, social justice spaces are THE MOST NECESSARY to our so called semi fake democracy.

Namaste
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P
I think the graffiti on the sign shows the type of people we are dealing with
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Scott Clark
Rox, Look at Human Rights comment.

International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (article 11.1)

"The State Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions."

The occupants of that house where the three people died are classified as homeless, do I need to bring that definition out for you as well?

People that spout out simple answers with no compassion for human beings are in serious need to pull their heads out of sand and give their heads a shake. Housing is a human right and this countries denial, starting with the federal Liberals, through to the current "conservatives" need honour all Canadian rights.

Steve, do a little research and find out why Canadians are making less and paying more today then 30-20-10 years ago. The patterns are visible, but it requires one to have a critical objective mind which sadly seems to be missing by far too many people in this nation as they depend on mainstream media to "educate" them..
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Rox
Hey Human...are you suggesting that Canada should guide itself by UN doctrine and not its own charters?
Um, yeah...let's get right on that.
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unknown sample
@Tami Starlight, your little city is growing up!

Nostalgia for the Vancouver of the 1970s is cute, but hopelessly naive and utopian.

I used to have the same perspective you seem to have now, but after I finished my liberal arts education and toiled for a while in dreary service sector jobs, I took responsibility for my life, upgraded to a useful skill set and how have a decent job and income. I now have a decent home (although not even close to the Olympic village site, but maybe some day).

My point is, never at any point did I feel that society owed me anything or that I had a RIGHT to live in a taxpayer paid housing near the downtown core of a metropolitan centre.

These early 20s trust fund housing activists and hippies need a dose of cold hard reality. THE GENERAL PUBLIC DOES NOT AND NEVER WILL SUPPORT LARGE SCALE SOCIAL HOUSING.

People need to start taking personal responsibility and not expect others to take care of them, bottom line.
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Steve Y
@Bobbie Bees... it's not about forced relocation, it's about offering them a home in an affordable place. Ever hear the phrase, beggars can't be choosers? If the homeless get multimillion dollar condos on the waterfront, what exactly is the point of people working?
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Tami Starlight
@ Unkonwn sample - of course you can't use your real name because your argument is old and why this city mostly sucks.

As you pass homeless people you shout euphemisms and tell people to "get a job" in your classist oppressiveness.

That is what makes you a terrible and gross example of what has happened to Vancouver. Ya..named after the colonizer. Captain Vancouver. Rip off the natives and kill them off with small pox and cheap liquor. Such a great history - sad bunch of jerks in this shitty.....err....city.

Certainly I will continue to fight people like you for justice served. Hot or cold, served either way!
See ya in the streets because WE ARE NOT GOING AWAY.
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Taxpayers R Us
THE HOMELESS NEED MORE BIKE LANES!

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Bruno15
@Tami -- While your dedication is admirable, your practicality is not. Surely you can see the other side of your position, namely that the vast majority of the population who bust their humps day in and day out to provide for their families may have a bit of an issue with the 43% (average) or so of their income that they pay in taxes being used to provide brand new False Creek condos for others.

Your arguments would be much more relevant if after your berating those with whom you disagree with, you suggested some remotely practical alternatives or solutions.
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East Van Arts
Do we have the 'right' to drive Cadillacs? Of course not. We have the privilege of earning a driver's license. Thereafter, it's up to us.

Do we have the 'right' to live in Dunbar or Shaughnessy, British Properties or Deep Cove? Yes, if we can afford the freight. Otherwise, it is a 'right' without significance. No one owes me, nor does the state, the 'right' to live in a Point Grey mansion.

Therefore, the question comes to this. Does the state have an obligation to look after those who cannot do so on their own? Yes, most people would agree. People born with FAS, or severe Down's, or profound autism, or unmanageable CP: any decent community will look after these people, and/or help those family members who are best able to do so. Similarly, those who are disabled by service to Canada, or by industrial accident, or by other catastrophe have also earned a call on our conscience.

Disagreement comes in the context of those who could look after themselves, but don't. Here, it is a question of degree. The problem for those who insist that free housing is a universal 'right' is this: "When will you be satisfied?" If we build 1000 units, will we solve the problem? 3000? If we build 4000, why not 40,000 and give EVERYONE a free house? Should we also build free housing for millionaires? For drug dealers? The logic of such a question is never countered by practical reply -- because it is a question of need, and not 'right' at all.

Thanks to Tommy Douglas we came to declare that health care is a right of citizenship, and not a privilege of wealth. And this is a very good thing. Canadians live, on average, FOUR YEARS longer than Americans. We have universal health care and they don't. Thank God for Tommy Douglas and the bold work of the CCF/NDP sixty and seventy years ago.

The same principle of universality (cancer doesn't discriminate) does not apply to housing, or to automobiles. When someone convinces me that we have the 'right' to drive a Cadillac, I will be open to discussing the 'right' to housing. Meantime, it's a question of compassion for those who TRULY cannot house themselves, and limited social resources for those who prefer to spend their money on booze or dope.

Otherwise, there's just no end in sight, and we will go bankrupt in the trying. Think it can't happen? Just look at California. Today, they are effectively bankrupt. So would we become if we foolishly decided that people have the 'right' to live in homes they cannot afford. By that token, they will also have the right to carry Gucci handbags, and three facelifts a year.

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unknown sample
Assuming certain posters here are not trolls, people who spout professional permastudent rhetoric yammering about patriarchal capitalistic oppression strike me as either intellectually lazy or brainwashed.

Furthermore, extrapolating the events of several hundred years ago to the social problems of the present day reminds me of certain groups that try to further their agenda of perpetual victimhood. Such types are to me part of the problem. When you have someone telling you that nothing that has happened to you is your fault, but due to somebody else, then nothing is your responsibility.

Implying that persons living today in Vancouver are responsible for the actions of persons 200+ years ago is nonsense. Such an argument is traditionally aimed at persons of European descent, but I guess it is also be directed at the various other ethnic communities in Vancouver too. Gee whiz, the reach of Captain Vancouver and his conquering, disease spreading, capitalistic oppressor overlords is far indeed!

I completely support housing for the truly disenfranchised. But this needs to be balanced with practical, fiscal considerations.

If you truly want to attract the help and sympathy of normal citizen for the homeless in this area, knock off the outmoded rhetoric and stop screaming in political discourse. Otherwise, you end up with less support and marginalize further the people you wish to help.
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Steve Y
Here here unknown sample.

@Tami Starlight, yes our system is so broken and horrible. Much better in North Korea, or the USSR, or "communist" china, or perhaps anarchist Liberia? To paraphrase Winston Churchill, our system it is the worst system except as compared to all the others. Or is it only you that are smart enough to lead us into a new utopia?
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