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.