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

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      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.



      Steve Y

      Dec 22, 2010 at 1:24pm

      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?

      Scott Clark

      Dec 22, 2010 at 1:24pm

      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.


      Dec 22, 2010 at 1:39pm

      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.


      Dec 22, 2010 at 2:24pm

      keep on with the recall so we can have a goverment who cares about the people.


      Dec 22, 2010 at 2:50pm

      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.

      Bobbie Bees

      Dec 22, 2010 at 3:03pm

      Let's move Steve Y to Kitimat. He seems to love forced relocation schemes.

      Steve Y

      Dec 22, 2010 at 3:11pm

      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.

      Human Rights

      Dec 22, 2010 at 3:23pm

      <a href="http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/">Article 25 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights</a>

      (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.

      Tami Starlight

      Dec 22, 2010 at 3:57pm

      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.



      Dec 22, 2010 at 4:20pm

      I think the graffiti on the sign shows the type of people we are dealing with