Vancouver councillor takes shot at mayor for broken housing promise at 58 West Hastings

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      Vancouver councillor Melissa De Genova has filed a motion with an interesting title.

      It’s called ‘Keeping Promises: Approving and Expediting One Building of 100% Core-Need Rental Housing in the Downtown Eastside’.

      Why the reference about keeping promises?

      De Genova is taking a shot at Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who looks like he may not be able to deliver on a social housing commitment he made more than two years ago.

      It can be recalled that on August 2, 2016, Robertson signed his name to a statement that reads, “We commit to 100% welfare/pension rate community-controlled social housing at 58 West Hastings, working with the community to develop a rezoning application to proceed to council by the end of June 2017.”

      However, De Genova noted in her motion that Robertson did not move to follow through on that pledge that the city-owned property will be dedicated to residents who are on income assistance.

      “In minutes of meetings held by Council since August 2, 2016, there is no motion by the Mayor or any other member of Council promising one building of housing at 100% core-need rates in the Downtown Eastside,” according to the motion of the councillor with the Non-Partisan Association.

      A plan has been presented by city staff to council for the development of a 10-storey building on the site.

      The top seven floors will have 231 housing units, but only 77 will be occupied by poor people living on income assistance.

      Although only 33 percent of the development will be rented at income assistance rates, which is $375 per month, the entire building will be classified as “social housing”.

      It may be recalled that in March 2015, Robertson’s Vision Vancouver allies in council changed the definition of social housing to now mean that a whole building, where 70 percent of units are rented at market rates, can called social housing just the same.

      Going back to 58 West Hastings, council will make a decision on Tuesday (January 30).

      Coincidentally, the council meeting package on January 30 also includes De Genova’s motion that is on notice.

      De Genova’s motion will also give a chance for Robertson to somehow fulfill his pledge, although it may not apply to 58 West Hastings.

      The motion seeks to “direct staff to find one or more sites of City owned land in the Downtown Eastside appropriate for development of a 10-12 storey building with 100% of units to be rented at core-need rates and report back with recommendations to Council at the March 14, 2018, meeting of the City Finance and Services Committee”.

      De Genova’s motion also will afford Robertson the opportunity to directly work on delivering a social housing project that will be dedicated to people on income assistance.

      The motion asks council to “endorse a community liaison committee to meet with staff and that Mayor Robertson be appointed by Council as the liaison to this committee”.

      It remains to be seen how Robertson’s Vision caucus, who are comprise the majority in council, will treat De Genova’s motion.

      A rendering of the proposed 10-storey building at the city-owned West 58 West Hastings.

      Downtown Eastside community organizer Aiyanas Ormond is not a fan of De Genova’s NPA party.

      But Ormond recognized that De Genova’s motion is “actually good”.

      “The motion is good. That’s [100 percent welfare rate social housing] we want,” Ormond told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      Ormond, who is involved with the Our Homes Can’t Wait Coalition, had only harsh words for Robertson and his unfulfilled promise for 58 West Hastings.

      “At this point, if it stands as it is, it’s kind of the cheery on the cake of broken promises, right?” Ormond said. “Like it’s the last, and … in some ways, most obvious and public of his broken promises.”

      For Ormond,  unless Robertson pulls a miracle on January 30 and have 58 West Hastings devoted to people on income assistance, “this is just … the final kind of betrayal”.