Vancouver housing activists to aim spotlight on Gregor Robertson’s broken promise

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      Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson will be reminded again about a promise he failed to keep.

      On Wednesday (February 21), the outgoing mayor will hear housing activists recall a commitment he made almost two years ago regarding a city-owned property at 58 West Hastings Street.

      On that day, council is scheduled to listen to speakers on a motion for the city to develop a property at the Downtown Eastside, which shall be dedicated entirely for low-income people.

      The motion filed by Non-Partisan Association councillor Melissa De Genova is a reminder that Robertson did not live up to his pledge to see the development of 58 West Hastings for 100 percent social housing.

      On January 30 this year, council approved a rezoning application for the site, which provided only 50 percent of the housing units at welfare or income assistance rates.

      Lenée Son is a coordinator with the Carnegie Community Action Project, a grassroots initiative focused on housing, income, and land-use issues in the Downtown Eastside.

      According to Son, she and other activists from the community are going to ask council to pass De Genova’s motion.

      “We think that the city should keep their promise,” Son told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      Titled ‘Keeping Promises: Approving and Expediting One Building of 100% Core-Need Rental Housing in the Downtown Eastside’, the motion does not make any direct reference to 58 West Hastings.

      However, the motion mentions the date August 2, 2016, which was the day Robertson signed a statement committing to the development of 58 West Hastings for 100 percent social housing.

      De Genova’s motion noted: “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.”

      Even though council had already approved the rezoning of 58 West Hastings, Son believes that the city can still make the development devoted entirely for social housing.

      “We think that if the city really pushes for funding from the province and the federal government, then it’s possible,” Son said.

      In the public hearing that preceded council approval of the rezoning application for 58 West Hastings, a number of speakers reminded the mayor to live up to his commitment.

      Housing activists like Son aren’t about to give up.

      “We want Gregor [Robertson] to honour that promise,” Son said.  

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