Councillor-elect vows to fix outgoing Vancouver mayor’s broken housing promise at 58 West Hastings

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      The housing battle over 58 West Hastings Street is far from over.

      One of the most passionate advocates for 100 percent welfare-rate housing in the city-owned Downtown Eastside property has been elected to Vancouver council.

      And as councillor-elect Jean Swanson says, 58 West Hastings is likely to be one of the first two items that she will take up in council, the other being the protection of tenants.

      When she does, it will be yet another reminder of the unfulfilled commitment by outgoing Mayor Gregor Robertson regarding the vacant site.

      It can be recalled that on August 2, 2016, Robertson stood on the steps of the Carnegie Community Centre at corner of Main and Hastings streets with a big promise to residents in the Downtown Eastside.

      On that day, Robertson signed a pledge committing 58 West Hastings to 100 percent welfare-rate social housing.

      That promise has not been delivered.

      A new council starts its term on Monday (November 5), and Swanson says that she wants councillors to make things right.

      “I’ll be calling on them to…fulfil the former mayor’s promise,” Swanson told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      On January 30 this year, the outgoing city council unanimously approved an application to rezone 58 West Hastings for a 10-storey mixed-use building.

      The new building will have commercial and medical office uses on the first three storeys, and 231 units of social housing above.

      The approved rezoning provides that a minimum of 33 percent or 76 of the units will be occupied at welfare rates.

      A media release by the city stated that the development is backed by a $30 million funding commitment from the provincial government.

      The release also noted that the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation, which is the prospective leaseholder in the development, has pledged to raise another $30 million.

      "The funding for this project will allow for a target of more than 50 per cent of the units to be rented at shelter or pension rates," according to the city.

      The city also stated that the remaining units will rented at average market rates.

      The housing component of 58 West Hastings is deemed in its entirety as “social housing” because the city has changed the definition of social housing.

      In the Downtown Eastside, social housing refers to a housing development where a third of units are rented at welfare rates, and the remaining units at varying levels of market rents.

      “It’s so obvious that we need housing for low-income people in the Downtown Eastside,” Swanson said. “There’s at least 1,200 homeless people there, and the city owns the land, and everything should come together. But they refused.”