A social-impact assessment for the Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan (LAP) highlights fears of exclusion and displacement.
A 101-page draft obtained by the Straight on February 21 presents the voices of some 600 low-income DTES residents.
“There has been increasing market pressure to develop the area due to its close proximity to the downtown core and comparably lower land values than elsewhere in the city,” the report states. “An increase in market condominium development has brought new, high-income households to the predominantly low-income community.”
It continues: “The biggest fear residents have about housing is that they will lose their current housing or be displaced from the neighbourhood due to new development and rising rents caused by gentrification.”
The document will be made public before the end of the month, according to city officials.
“It has been delayed more than our staff would have liked,” said Vision Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer, who also acts as council liaison to the DTES LAP committee. “But such is life.”
Reimer noted that the plan for the Downtown Eastside—which will be used to inform policy decisions and development for the next 30 years—is not scheduled to go before council until March 12.
The social-impact assessment has existed in different draft forms since at least as long ago as November, according to several LAP committee members interviewed. But Mona Woodward, one of those stakeholders and executive director of the Aboriginal Front Door Society, said she still hasn’t seen the report. Another committee member, Dave Hamm, told the Straight that he only received a copy last week.
“We were stalled on it,” said the president of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users. “We don’t know why. It’s part of a process that’s been convoluted.”
With the social-impact assessment yet to be made public, Hamm said the community deserves more time to review the document before any long-term decisions are made.
However, Scott Clark, executive director of Aboriginal Life in Vancouver Enhancement Society and a member of the reference group that worked on the assessment, said LAP members have had access to preliminary versions of the document for “four or five months”.
“We had drafts of it sent out some time ago,” Clark emphasized. “You’ve got to cut through the BS.”
The Carnegie Community Action Project’s Jean Swanson sat on the group alongside Clark. She praised the report for how it presents the concerns of low-income residents. However, she questioned whether those voices will be heard..
“Understanding what low-income people experience and feel and see in the neighbourhood is the key to having good policies about the neighbourhood,” she said. “I wanted council to understand where the low-income people are coming from.”
Swanson argued that there’s not enough time before the final DTES LAP vote for that to happen.