Tim Louis: Hats off to council for getting behind $1 billion for housing!

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      Last week, I tipped my hat to Mayor Stewart Kennedy for his $30-million proposal to address homelessness. This initiative was a welcome and significant step forward in addressing our current emergency homelessness crisis due to COVID-19.

      It was also a major first—never before has a Vancouver mayor proposed spending such an amount of money to address the issue.

      However, the $30-million proposal was quickly dwarfed by unanimous city council approval to work with the federal and provincial governments to secure up to $1 billion through a joint investment partnership. (Note that three councillors were absent or abstained from the vote: the NPA’s Melissa De Genova and Lisa Dominato and independent Rebecca Bligh.)

      The funds will be used to purchase and fix up to 105 single-room occupancy hotels, or SROs, containing thousands of rooms. Many are unsafe and in horrible condition with bugs, broken plumbing, black mould, and more.

      I wish city council every success in obtaining the funding it seeks. At the federal level, the biggest stick council has is the amazing fact that Jenny Kwan, the NDP MP for Vancouver East, dug out last month and I blogged about: B.C. has received only $7 million or .05 percent—that’s half of one percent—of the government’s national budget for housing for homeless people. Ontario, by contrast has already received the lion’s share—$1.4 billion (that’s billion with a “B”).

      As reported in The Tyee, longtime and respected DTES activist Wendy Pedersen told city council, “Not since the early '70s has the city been so bold in its vision and so responsive to community.” I could not have said it better myself.

      At long last, we are seeing some decisive action similar to what governments were doing decades ago.

      I have been following civic politics since the late 1970s and I do not recall there ever being put forward a plan as aggressive as this one.

      No more tinkering around the edges. No more “feel-good” cosmetic initiatives by city council. Finally, a very meaningful, tangible initiative to address the crisis faced by residents forced to live in unbelievably dire conditions—in filthy, infested SROs and on our city’s cold, wet city sidewalks.

      Congratulations to city council for getting behind this proposal. Let’s all tip our hats to the mayor and the councillors who voted for it.

      Daily atmospheric CO2 [Courtesy of CO2.Earth]

      Latest daily total (Oct. 21, 2020): 411.85 ppm

      One year ago (Oct. 21, 2019): 408.68 ppm

      Tim Louis is a Vancouver lawyer and former city councillor and park commissioner. This article first appeared on his blog, which lists the daily carbon dioxide count in parts per million in the atmosphere at the end of every post. The Georgia Straight publishes opinions like this from the community to encourage constructive debate on important issues.