Housing activist defends DTES plan 0
Building on East Cordova Street in the Downtown Eastside Vancouver, B.C. on Monday August 12, 2013. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
A planning document for Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside has sparked the latest jabs as opposing camps in the neighbourhood argue over its future.
The Gastown Gazette, a local blog serving the area, published an editorial criticizing an area-planning program the City of Vancouver is developing consisting of market and social housing, among other aspects.
It questioned if the city had created the plan to please the “misguided interests” of activists in the area and accused city hall of causing the ghettoization of the neighbourhood.
Wendy Pedersen, an independent housing activist named in the piece, said the plan is a development of the city liaising with residents to try and keep the “good” aspects of the area intact as it develops.
“This community has been working on it for about three years with the city,” she said. “They’re basically floating like a trial balloon … it’s their suggestions on how to move forward.”
The plan talks about rental housing and prioritizing social housing while encouraging non-profit development of dwellings.
According to Pedersen 800 units of new social housing will be created by the city in the next decade, but she argued it’s still not enough.
“The need is for 5,000 units to ensure that nobody is homeless and that the crappy hotels are all replaced,” she said. “In the plan, there’s zoning for a rentals-only area and that’s where the Gazette has its little map that says ‘ghetto.’ Their language dehumanizes people.”
Arguing over the DTES has boiled over this year with disputes between anti-gentrification groups and developers heating up.
Gordon Price, director of Simon Fraser University’s city program, said the disagreement between the two camps is nothing new to community planning.
“Current residents tend not to have a big stake in change, particularly for people who aren’t there,” said the former city councillor. “The criticism would tend to come if you try and introduce factors that would create any change that presumes to alter the character of the neighbourhood.”
Price said where people stand on such issues usually falls on where a person’s self interest lies.
The Gastown Gazette didn’t respond to a request for an interview by press time.