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DTES transformation set at $1 billion 0

By David P. Ball, 24 hours Vancouver

The cover of the city's draft plan presentation for its Downtown Eastside plan depicts the 18,500-resident neighbourhood. (CITY OF VANCOUVER PHOTO)

The cover of the city's draft plan presentation for its Downtown Eastside plan depicts the 18,500-resident neighbourhood. (CITY OF VANCOUVER PHOTO)

"The new housing they're planning would exclude people on welfare who need it the most" — Jean Swanson, anti-poverty advocate

Vancouver released its proposal for the troubled Downtown Eastside neighbourhood Thursday at a price tag of more than $1 billion.

Two years in the making, the Local Area Planning Process proposes a minimum of 60% social housing for major developments for the core of the community, plus significant new affordable stock dispersed throughout the city.

Who will pay for the plan is unclear as planners and politicians alike refused to speculate on whether the feds or B.C. would help share the cost, as hoped.

Coun. Andrea Reimer told reporters the plan was developed through “deep engagement that is broad and inclusive.”

“It's an extremely complex community we're dealing with, so it's not surprising that it's a complex plan,” she said. “There's some difficult decisions here, its bedrock is that they are protecting the assets of the low-income community.”

The plan envisions the neighbourhood 30 years from now will host 1,300 new social housing units, 3,100 renovated hotel suites, and 1,650 units subsidized. It will also see thousands of affordable units built elsewhere in the city, and city planners insist that services – such as mental health care, social assistance and other agencies – have been included in discussions.

Carnegie Community Action Project spokeswoman Jean Swanson praised the 60% social housing recommendation for the most impoverished sub-area.

“Keeping condos out of that area is good,” she said. “It will keep land prices low, and put a bit of a brake on (Single Resident Occupancy) rents.”

But otherwise, the LAPP's timeline is too far off to address the “crisis” in housing, arguing that even “affordable” housing might be out of reach of most welfare recipients.

“The new housing they're planning would exclude people on welfare who need it the most,” Swanson said. “People could easily be displaced.”

Asked to summarize the plan, Coun. Kerry Jang reminisced to 24 hours about walking down Hastings St. decades ago when the community was bustling and businesses thrived. He told 24 hours the LAPP is “back to the future.”

Strathcona Residents Association chair Pete Fry called the LAPP process “flawed.”

“We haven't had a real discussion about stuff like defining affordable housing and what kind of development will go on,” he said. “We haven't had an opportunity to sit down and look at options.”

The plan goes before council March 12.

 

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