Can we make everyone a priority?

26Jan10

Last night two of my Twitter friends brought up this news story about a development firm that will be converting an old SRO hotel into micro-lofts for lower (ie NOT low) income individuals.  These “micro-lofts” will be more than $200/mo cheaper than most studio apartments and will be 270 square feet-but will hold a bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, and desk to work at.

CBC.ca

An SRO hotel just after it was bought by the City of Vancouver

At first, the idea enraged me.  The building (the old Burns Block at 18 W Hastings), was an low-income hotel until it was closed for fire code regulations back in 2006.  I recently did research on SRO (Single Room Occupancy) hotels in the Downtown Eastside and was shocked at how quickly they’re being shut down….with very few being converted into proper housing for low-income individuals.  These micro-lofts, at $675-750 a month, will be out of reach for most of those living on income assistance.  So who is punished for the fact the building’s owner didn’t bother to keep it up to code?  The residents too poor to move anywhere else.  Although SRO hotels are far from being the best housing option, at least they give housing to a lot of people who would otherwise be on the street.  With so many buildings being shut down and converted, where are people supposed to go?

Closures of SRO hotels in Vancouver

But then I remembered hearing on the radio yesterday that Vancouver has become THE most unaffordable real estate in the world (Vancouver Sun).  There are few developments catering to those who are not on income assistance, but still can’t afford most apartments in downtown Vancouver.  I doubt couples could live in these units and keep their sanity (despite what the developer says) but I think they could definitely be a great housing option for people who are currently commuting from the boonies because that’s the only place they can afford to live.

So maybe Vancouver just needs to focus on making affordable housing for ALL income groups.  If the city wants to push eco-density and more people living in smaller spaces, they need to start making it more affordable.  Maybe developments like this and Woodwards (which combine social and market housing) will usher in a new wave of development that helps make Vancouver more affordable for everyone.  But, at the same time, how do we ensure the needs of the original residents are not ignored to make way for progress?

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2 Responses to “Can we make everyone a priority?”

  1. Absolutely, everyone needs to be a priority. That’s why the underprivileged shouldn’t have to live in homes like the Burns block. It’s awful what we seem to relegate them to, just because we can’t find it in our society to make a solution that works.

    Some students at one of BC’s universities came up with brilliant small (like a little gardening shed) homes that could be constructed DIRT cheaply in vacant areas, but nothing’s come of them.

    A lot of supposedly swank jobs START at $28,500 or so in Vancouver. That might be great elsewhere, but it gets you fuck all for renting. A lot of folk I know share habitats and they’re in their goddamned 30s.

    There’s a segregation in Vancouver between the single people who make under $40k and the ones who make over. This’ll make the “downtown life” available to a whole different class of people than it has before.

    And that’s what a city should be, mixed.

    A city should also be accountable for its underprivleged…

    …But when an entire country participates in sending its homeless to OUR city, then maybe the whole fucking country should be picking up the cheque, or at least a portion of it. But, no. That just never happens.

    So, instead, when a building that’s a big part of Vancouver’s past gets repurposed for the future, it becomes a social issue first, instead of lauded as a brilliant way to rethink the past and shape it for a bold future.

    Which is pretty sad. Only in Vancouver, eh? Sigh.

  2. Well said. Woodwards and how it turns out will be the key moving forward. The city also needs to densify but at the same time continue lure business so there are well paying jobs for the residents of the city. This is easier said then done of course. All I know is even if house prices in Vancouver fell by 30% they will still be out of reach for most.


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