DTES Local Area Plan pleases, and enrages, everyone
Around the world we have evolved beyond buying houses as places to live. The largest purchasers of real estate in the United States as of late are institutions. Banks and funds purchased with cash over 50 per cent of home sales in the US at some points last year, “Institutional investor activity” as we say in market parlance. Banks turning debt into equity, equity into money, money into interest, interest into profit, profit into investments, like buying up debt or more houses. The financialization of our economy, much like the financialization of “the house” (including condo properties) has created a growing cleavage between reality and policy when it comes to economic wellbeing, jobs, housing and community planning.
This brings me to my second point, that local residents cannot afford to buy new market housing even here in the DTES, and I’m not just talking about low-income residents either. I’m talking about many of my university educated twenty and thirty-something friends and I, as Vancouver’s median income levels continue to be one of the lowest among major Canadian cities as the cost of living continues to rise.
So while Geller poses the question:
Do you think there should be neighbourhoods in Vancouver where new ownership housing is not permitted?
I pose the question:
Do you think there should be neighbourhoods in Vancouver where housing for low-income and middle-income should be protected?
It’s the same question posed two different ways.
One other question I’ll pose:
Do you believe there can be such a thing as a healthy lower-income neighbourhood? What would that look like?
Because that’s the question this plan really tries to answer.
If you think my stance seems combative to Geller’s bear in mind that at our final LAP Committee meeting some in the room were visibly upset that the city hadn’t mandated 100 per cent social housing at shelter rate everywhere. Others less militant wondered if 60/40 was simply too much of a concession (to social mix) as the ratio of social housing to market housing currently is more like 80/20 in some parts of the DTES. If the new Atira building going up in place of United We Can’s current location is the benchmark then some have raised concerns that $1600 a month is what some people will be paying to rent in this area under this new inclusionary zoning. That’s more than many people’s monthly mortgage payments.
So the 60/40 policy is seen by some members of the community as the very social mix and gentrification that Geller is concerned we will prohibit by barring market ownership, while Geller and many others see it as ghetto-making. Some wondered if 60/40 can feasibly be built at all?
We’ve been assured by the City via reference to a Coriolis report that the numbers can be made to work. As a committee we've never once been shown the report though. It finally became available nestled within a staff update from a couple weeks ago. Some of the things in this report that inform how building under this zoning might be feasible include wood frame buildings and relaxing parking requirements. The land staying at it's current value or less being another.