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Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan: Housing amendments pass

DTES LAP housing amendments pass despite lack of confidence from the area's poor. Vancouver's most complicated –– and contentious –– community plan will begin its 30-year march, but to where?

Mayor Gregor Robertson, chairing April 15 City Council meeting (via City broadcast)

DTES LAP housing amendments pass

The motion to approve the social housing amendments to the Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan (DTESLAP) has passed.

After a passionate and contentious debate at City Hall that played out for over a month, The DTESLAP was approved by City Council last month, but the weak definition of social housing did not pass muster with the public.

Cllr. Andrea Reimer introduced by-laws containing these amendments during the second day of debate over the DTESLAP, to connect social housing with financial need. A public hearing on an amended definition of social housing took place on April 1.

Clr. Andrea Reimer (via City broadcast)
Cllr. Andrea Reimer (screenshot from City Hall video)

Cllr. George Affleck noted the concern that shifting definition of "social housing" has caused among the DTES community, but supported the amendments.

Cllr. Adrianne Carr cast the sole opposing vote, as she had done with the DTES LAP itself last month.

Clr. Adrianne Carr

Though recent events played out publicly over the last month, the DTES Local Area Plan saga has been going on for years; and the last chapter won't be written until most of our readers are past retirement age.

Previously, at City Hall

Here's how the April hearings over Reimer's amendments went down:

24 citizens spoke at the hearing, all of them against the amendments. For the most part, a major sticking point was the notion of "micro dwellings": opponents to the DTES LAP amendments saw micro dwellings (also called microlofts) as discriminatory to the poor, who make up over half of the DTES' population. The street will still be their living room.

Speakers had also demanded more protection from renovictions, citing the Burns Block as an example of aggressive gentrification. (The Burns Block is a converted SRO building whose tiny units rent for over $1000 per month.)

Ivan Drury from DTES United had said during the April 1 hearing that the new by-laws "work to erode" the rights of DTES residents, packaged in a "Harper-like" wrapping. He added, "This plan intervenes, for the most part, on behalf of the market... it only creates an illusion" of social housing.

Blair Hewitt had said , "I don't support the amendments because, as I understand them, they support inhumane displacement."

The hearing carried on into the night, and once the speakers from the public had spoken, the meeting was adjourned until today, April 15 (pdf).

These are the social housing and micro dwelling by-laws under discussion:

Speakers suggested that Council didn't fully understand the scope of Vancouver's housing crisis, in that the city's poor have nowhere left to go should the DTES become another Yaletown or Coal Harbour. DJ Larkin from Pivot Legal Society told Council to "go back to the drawing board and come back with something that will be effective." She suggested that gentrification entails displacement: when wealthier people come in, other people have to go. Historically in Vancouver, the "other people" in question have been those of lesser financial means.

Also, whatever is left out of the by-laws will be dictated by the DTES LAP itself, which is only a set of guidelines.

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