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Vancouver non-profits caught in rent squeeze

A couple leaves the sales centre at the Wall Centre Central Park condominium development in Vancouver June 26, 2013. Rising real-estate prices are putting the squeeze on non-profit agencies and social service operations.

Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail

It's not just students, people on welfare, middle-class families, small businesses and artists who can't afford Vancouver.

It's also the non-profit groups that help those people.

A report being released on Tuesday morning from a Vancouver foundation says high real-estate costs are forcing non-profit groups to squeeze into ever-smaller spaces, cut staff, limit programs they run for kids or seniors and worry every day about being kicked out as they cope with escalating rents.

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That is because many of the service operations in Vancouver are concentrated in areas that used to be low-income and are now seeing values shoot up: the Downtown Eastside, Commercial Drive, Main Street and Broadway.

"We've really started to get a sense of urgency about what's going on," said Jennifer Johnstone, the CEO of Central City Foundation, a group that has helped some non-profits buy buildings to give them stability.

The foundation did a research project to find out how groups were coping. The news was not great.

Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House would like to expand to offer services in the new Olympic village neighbourhood, which has a significant amount of social housing. But it cannot find anything it can afford to rent.

The Potluck Café in the Downtown Eastside, a social enterprise that employs people from the poverty-stricken neighbourhood to get them back into the work force, has a successful catering business. But it cannot expand because it cannot find affordable kitchen space nearby.

The Boys and Girls Club of South Coast B.C. has had to turn away some children and teens who want to come to the program because it has not been able to afford both rent and maintenance for some of its older buildings.

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About the Author
Urban affairs contributor

Frances Bula has written about urban issues and city politics in B.C.’s Vancouver region, covering everything from Downtown Eastside drug addiction to billion-dollar development projects, since 1994. More


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