Skip to main content

The intersection of Main Street and East Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver. More than 700 Downtown Eastside residents are homeless.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

The City of Vancouver has unveiled its 30-year vision for the Downtown Eastside, a $1-billion plan that calls for thousands more units of social housing, increased employment opportunities for area residents and a Hastings Street renaissance.

The framework for Vancouver's oldest community was unveiled on Thursday at City Hall. It says up to 67 per cent of the neighbourhood's 18,500 residents are low-income – the median household income is $13,691, and the 12-per-cent unemployment rate is double the city's overall percentage.

The plan describes the housing situation as a crisis. More than 700 Downtown Eastside residents are homeless, and more than 6,500 households are in danger of losing their homes. It calls for 4,400 new social housing units to be built within the Downtown Eastside, another 3,350 units in other parts of the city, and upgrades to single-room occupancy units, more market rental housing and rent subsidies.

Story continues below advertisement

Over the next three decades, the city hopes to see an additional 3,500 employment opportunities within the Downtown Eastside, growth of 3 to 5 per cent in the number of businesses and affordable retail along Hastings Street.

"We are, through the plan, making sure that the people who want to continue to live in the Downtown Eastside have that opportunity, but it has to be in improved forms of housing," said Brian Jackson, the city's general manager of planning and development. "There is a lot of housing in the Downtown Eastside that is clearly not very habitable, and we have to make those improvements. But at the same time, we have to allow for development opportunities to be able to leverage the private sector to build even more housing for the people who want to live there."

The cost of the plan is estimated at more than $1-billion, with $220-million to come from the city, another $300-million through developers, and more than $500-million from the province and Ottawa.

Mr. Jackson said the province deserves recognition for earlier investments in single-room occupancy units, "but we do need more help."

"There is a serious problem in the Downtown Eastside, and we need to improve the housing for the people who live there," he said.

Andrea Reimer, a city councillor and council's liaison for the Downtown Eastside planning process, noted Mayor Gregor Robertson is in Ottawa this week talking about housing.

"Fierce advocacy is really the only pathway we have to funding," she said.

Story continues below advertisement

Ms. Reimer said she is confident in the $1-billion estimate, although she added that construction costs, for example, could increase.

"The more housing we build in the next 10 years, the less we're at the mercy of market changes," she said.

Ms. Reimer said her mother and grandmother lived in the Downtown Eastside, as does she. When asked how she envisions the neighbourhood 30 years from now, she said her daughter might well live there.

"I think what she'll see is a more vibrant local economy, so that the hollowing out of Hastings Street that we saw over 10 years with the disappearance of businesses, that that will be changed," she said. "But that we'll also see a greater diversity of businesses there, the kinds of businesses that were there when my grandmother was there, where you had low-income and middle-income groceries, and restaurants and retail outlets."

The plan – which was developed over two years through consultations with Downtown Eastside community groups, residents, aboriginal organizations, businesses, and housing and social service organizations – will go to committee next month.

The vision for a mixed-use, mixed-income neighbourhood also includes more affordable childcare and green space, improved arts and culture facilities, and better transportation infrastructure.

Story continues below advertisement

Follow me on Twitter: @TheSunnyDhillon

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter