Vancouver housing report says homelessness set to skyrocket if action isn’t taken

A new report from a housing advocacy group says the City of Vancouver needs to open hundreds of shelter beds immediately or risk having thousands more people on the street.

The report, This Isn’t Working, by the Carnagie Housing Project or CHP says the number of people experiencing homelessness will continue to rise unless the city and province do something.

“If governments don’t protect temporary modular and SRO [single room occupancy] housing, we could have around 4,700 people living unhoused in Vancouver by 2030,” says the report.

CHP blames historical cuts by the federal government for the shortage of housing.

“The biggest cause of houselessness in Canada today is the federal government’s austerity cuts to social housing programs in the 1990s,” says the report, released Feb. 27. “These cuts cascaded over the past 30 years into the ever-increasing houselessness situation that we see, not just in the DTES [Downtown East Side] and Vancouver, but across Canada.”

The report takes issue with the federal government’s National Housing Strategy, to reduce “chronic” homelessness by 50 per cent in 10 years.

Instead, homelessness on the DTES has “virtually doubled” since the housing strategy was announced, the report says, and the strategy is a “dismal failure, six years into the 10-year plan.”

The provincial government also takes a hit.

According to the report, both funding and approvals for new housing have been delayed at the provincial level.

“The systems for getting social housing for lower-income people built are extremely cumbersome for the non-profit groups that sponsor that housing,” says the report. “For example, in 2018 there was a big announcement that the City of Vancouver would build more than 1,000 co-op and social housing units on seven city sites by 2021. By 2023, only two buildings were complete.

“The one at 177 W Pender Street is still a vacant lot as the non-profit developer awaits government funding for lower-income rents.”

The report makes 42 recommendations for the province and city, including creating another 500 to 1,500 shelter beds. It says one way is to spend $200 million to buy and renovate a hotel on the DTES with single rooms.

“In Vancouver, we have about 3,100 people with no fixed address and only about 1,500 shelter beds.”

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