Gentrification, affordable housing and homelessness in Vancouver's DTES
Vancouver 'micro-lofts' billed as smallest in Canada
A Vancouver developer has unveiled 30 "micro-lofts," which are under 300 square feet in size and are touted as the smallest self-contained furnished rental apartments in Canada.
They are in a newly renovated building at 18 West Hastings Street, across from Save-On Meats in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and were displayed Monday. The suites, which range in size from 226 to 291 square feet, go for an average of $850 per month, including cable and internet.
"I was looking for an affordable living space ... and the suite was perfect," said Lia Cosco, one of the building's tenants. "The unique allocation of space and the design concepts make the small space very inviting and comfortable to live in."
While the suites may seem microscopic to some, the developer says the units maximize the square footage by using built-in pull-down wall beds, folding tables and compact appliances....
The city, along with developers Reliance Properties and ITC Construction Group, are billing the suites as "an affordable and much needed non-subsidized rental housing opportunity in downtown Vancouver."
However, that description doesn't sit well with a handful of protesters who stormed the unveiling on Monday.
"I don't understand how this is part of an affordable housing strategy," said demonstrator Ivan Drury. "This is not an affordable housing strategy. This is a homelessness strategy."
Context: 18 West Hastings used to be the Burns Block hotel, which had a slate of single-resident occupancy units (SROs) for a fraction of the current rent. The hotel was shut down in 2006 for building code violations (a tried and true gentrification strategy--neglect, foreclose, rebuild).
Welfare rates in BC are $610 a month, with $375 allocated for housing (even though most SROs are $425 or more).
Here is Carnegie Community Action Plan's (CCAP) recent report on gentrification and affordable housing:
UPSCALE: The downside of gentrification (2011 CCAP SRO hotel report)
Hotel rooms that used to be the housing of last resort for low income people, are being upgraded and rented to students and young workers at rents that low income residents can’t afford. The annual survey of privately owned DTES hotels found that only 7% of rooms (235) are in buildings where all rents are $375 or lower, down from 12% in 2010 and 29% in 2009.
At least 700 people are literally homeless and living in DTES shelters, not counting people living on the streets or couch surfing says the report, released today. Thousands more live in about 3,500 privately owned SRO rooms. Many of these have deplorable conditions with poor management, rodents, cockroaches, bedbugs, and danger, especially for women, transgender people and people with health issues. Another 1,500 people live in government or non-profit owned SROs that are usually cleaner and better managed but are still tiny and don’t have private bathrooms or kitchens or meet modern earthquake standards.