Gentrification, affordable housing and homelessness in Vancouver's DTES

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Catchfire Catchfire's picture
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.




That is a dirty trick played on homeless people. Affordable housing is one big joke across the country.

Vansterdam Kid

I should have voted for Sandy Garossino. If she runs again I will. I'd suggest people read this to understand why: Unaffordable (That’s What You Are).

So yeah, I'm not opposed to the 'micro-lofts' per se. On average most people have too much house. Personally, I can't see myself living in a place less than 400 square feet, but to each their own and I kind of like the idea of something that would discourage consumption for the sake of consumption.

I suppose my objection to these places are that they're somehow billed as "affordable." 850$/month, considering the square footage, is not affordable. Granted that includes internet and cable, but even so that's still about $700-ish/month.

If the poverty-line wages for a single person in the region are about 21K/year, this is still well over the suggested "spend a third of your income on rent" advice. That of course doesn't even factor marginalized populations into the mix. But frankly, I feel as if the way things have gotten even middle and working class people are marginalized in this market.

What do developers expect? The average person to go into debt just to finance day-to-day living expenses? The real estate bubble, or better yet pyramid scheme that is Vancouver's real estate market, is not sustainable if Vancouver intends to stay a place where residents actually live (and contribute to society not just a speculative market for global capital looking for something "safe").


Lachine Scot

I voted for Sandy. Too bad she didn't get in.

Anyways, yeah, in many other neighborhoods in Vancouver, this would be a positive step, but not there. Rich people are often more willing to experiment on "other people's" turf which they consider to be a throwaway anyways..

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Yeah, VK, part of the worst and most insidious aspect of this plan is that $850 is still too high for a single-occupant apartment on average or below-avergae wages--but it's pretty damn good for Vancouver. So this pits justly indignant average wage-earners against the low-income residents of the DTES who are normally fighting high-income people and developers. It's a great way to align the city against its poor (as if there's not enough of that going on already).

I saw a CBC vignette on this a couple of days ago and they ended with a quote from a micro-loft resident: "This isn't just a low-income problem, it's an average income problem." Then the voice over said: "And that's the message that gets lost in this protest [against the lofts]". So, CBC, let me get this straight: the low-income people should think of the middle-incomes' problems and weigh their protest accordingly? Why not phrase the story as low-income and middle-income people sharing a common interest and grudge against the developers and city hall? Well--I think we know the answer to that...[/cynicism]

Catchfire Catchfire's picture


Moving on up: Gentrification in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside

Gentrification is the social, economic, and cultural transformation of a predominantly low-income neighbourhood through the deliberate influx of upscale residential and commercial development. Encouraged by municipal development policies, economic incentives for investors, and the mythical pull of the creative city, urban land is purchased and developed at low cost for middle-class buyers. As urban theorist Neil Smith writes, "As a generalized urban strategy, gentrification weaves together the interests of city managers, developers and landlords, corporate employers and cultural and educational institutions."...

The processes of neo-liberal urbanism that fuel this kind of gentrification are rooted in the colonial doctrines of discovery and terra nullius, as well as more modernized forms of transnational globalization. As Smith further articulates, "Gentrification has become a strategy within globalization itself; the effort to create a global city is the effort to attract capital and tourists, and gentrification is a central means for doing so."...

Many Downtown Eastside residents describe the impacts of gentrification as deeply traumatic. According to a recent Carnegie Community Action Project report, "Upscale: the Downside of Gentrification," affordable single-room occupancies (SRO) are increasingly scarce. More than half of SROs now rent higher than a person on welfare, disability or pension can afford. New retail shops and restaurants are zones of exclusion, offering goods and services beyond the means of the predominantly low-income residents. Public space has become more uncomfortable and hostile with increasing policing and private security surveillance, as well as constant reports by low-income residents of feeling judged by many of the new owners and consumers in the neighbourhood. As one DTES resident told Save-On-Meats owner Marc Brand in a meeting, "I was treated like a piece of meat in your restaurant."

In cities like Vancouver that purport to be progressive, the violence of gentrification is masked behind a three-fold ideological discourse aimed at giving it an air of reasonableness. First is "urban renewal." This presumes that the downtrodden ghetto will be uplifted and revitalized through social entrepreneurship and trickle-down investment, a now widely discreditedtheory at the global level. Second is the language of "affordability." When peddled by developers such as Marc Williams, Jon Stovell, Robert Fung, and Westbank, it does not mean affordable for current residents. Rather, the affordability is pitched to higher-income buyers and customers such as young artists, students, and professionals, the canaries for whether a neighbourhood will successfully be gentrified.

The third is "social mix." While it sounds inclusive, in reality it means that people with higher-incomes are at liberty to utilize their social capital to alter the demographics of a low-income community. On the one hand, low-income services such as shelters and food banks are systematically expunged from higher income neighbourhoods (why not enforce social mix in rich areas like Shaughnessy?). On the other hand, space in low-income neighbourhoods that could be used for community-based actualization is appropriated by those with greater power and wealth. As geographer Loretta Lees writes, "The rhetoric of 'social mix' hides a gentrification strategy and in that a hidden social cleansing agenda... Over the longer term poor people suffer more from the loss of benefits of living in a poor neighbourhood, than they gain from living in a more affluent one."

Amazing, comprehensive article by Harsha Walia and Dave Diewert. Anyone wanting to know about the effects of gentrification should read this. Perhaps Thomas Mulcair should have given it a read before his housing-plan policy announcement in Woodwards.

On the western edge of the DTES is the massive mixed development at the old Woodward's site/squat with over 500 condos, SFU campus with an arts centre funded by notorious mining giant Goldcorp, and retail stores. This has set off a tidal wave of gentrification within a few blocks, with four new condo developments (Paris Annex, Paris Block, 60 W. Cordova, 21 Doors) and countless restaurants and bars, including those owned by barons Sean Heather (Irish Heather, Salty Tongue, Shebeen, Penn Bakeshop, Everything Café, Fetch Kiosk, Bitter Tasting Room, Judas Goat) and Marc Brand (Diamond, Sharks and Hammers, Boneta, Sea Monstr Sushi, Save on Meats), overpriced coffee shops, and designer stores. In symbiotic fashion, retail stores and cultural sites proliferate alongside new housing, rendering the area more welcoming and familiar for wealthier consumers.


Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Incredible graphic by Joel Marion:

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Homeless Housing For Less

Proposals to build free or low-cost homeless housing said to be 'stalled' by the province. Last of three parts.

Container housing manufacturer MC Quarters offered to build this 43-suite supportive housing complex on a city-owned site at the corner of Princess Avenue and Powell Street. The Vancouver-based company offered to donate the cost of the container-based housing units, and help raise the estimated $1.6 million required for on-site construction.

Last summer, Vancouver City Council invited several B.C.-based companies to submit ideas about how modular housing might be employed to house the homeless.

Three container-based proposals were among the five submitted. One firm offered to build a 43-suite supportive housing complex at no cost to taxpayers. Another offered to lease dormitory-style rooms for only $350 a month. Yet another offered to build a similar project from scratch using local labour at its Coquitlam factory....

eta: this was an opportunity to do something that was needed and didn't reward the developers. both the city and the province fucked it up royally and blamed each other. they are both negligent to the highest order.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Vancouver City Hall Occupation Against Condos


Downtown Eastside Goes Up Against City Hall
Face to Face on April 17


The Drill

In the semblance of procedure that the City of Vancouver throws up as routine barrier to recalcitrant residents, there may be three opportunities for ordinary people to convey their views on a particular development proposal.

1  At the very beginning, when a developer sponsors an "open house" and gathers opinion.
2  At a public hearing before Council, but only if the development seeks change in zoning.
3  At the very end, when prepared plans go to the Development Permit Board for signoff.

All of these pro forma "opportunities" are essentially meaningless. Sometimes, desperate residents can make a point that magically becomes incorporated into a plan. Why anything happens is never clear. The few changes ever achieved amount to tweaks applied to the determinative designs that emanate from backroom collaboration between planning staff and developers....

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

First, fuck Mike Comrie:

Carrall and Hastings, just shy of Pigeon Park, in the heart of Vancouver’s grim Downtown Eastside. I’m walking home from Gastown with my two young boys, aged six and three. As we approach, a rough looking woman makes a clumsy attempt to hide her crack pipe.

“Kids on the street,” she yells up and down the block, “Kids on the street!”

A few of the other dodgy characters try to hide their drugs, too, or shuffle a few steps into the alley until we pass. I smile and thank her. She smiles back, dirty and toothless and old before her time, but it’s clear that she’s happy to see the children, and she tells me my kids are cute. My boys, as usual, fail to notice most of this: the drugs, the mental illness, the human wreckage all around them. This is probably for the best, growing up, as they are, next to the worst neighbourhood in Canada.

For the past six years, our family has lived just around the corner from the worst stretch of Vancouver’s notorious East Hastings Street, near dismal Pigeon Park. Curiously, we chose to move here while my wife was expecting, about nine years ago. We had found a condo that we could actually afford, so we purchased a unit pre-construction, gambling that the neighbourhood would improve significantly by the time our building was completed. It didn’t. We moved in anyway, hopeful that change was just around the corner. It wasn’t, although the area would improve, eventually. But first, we would spend a few years raising our children in what could generously be described as a disturbing new community.

Second, God Bless Satire:

Main and 14th Ave. Otherwise known as Mount Pleasant, in the heart of Vancouver’s newly affluent east side. I’m walking home from the Library with my two sons Tylerdurden and Dolemite, aged 6 and 3. As we approach, a yuppie makes an awkward attempt to parallel park his orange SUV with “HIS” on the personalized license plate. Across the street is an identical orange SUV with the license plate reading “HERS”. All the while he is listening to Maroon 5 at full volume.

I hope my kids don’t see, but they can certainly hear “She Will Be Loved”.

For the past 6 years our family has lived in an over-priced one-bedroom apartment in the midst of condos that seem to be springing up like toxic mushrooms. The condos are all themed with bland names like “DoMAIN” and “DWELL” and my favorite “SOMA”, presumably named after Brave New World’s drug that dumbed-down the sexless, self-hypnotized masses.

Another of these condo units has sprung up, almost overnight. I distract my kids by pointing at a huge piece of dog shit, hoping they’ll remember that instead of the flake-itorium on the corner. If there’s one thing I can count on, it’s dog shit on the sidewalk. At least the yuppies haven’t taken that away. As long as there’s dog shit on the sidewalk, I know I’m in East Van. I imagine in the future they’ll have shit-free dogs, but not yet. Not yet.



Once, I watched two yoga enthusiasts comparing apple iphones in front of the playground where my kids eat their liverwurst sandwiches! I threw their lunch bags over their heads, raced home and forced them to watch “Manufacturing Consent”, but the damage had been done.

Sooner or later these ipeople will be crushed by their immense debt load and wind up right back in the same apartments they presently disdain. The global economy will collapse and we’ll all be back to wearing barrels as clothing and balancing on stacks of chairs for entertainment. As a life-long broke person, my life will be pretty much unaffected. My lower-class kids will be well-prepared when Mount Pleasant returns to its original working/lower-class roots. I’m betting on anti-gentrification. Hoping. Praying. Pleading.

thx Catchfire for my morning belly laugh.


Vansterdam Kid

Catchfire wrote:

Incredible graphic by Joel Marion:

Interesting, but what does it mean?

To own or rent?

Is it a metro average?

And does the percentage of 40 hour work week to own refer to ones monthly pay cheque or one of their weekly paycheques required?

And what's the difference between the two bars supposed to mean?

Love the satire though.

flight from kamakura

and though i guess the gatineau could end up being bizarrely representative of quebec with ultra-expensive ottawa burbs and the rural and all that, but i still don't see why you'd compare vancouver/calgary/toronto/halifax/gatineau, just seems weird.

that said, i'm weirdly proud at how relatively affordable montreal is, definitely the result of a pretty great rent control regime.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

BC Liberals and Bob Rennie tighten grip on housing construction in Vancouver

This past Friday afternoon it was announced that real-estate tycoon Bob Rennie and former public servant Judy Rogers would be appointed as Commissioners of BC Housing. Some journalists noted that the appointment of Rennie was patronage for his support of Christy Clark in her leadership bid. Since the early rise of John Cummins and the B.C. Conservatives, Rennie has also been a proponent of a united right wing. He has contributed heavily to BC Liberal campaigns and often boasts of maintaining close contact with Rich Coleman and other higher ups in the current government.

The appointment of Judy Rogers also appears to be patronage for her mishandling of the Olympic Village project. It was under her oversight that the intended investment in social housing became instead a luxury development. Under her leadership as former City Manager, the developer Millennium was selected for the project, and for all practical purposes given free reign to access city finances. While for most Vancouverites this has been a catastrophe, it would be disingenuous to say it wasn’t what the higher ups in the BC Liberal party wanted the whole time.

The appointments are a sign of where the BC Liberals and Bob Rennie would like housing in this province to go. Rogers and Rennie both sit on Streetohome, which is a private funder of social housing. While Vision Vancouver, in its pre-majority incarnation denounced the creation of Streetohome, the initiative now provides them with a convenient shift in responsibility: the private market can be responsible for housing. This shift has been backed up by the neoliberal rhetoric put forward by federal, provincial, and local governments, passing the buck from tier to tier and finally into the hands of Vancouver’s most wealthy.


I thought the laneway homes were a good idea until I saw the cost. They want anywhere from $160K to $225K for a 750 square foot prefab laneway home on a postage stamp size lot in Vancouver. That's ridiculous.


To paraphrase a famous statement, appointing Bob Rennie as Housing Commissioner is a bit like appointing an arsonist as Fire Chief, no?


Fidel wrote:

I thought the laneway homes were a good idea until I saw the cost. They want anywhere from $160K to $225K for a 750 square foot prefab laneway home on a postage stamp size lot in Vancouver. That's ridiculous.

Not by Vancouver standards (which, I recognize, are somewhat ridiculous). A comparable-sized new condo downtown (so no yard) goes for almost double that.

Here's a photo of one from the City's website. It hardly seems like a hovel to me, and personally I'd jump at the chance to buy it for $200K. Unfortunately it's still out of reach of the vast majority of people in Vancouver. 

Rather than focusing on housing prices, I personally believe the priority should be to build more affordable rental housing.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

This thread would work better as an RSS feed of the excellent Mainlander.

BC Housing subsidizes Pantages Condo project

Should BC Housing subsidize a Downtown Eastside (DTES) condo developer when our neighbourhood has 850 homeless people and 3500 living in crummy hotel rooms that need to be replaced? Is Condo King Bob Rennie, also on the Board of BC Housing, behind a sweet deal that will probably increase property values two blocks away from his own office?

These are two questions that shocked Downtown Eastsiders are asking after learning that BC Housing plans to loan up to $23 million to condo developer Marc Williams. Williams plans to build 79 condo units plus 18 social housing units (only 9 will rent at welfare rates) at the site of the old Pantages Theatre, 138 E. Hastings. He calls the project Sequel 138. According to the Vancouver Province, the loans will be at 1.29 % interest, much lower than the going rate from a bank.

Over 40 organizations, housing providers, artists, and social workers have joined 2200 DTES residents in signing a Community Resolution opposing condos at the old Pantages Theatre site, stating, “We would not want to be complicit in a project that will further displace, impoverish, and police residents of the Downtown Eastside and make people feel more unwelcome in their own neighbourhood.”

The groups want the city to buy the Pantages site and use it for resident controlled social housing that people on welfare can afford.


epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

4 years ago today Mayor Gregor said he wanted bottom-up planning, grassroots voice at City Hall. Then, the opposite happened.

text & video

That’s what the Mayor said to about 400 community representatives, thanking them for believing that Vision Vancouver would repeal the EcoDensity policies brought in by the Non-Partisan Association, and instead support CityPlan.

Four years later, many people know the opposite is what happened. The actions and voting of Mayor Robertson’s Council majority since 2008 have betrayed the public trust, broken the social contract. That’s what people are saying now. The rest of the story many know by now — the STIR program, Interim Rezoning Policy, Transportation 2040 — these are just the tip of the iceberg....


epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Dec 11 march to block condos from 100-block E Hastings, defend DTES low-income communities


Tuesday December 11, 2012
Rally & march meeting 2 pm
In front of Pantages demolition site at blue wall (about 138 E Hastings)

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..the project

BC Housing subsidizes Pantages Condo project

Should BC Housing subsidize a Downtown Eastside (DTES) condo developer when our neighbourhood has 850 homeless people and 3500 living in crummy hotel rooms that need to be replaced? Is Condo King Bob Rennie, also on the Board of BC Housing, behind a sweet deal that will probably increase property values two blocks away from his own office?

These are two questions that shocked Downtown Eastsiders are asking after learning that BC Housing plans to loan up to $23 million to condo developer Marc Williams. Williams plans to build 79 condo units plus 18 social housing units (only 9 will rent at welfare rates) at the site of the old Pantages Theatre, 138 E. Hastings. He calls the project Sequel 138. According to The Province, the loans will be at 1.29 % interest, much lower than the going rate from a bank.....

..tuesday dec 11, we gather

..a 100 – 150 of us gather at the proposed condo site. people are outraged to find that bc housing is bailing out this project to the tune of almost 30 million dollars while thousands with marginal income are on a waiting list for social housing.

1condo sign




..we sign pledges that are posted up on the the wooden wall that separates us from the construction site. the pledges read that we will do all we can to prevent this project from happening.


On the move: we begin out 1.5 hours trek visiting places of interest in the down town east side (dtes). there is much vocal support from the residents along the way. they also participate in our chants including “not for sale” “whose streets” and others.


1st stop:

..our 1st stop pidgin park. i check out some signs.



..there's vision the so called left council who are making this mass gentrification possible and providing it legitimacy.


Van City Savings:

..there's van city the credit union that will make the first $5000 available to the condo mortgage holders of this project. also providing legitimacy to gentrification.


Again we move along.


Next stop:

..the next stop is a newly built art gallery that is housed in a rennie building. there is no connection on any level between the artwork and the dtes residents. this is art for current and future gentrification projects.


..speakers speak and we hear: rennie owns several pieces of property in the dtes that are slated for other gentrification projects. he also (scandalous and disgusting) sits on the executive board of bc housing that is bailing out the sequel 138 project. no conflict of interest here..move along.

..we also learn that a condo project partner is the bc government. no conflict of interest here..move along.

..a resident of the dtes speaks. he has been on the bc housing list for 5 years, lives in a one room sro overlooking the condo construction site. he has had four heart attacks in the last 4 years including bypass surgery.


Progress: we move on we see “progress” in action.


Comrade down:

..the dtes resident who spoke at the rennie building has collapsed. we stop to wait for him. different speakers speak. we make way as an ambulance arrives and takes our comrade away. we wish him well.


Final stop:

..our final stop a bc housing office.



..a number of us enter while others remain outside with the banner chanting and educating passers by on why we are here. the office manager comes out and invites “our leader” into the back for a conversation. we respond with singing and chants. we remain for approx 30 minutes and move outside. we have a moment of silence for our fallen sisters and brothers. we name their names which are many. we end with promises to meet again soon.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Fantastic report, epaulo13! Thank you! Hope to see you at further actions as we fight this criminal bullshit.


I hope they have some success. It has been very difficult here; the sell-off of the former Institute for the Deaf brought together the strings of Church abuse of vulnerable children, corruption and collusion (Charbonneau Commission) and the little fiefs of borough mayors who have every interest in increasing the tax base by expelling the working-class people who have lived in my area (Villeray and Petite-Patrie) for generations. 

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Catchfire wrote:
Fantastic report, epaulo13! Thank you! Hope to see you at further actions as we fight this criminal bullshit. pleasure catchfire! i will be there in future actions..i've pledged it.

..there will be a protest every saturday from 12 to 1pm at the condo sales office. not sure where it is but will post the address when i find out.

eta: here it is!

Sequel 138
Presentation Centre
International Village Mall ( Formerly Tinseltown )
Second Floor
2097 - 88 West Pender
Vancouver, BC, Canada

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

lagatta wrote:

I hope they have some success. It has been very difficult here; the sell-off of the former Institute for the Deaf brought together the strings of Church abuse of vulnerable children, corruption and collusion (Charbonneau Commission) and the little fiefs of borough mayors who have every interest in increasing the tax base by expelling the working-class people who have lived in my area (Villeray and Petite-Patrie) for generations. 


..there has been succeses here though it is difficult to tell as nobody announces that they have suffered a set back. one such that was spoken of was an alley way that was meant to provide high end boutiques once the residents were removed. the project failed after much protest. it's a tough road though as the masks are off and gentrification has become an open plan. thing about it is there is nowhere for the current residents to go where they can participate in the alternative economy that has been built over the years in order to survive.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Ending the False Debate about Save-On-Meats

Currently there is a debate raging about the pros and cons of Save-on-Meats in the Downtown Eastside. The latest is a polarizing sandwich token program to help feed the poor, in which restaurant customers can purchase tokens from Save-on-Meats and donate them to people in the neighborhood. Critiques have been made here, here, and here, as well as at The Mainlander, with Peter Driftmier’s “Beggars Can’t be Choosers” (Peter used to be a sandwich maker at Save-on-Meats)....


As with so many other gentrification projects, Mark Brand’s numerous upscale Gastown enterprises have come under attack from the neighborhood. Anyone reading The Province or listening to the debates would nonetheless be surprised to know that Brand owns multiple upscale businesses in the DTES — six to be precise. In light of the problem, the underlying conflict about Save-on-Meats is clearly not about the intentions of Mark Brand, the nutritional value of his food, or the latest Oprah appearance. The conflict is about gentrification.


I've been involved in many battles against gentrification here, but I do have a question for Vancouver activists. We have to protect the rights of current Downtown Eastside residents to continue to live in their community - it is extremely important for poor people to maintain contacts and access to services. 

But this does appear as an extremely broken community - yes, I'm looking at it from afar and have only the most cursory direct knowledge of it. The social problems are much graver than in the old working-class areas where we have waged housing fights. How can people in the neighbourhood be helped to get their lives in order and to be able to support themselves? (of course not all people can support themselves in any area). 

I know that safe and secure housing is an important piece in the puzzle, but there are others. Just asking; not judging anyone. 

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Have the provincial NDP commented on planned  development in the DTES?  Maybe I missed something. (is there a municipal NDP presence in Vancouver?) 


In Vancouver the "NDP" supporters split into Vision Vancouver, Gregor's centrist developer backed party and the more left wing COPE.  COPE and Vision both supported Gregor in his first bid for Mayor.

In Burnaby we have the most successful left of centre party in Canadian municipal politics  The Burnaby Citizens Association is not affiliated directly with the NDP but to buy a membership in the BCA you must already be a member of the NDP.  Their take on homelessness is not great because as far as they are concerned housing is a joint provincial and federal responsibility and not a municipal one.  They are willing to expedite projects but will not budget any real resources since they consider it senior government downloading.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Much appreciated - thanks!


ETA: Oops - I just realised I asked a similar question maybe a year or two ago on this board. I've got little short term memory left - I'll try to save this info so I won't ask a third time!

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

lagatta wrote:
But this does appear as an extremely broken community - yes, I'm looking at it from afar and have only the most cursory direct knowledge of it. The social problems are much graver than in the old working-class areas where we have waged housing fights. How can people in the neighbourhood be helped to get their lives in order and to be able to support themselves? (of course not all people can support themselves in any area).

lagatta, one of the worst crimes of local and national media when reporting on the DTES is the incessant, even pathological demonization of the neighnourhood. No one -- and i mean no one -- in the MSM is able to utter the words "Vancouver's Downtown Eastside," without also uttering "poorest postal code in Canada": a statement that is not only factually incorrect, but chooses to highlight one aspect of the rich and diverse picture. I've been working with DTES people for about four years now, and I have never seen a more dedicated and vibrant community -- dedicated to fighting gentrification, police brutality, and systemic bias (e.g. Missing and Murdered Women Commission). There is also a large artist community, ad hoc support network and collective feeling.

None of this is ever mentioned in MSM reports on the DTES. Even the brief times something comes up -- for example InSite -- it's never mentioned that this was solely the result of a long and bitter struggle on the part of DTES residents. Politicians and academics get credit. Not to mention that even this feelgood story fits into the dominant narrative that the DTES is full of drug addicts and prostitutes.

Finally, even if the community is broken (which I don't accept), any damage is part of a sustained and psychopathic campaign by developers, shiteating politicians and capitalists to take land away from the people who live there and turn it into profit or vacation spots for the entitled rich. This fact alone is reason to step in and protect this communty from these -- pardon me -- fucking pigs.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Nathan Crompton in <em>The Mainlander</em> wrote:
Critiques have been made here,

I wrote this piece. And this is a perfect example of the way the DTES is represented. This fucking insuting "token" system from Mark Brand is hailed throughout the province for solving the "dilemma" (Brand's word) of middle-class liberals who are convinced that if they give money to panhandlers it is going directly to drugs or alcohol. What's missing from this story (and which Crompton makes clear in his article) is that Brand actually ownsseven restaurants in the DTES, and only one of them pretends to have a social agenda. There is no access to healthy food (or means to cook it) in the DTES, and the people responsible for this are the gentrifying developers and entrepreneurs -- people like Brand. So the chutzpah he exhibits by "solving" the problem for which he is responsible with a paternalistic, insulting and self-serving profit measure is galling.


epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..yes broken lagatta but not any more broken than the rest of society. forsaken is a better adjective i wouldn't hesitate to use. yet within this community there is a robust struggle to survive. compare it to what is going on in greece.

..mostly i take my lead though from the dtes council and other groups active in the community. i have provide a body to this resistance since 2008. own analysis is that the crisis has intensified since the olympics. it was an ndp prov gov that decided to make the bid and vision, an ndp/green municipal alliance, that supported it through out. this has increased debt in the province and vancouver where now a shock doctrine is being implemented. the crisis in capitalism is at play as well as the need for growth devours everything it can. the dtes community could not look to the so called left for anything but more grief disguised in caring words.

..occupy vancouver offered an alternative. many of the residents of tent city were homeless. support for drug addicts, the homeless and the hungry was developed in the short time of it's existence. people were empowered and they began speaking to politicians whenever those politicians spoke in public. it was effective. it also challenged the labour movement who's ineffective response to the neoliberal cuts and attacks was vote ndp. both vision and the bc fed worked to discredit and crush the occupy. i see hope in the pipeline resistance. the thinking there is direct democracy with little reliance on electoral politics. with the coming together of the indigenous and other activist communities it can't help but bring greater support to the dtes.


Oh, I certainly agree with that. (and I knew it wasn't the poorest postal code in Canada). But isn't it true that many of the residents are deeply lumpenized, or is that just a fabrication of the gentrifiers? 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

I'm not a fan of the term lumpenproletariat, and certainly we are encouraged to think of DTES residents as the detritus of society, but from what I've seen, it's not the case anyway. DTES residents probably volunteer more than any middle-class liberal with an eye for charity. All of the great community centres in the DTES -- Carnegie, the Women's Centre, The Gathering Place, et al. -- are volunteer-run almost entirely by residents. It's extraordinary.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Zones Of Exclusion: Where poor people are not welcome in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver

Gentrification is a serious threat to the community of the Downtown Eastside.

The construction of new market housing and the substantial influx of more affluent renters and homeowners will bring about the displacement of the diverse low-income residents of this neighborhood and the destruction of its many wonderful strengths.

Gentrification not only forces people out of the neighborhood through increasing land value and higher rents, it also produces a kind of internal displacement for low-income residents by creating zones of exclusion.

• Zones of exclusion are spaces where people are unable to enter because they lack the necessary economic means for participation. As wealthier people move into the neighborhood, more spaces are devoted to offering amenities that cater to them. Grocery stores, banks, coffee shops, restaurants, salons, various retail stores, night clubs, stylish pubs, etc. begin to appear throughout the neighborhood, and are priced beyond what people on fixed low income can afford. These sites become zones of exclusion.

• There is another sense in which such places are zones of exclusion. Whenever land is used to build condos or develop businesses for wealthier people, it is removed or excluded from use by the community; it not longer becomes a place where a local community-based vision can be implemented. In this sense, gentrification excludes possibilities.

• Zones of exclusion also become sites marked by increased surveillance and policing. Strategies of control and punishment are implemented at these sites in order to protect them from the presence of unwanted people and from potential disruption. Only those with status, privilege and wealth can enter; all others are watched, carefully interrogated, and criminalized.

As gentrification produces more and more zones of exclusion, low-income residents become alienated from their own community. It is the experience of internal displacement – the feeling of being out of place in one’s own neighborhood.

This site tracks just some of the zones of exclusion that have appeared in Chinatown over the last few years.


I do hope none of you think I favour gentrification or kicking low-income people (however troubled) out of their homes. I'm an old tenants' rights activist.  I just had the suspicion that, in order to counter the gentrifiers' tarring of local residents, some community spokespersons were painting too glowing a picture of what appears (and not only in the bourgeois press or realtors' mendacious blogs) as a deeply troubled area. 

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..i didn't think so lagatta and i'm sure no one else did. i thank you for raising your questions. we need to talk more about this growing reality and maybe agree that an injury to one is an injury to all. i feel we know this..the song seems to think everybody knows. what europe has taught me/us is that things don't have to get worse before we begin to turn our full attention to who and what is coming at us. and then physically get involved on the street to block and maybe make change. this is the most positive thing that i can think of on the subject and let the future take care of itself. my little speach.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

lagatta, of course not! One of the things I have longest admired about you (and learned from over the years) is your longstanding courage in the fight for tenant rights. It's true that the DTES is embattled and faces many challenges -- but I think from an activist prespective we need only look at the scumbag developers, police and politicians who have targeted this area for profit to know which side to back. The fact is that none of these challenges can be faced until the neighbourhood is safe: not addiction, not sex work, not disability. I haven't seen gentrification wielded as so vile a weapon in any city I'm familiar with (not a long list, to be sure!)

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

The story behind The Waldorf’s displacement from the Hastings Corridor

In late October 2011 the Globe and Mail published an article celebrating the revitalized hotel’s one year anniversary, calling it “Vancouver’s cultural oasis in the middle of nowhere.” In one sentence, the article both erased already-existing cultural spaces a short walk away from the Waldorf (Cedar Root Gallery, The Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society, LES Gallery, The Purple Thistle Centre for Arts & Activism, The Dogwood Center for Socialist Education, to name a few), while contributing to a key aspect of gentrification discourse: the notion that nothing of value exists here anyhow.

Today, with news of the sale to Solterra, the ‘nowhere’ narrative continues as supporters begin a petition that decries the onslaught of condo-development, since it means losing the Waldorf. The petition celebrates the establishment of this “cultural oasis in the middle of nowhere” while also quoting Vancouver’s mainstream poor-bashing magazine, Scout. Low-income people are of course the “nobody” in the middle of this DTES “nowhere,” and the petition seems to suggest that the battle plan for a rescued Waldorf is to strike a new deal with Vision and city hall, rather than forge new alliances with the same people (renters) being evicted by the same developer (Solterra) in the same neighborhood (DTES).

Kaspar Hauser

This beggars the imagination. Vision--the party that's in bed with the provincial NDP and the trade unions--is raising the fine for sleeping on the streets from $2,000 to $10,000.  Maggots have a better chance of getting into heaven than the people responsible for this cruelty.


Not just cruelty - utter absurdity. Like the famous French law forbidding rich and poor to sleep under bridges. 

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

City of Vancouver Seeks to Quintuple Fines A Sorry "Legacy" of the 2010 Winter Olympics

At a public hearing on the evening of 15 January 2013, Vancouver City Council seems destined to approve a broad regime of maximum by-law fines of $10,000. In most cases the ceiling will rise by a multiple of five — up from $2000 to $10,000. Forty-two separate by-laws would be affected.

What the Report to Council conveniently fuzzes away is the perfidious and complex history of the 2009 change to the Vancouver Charter that makes this move possible in the present.

The main purpose of this examination of the circumstances is to expose the backstory and to highlight the potential use of this fines mechanism for political repression....


Catchfire wrote:
DTES residents probably volunteer more than any middle-class liberal with an eye for charity.

Just wanted to highlight this point that often gets overlooked.


How do they figure a homeless person would pay such a fine?

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Well, the fines were already $2000, so from a certain point of view, the new fines just further underline the absurdity of the policy in the first place.


Michelle wrote:

How do they figure a homeless person would pay such a fine?

If you cant pay when the fine is levied, you are remanded into custody for X number of days to equal the fine amount and thus, they get off the streets. Into jail but off the streets which was their aim Im guessing


Not only sleeping under 19th-century Parisian bridges (Les misérables...) but debtors' prisons!


Well we have always had debtors prison in a way. Not for civil debt but for criminal fines. Anyone who cannot (or will not) pay a fine goes to jail for a det time to equal that fine. Like for a parking tickets its 3 days which is fine if you are in any province but Quebec where if you have a lot of tickets the three days are added up consecutively. They had one guy go away for 3-5 years based on unpaid parking tickets

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Michelle wrote:

How do they figure a homeless person would pay such a fine?

..i'll try and find the article i once read that spoke of folks on the dtes not going to jail for not paying fines. they are left on the street where the fines compound and at any time they can be arrested. this has led to the manipulation/abuse of people by police.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

The Trouble with Tickets: Downtown Eastside vendors taken to court for unpaid tickets

Last January, Downtown Eastside resident Edie was selling second-hand clothes and jewelry on East Hastings St. when she was approached by three Vancouver police officers. The officers told her that she could either accept a ticket for illegally vending, which comes with a $250 fine, or have her goods confiscated. Since there was jewelry she didn’t want to lose, Edie opted for the ticket. But when the police ran a check on her name, they told her they had “some good news and some bad news”. The good news was that she wasn’t going to get a ticket. The bad news was that she was going to jail....