Concrete first steps proposed to address Vancouver’s homelessness crisis

As a first step in beginning to address the serious issues facing Vancouver’s homeless population, Mayor Sam Sullivan and Councillor Kim Capri are proposing a number of initiatives that will result in more social housing and fewer people sleeping on the streets.
“Given the crisis facing our homeless population, we need to ‘think outside the cardboard box’ to get people off the street and into shelter,” said Mayor Sullivan. “The City must send a strong message to Victoria that we are serious about attracting new provincial investments in social housing in the next few months.”

In recognition of Homelessness Awareness Week in Vancouver, the Mayor and Councillor Capri plan to introduce a motion to Council that will turn the ‘action’ of Vancouver’s Homeless Action Plan into reality.

“By asking for a ‘fast-tracking’ of the design and predevelopment of three of our existing 19 sites slated for social housing, we will be able to expedite future social housing development as well as ensure we are able to tap into new provincial funding,” said Councillor Capri.

“This action will also help to ensure that we move forward on eliminating the deplorable living conditions in many of Vancouver’s single room occupancy units.”

The motion will be requesting Council to approve the following:

  • City staff will work with BC Housing to establish a plan to ensure adequate shelter space is available to accommodate the homeless in need of and seeking shelter this winter;
  • Staff will work with BC Housing and provide support for the immediate replacement of existing single room occupancy units with new, well-designed units of greater floor space per occupant; these units must include modern, properly staffed common areas that permit tenants to interact in a safe and healthy environment;
  • In co-operation with BC Housing, staff will immediately undertake a “fast-track” design and predevelopment process for three of the City’s downtown sites designated for SRO replacement housing, including the support services required and capital and operating budgets, in anticipation of future senior government funding for housing for vulnerable and at-risk populations;
  • A request to the Province to provide emergency funding for the Single Room Accommodation (SRA) designated buildings in the City to ensure they continue to be viable and properly maintained and managed;
  • City staff will review the Vancouver Charter to identify possible amendments that would support the development of affordable and supportive housing in Vancouver including property tax relief, transferable density and bonus zoning.

“This isn’t the whole solution, however, if it is passed by Council, it will increase our chances of getting new provincial funding while helping to get more of our homeless population out from under cardboard boxes and into dry, safe housing,” said Councillor Suzanne Anton. “As civic leaders, we need to set aside our ideology and status quo thinking, and address the needs of our homeless population.”
Currently, it costs approximately $200,000 to construct the average social housing unit for a single occupant. Councillor Capri’s motion would provide City staff with greater flexibility to maximize every dollar committed to social housing in Vancouver, in order to achieve the development of additional units in a range of sizes.

In an effort to encourage other municipalities in the Greater Vancouver Regional District to develop social housing at the same rate as Vancouver, Councillor Capri also intends to introduce a motion at the next GVRD meeting to address this serious issue.

“These are only first steps; we will need to continue working with the provincial and federal governments as well as the GVRD in order to ensure the root causes of homelessness are addressed as soon as possible,” said Councillor Capri. “Where possible, all levels of government should be working together to provide support services for our most vulnerable, in order that long-term and systemic solutions to this problem can be implemented.”