The City of Vancouver has unveiled an ambitious 30-year plan to overhaul the Downtown Eastside, without pushing out any of the 18,500 people who call it home.

But, local business owners, key to the economic revitalization process, say the city did not give community groups enough consultation.

The plan, which is part of the city's local area planning process, is budgeted to cost just under $1 billion and calls for social housing units, along with affordable market housing, and increased residential and retail — opening the door to developers, apparently, without increasing density.

Downtown eastside

The plan is facing attacks on two fronts. Local businesses say they weren't adequately consulted, and low-income residents fear being displaced. (CBC )

"It's been a very frustrating process,"said Strathcona Business Improvement Association Executive Director Joji Kumagai.

"Some of the documentation that would help us understand parts of the plan haven't been made available to us, or have been made available very late," said Kumagai.

He said the Strathcona BIA had been asking for the city's Social Impact Assessment report for months.

"To get it within two weeks of the council hearing date to me is totally unacceptable," he said.

The neighbourhood's low-income history is something planners claim they have taken very seriously, after spending two years consulting with residents and the people who work with them.

By the numbers

  • $13,600 average income.
  • Thirty thousand residents by 2041.
  • One-third of current residents receive social assistance.
  • $1,000,000,000 budget for 30-year plan.
  • 4,400 new units of social housing.
  • $820,000,000 for housing component alone.

The plan is designed to provide better housing for people already living in and around the Hastings St. corridor, said Brian Jackson, City of Vancouver's general manager of planning and development.

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

One half of the plan's 10 figure budget will have to come from outside the city's coffers.

"We need the other levels of government, other non-profits and the faith-based groups and the development community to make this a reality," said Jackson. 

The G word

The neighbourhood is more than familiar with battles between residents, entrepreneurs and developers over issues of gentrification. However, some neighbourhood advocates are optimistic.

"I think it's doable," said Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council member Jacel Lorek.

"We can keep the people from being displaced from the Downtown Eastside, even though much more is planned to come."

The plan says the character of Gastown and Chinatown will be enhanced. But, new market housing will have to be affordable, and social housing can only be restored — not demolished.

Vancouver City Councillor Andrea Reimer said the plan will lift the community.

"Thirty years from now, I think what [we] will see is a more vibrant local economy, groceries, restaurants, retail outlets," she said. "I expect we will see no people sleeping on the street."

The plan goes before Vancouver city council and public hearings in March.

with files from the CBC's Terry Donnelly and Kirk Williams