British Columbia

Homeless and millennials fall through cracks of new housing plans, say advocates

New housing strategies have been released by both the federal government and the City of Vancouver this past week. But some advocates say more needs to be done for groups vulnerable to falling between the cracks.

Federal government and City of Vancouver released housing strategies last week

Two new 10-year strategies addressing housing were released this week. (Christer Waara/CBC)

New housing strategies were released by the federal government and the City of Vancouver last week, but some advocates say the plans don't do enough to address long-term homelessness.

"There is a lot of really important progress signified in both the city's plan and the federal plan," said Julian Somers, an associate professor in the faculty of health sciences at Simon Fraser University.

"But the broad strokes, as they exist right now, don't speak to the needs of the chronically homeless."

Vancouver's plan calls for 72,000 new units of housing in the next decade, two-thirds of which would be rental.

The federal government has pledged $40 billion to build 100,000 new units, repair 300,000 and cut homelessness by 50 per cent over the next 10 years

Addressing homelessness goes beyond pledging money and building infrastructure, Somers said.

He wants to see more support to get people off the streets now, not in 10 year's time, and address some of the underlying issues of homelessness, he told CBC host of The Early Edition Rick Cluff.  

"We know exactly how to remove people from the streets and engage them in supportive housing today," he said.

"Those additional supports — the mental health supports, the addiction supports, the landlord relations supports — are nowhere mentioned in the federal plan in particular."

Young professionals 

Raza Mirza, a Vancouver-based software engineer living in Vancouver and a member of Housing Action for Local Taxpayers, is worried that the changes will come too late to help people like him — young professionals who are being pushed out of the city because it's so expensive.

"We are still asking the most vulnerable in the community to wait for up to another decade before any help will come in," said Mizra, 32.

"There is nothing for millennials, the middle-class people who are struggling in cities like Vancouver."

Mirza said it's a challenge to find suitable housing for his young family. In the past, he said, he has left Vancouver because of the lack of options, but decided to return to advocate for change.

He lives in a two-bedroom condo with his retired parents, wife and young child. They are expecting a second baby soon.

"This time, I'm willing to give it a chance — fight for it, talk to the city and engage with politicians, put that pressure," he said. "This is not normal."

With files from The Early Edition