British Columbia

Vancouver housing crisis: $10 tours of DTES show desperate need

Housing advocates in Vancouver offered, for $10, a tour of where homeless people sleep and try to live as a way to bring attention to the city's housing crisis.

Tour part of Heart of the City Festival

Housing advocates show housing crisis in Vancouver through unique tour. 2:54

Housing advocates in Vancouver offered, for $10 to non-Downtown Eastside residents, a tour of where homeless people sleep and try to live as a way to bring attention to the city's housing crisis.

The tour is part of the The Heart of the City Festival, which showcases the Downtown Eastside's artistic and cultural side.

The homeless advocacy tour shows where homeless people sleep, sites where some have been forced out of their homes due to high rents and sites where more social housing could be built.

Maria Wallstam with the Carnegie Community Action Project is worried too many vulnerably-housed people will be forced out due to rent increases. (CBC)

"Next year ... only 45 new social housing units going to open," said Maria Wallstam with the Carnegie Community Action Project. "Last year there was over 650, so we're worried, what's going to happen?"

New housing projects

The provincial government and the City of Vancouver have spent $300 million on new social housing projects throughout Vancouver and more are on the way.

Agreements have also been struck with developers, so that buildings slated for demolition are first turned into temporary housing like the former Quality Inn on Howe Street.

Advocates are critical though of hybrid projects like Sequel 138, which has 97 units available for sale for middle income earners and 18 rental units for those who earn less.

The worry is projects like those encourage renovations — and rent increases — in nearby properties, while advocates want development in the Downtown Eastside restricted to purely social housing.

The city has set ambitious goals for 2021:

  • 2,900 new supportive housing units
  • 5,000 additional new social housing units
  • 11,000 new market rental housing units

The city says a proven way to achieve those goals is to work with developers to build market housing that include some low income units so that higher rents subsidize lower rents.

Still, despite the barrier high-rents pose for vulnerable people, there are other factors preventing some from being housed who have mental health and addictions problems.

Supportive housing resident Tony Tancon says some people struggle to stay housed due to mental health and addictions issues. (CBC)

"There's been individuals who were offered and had a place in my building and they actually ended up moving out," said Tony Tancon who lives in a brand new supportive housing complex at 1249 Howe Street.

"Not for bad reasons or anything like that but simply because they didn't know how to live inside and didn't feel comfortable."

As Liberal leader Justin Trudeau takes over governance of the country, advocates hope his government will deliver on the promise of a 10-year plan for more affordable housing, but Wallstam says more details are needed.

"You know how much of that funding for social infrastructure is going to go into building social housing?" she said. "And again, social housing for people on social welfare rates."

The Carnegie Community Action Project plans to continue to offer the advocacy tour.

with files from the CBC's Kirk Williams