British Columbia

Housing crisis can't wait 10 years for national strategy to unfold, say protesters at Vancouver rally

Dozens of protesters marched through the Downtown Eastside Saturday in response to the federal government's recent announcement about its national housing strategy.

'Most of the money needs to be spent right away. This is a crisis,' says organizer

Protesters on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside voice their concerns about a new national housing strategy. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Dozens of protesters marched through Vancouver's Downtown Eastside Saturday in response to the federal government's recent announcement about its national housing strategy.

The activists say the government's plan, which aims to reduce homelessness by 50 per cent over the next 10 years, doesn't kick in soon enough.

"People will die while Trudeau is waiting to end homelessness," said longtime anti-poverty activist Jean Swanson. 

The $40-billion plan aims to build 100,000 new affordable housing units and includes a housing benefit for families that won't kick in until after the next federal election.

Protesters want the government to spend all the money it has committed to housing before then.

Swanson also questioned whether the new units will be affordable for the people who need them the most. She said that greater rent controls need to be put in place first.

"We're calling it a national gentrification strategy that's going to price low-income people out of their neighbourhoods," she said. 

Protests across the country

The rally was one of many held in cities across the country protesting the strategy.

Housing activist Sara Sagaii said groups across Canada coordinated the protests. 

"Most of the money needs to be spent right away. This is a crisis, this is not something you can wait 10 years to solve," Sagaii said.

Housing activist Sara Sagaii leads a group of protesters on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

In Vancouver, Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced the strategy earlier in the week at the Woodwards building, a mixed-use development that includes social housing.

Sagaii said the location was problematic given that many see the building as a symbol of gentrification on the Downtown Eastside.  

"For the federal government to stand there and hold that up as a sign of something they're proud of, something they want to see more of in the next 10 years, that speaks volumes," she said.

With files from Jon Hernandez

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