British Columbia

Weighing in on future of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside

Residents and businesses in Vancouver's troubled Downtown Eastside will get the chance to weigh in on the neighbourhood's future today.

Residents and businesses in Vancouver's troubled Downtown Eastside will get the chance to weigh in on the neighbourhood’s future today.

The Downtown Eastside is best known as Canada's poorest postal code and the hunting ground of serial killer Robert Pickton. It’s a neighbourhood stricken by poverty and addiction, and is the home of Vancouver’s supervised injection site.

But the area has been undergoing a rejuvenation in recent years as trendy new shops and restaurants move in, and new condo developments pop up.

The changes in the neighbourhood have sparked an intense debate between those who say the area is in desperate need of revitalization, and those who argue the area’s low-income residents are simply being pushed out.

Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, which has Canada's poorest postal code, is undergoing significant redevelopment. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Wes Regan, executive director of the Hastings Crossing Business Improvement Association, says no plan is going to please everyone.

"There will always be some people who will be displaced. No doubt," he said.

"We have to mitigate that as best as possible. I don't see how the city, or the province, or the federal government, at this point, is going to come to the table with 5,000 units of social housing as some have been demanding."

But Gena Thompson, president of the Carnegie Community Centre Association, says social housing is vital as the median income in the area is between just $9,000 and $13,000 a year.

"If the agreement doesn't nail down that social housing, which should really mean affordable to the people that live in the community now and that have lived here for the last 30 years, then it will hard to support that part of it."

Several new businesses in the neighbourhood have been the target of protests in recent months. Critics accuse the new businesses of gentrifying the area, arguing the new restaurants and shops are too expensive for residents of the low-income neighbourhood.

The city will hold an open house from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. PT this afternoon at the Vancouver Japanese Language School to showcase ideas for the local area plan.