Social Housing to get new definition which excludes poor people

The following letter was sent on the community’s behalf objecting to the recent change by City Council to the definition of ‘social housing’ and to the procedural change which would make the Development Permit Board the final arbiter of developer requests to up-zone.  New Board member, Garth Mullin, addressed Council outlining our concerns.  The motion unfortunately passed with amendments.

Honourable Mayor and Members of Council,

Grandview-Woodland Are Council wish to express their deep concern over proposed changes to the definition of ‘social housing’ and to the review procedures for awarding increased density in the DOPD.

We do not view the proposed re-definition as acceptable.  Indeed, by it’s nature, it precludes the people who would otherwise be eligible based on the Provincial shelter allowance for those on social assistance. This city’s poor are citizens who deserve better than this ‘sleight of hand’.  Many citizens work part or full-time for minimum wage or little more; neither they nor those on pensions or social assistance can afford $850 or more for rent.  An updated definition reflecting the shelter allowance rate is perfectly workable and not in the least old-fashioned.  According to Jean Swanson,  “The city is completely abandoning low income people with this new definition.  The city’s 2009 social indicators report, page 71, says 26.6% of city residents have low incomes.”  That is a lot of people to put at risk of homelessness. 

We also oppose strongly the change in procedure which would transfer responsibility from Council to the Development Permit Board.  These four city Hall employees have no accountability to the public and no need to explain or justify their decisions.  There is no appeal process for a decision they make.

We urge you to send this proposal back for careful re-examination and we further insist that you retain direct responsibility for the planning decisions we will all have to live with. Thank you for your consideration.

Grandview-Woodland Area Council
Britannia Community Centre
1661 Napier Street
Vancouver, BC   V5L4X4