Development proposal provokes public outcry
By Adam Tatelman, Staff Writer
On January 25, a council meeting was held at Vancouver City Hall to finalize development permits for Wall Financial’s proposal to build a 12-story mixed-use building on East Hastings. Just before the meeting began, an anti-gentrification protest rallied in opposition to the proposal.
The protesters were mainly members of the Chinatown Concern Group of the CCAP (Carnegie Community Action Project). Most shared concerns that the development could move them out of their tenements and force them to pay for housing they cannot afford.
According to the executive summary provided by the City of Vancouver’s Planning & Development Services, the building is set to hold a total of 172 housing units. Sixty-eight of these are to be secured market rental, and 104 of these are to be social housing units. As per section 565.2 of the Vancouver Charter, one third of the social housing units—in this case, 35—must be owned by a non-profit organization and be rented at rates matching the shelter component of income assistance. These units are also to be reserved for occupants who qualify for Guaranteed Income Supplement or Old Age Security pension.
In order to accomodate seniors who may be displaced by the project, these reserved units will be rent valued at $400 or less. However, the units are all single occupant housing, and the remaining units are too expensive for low-income seniors to afford. As such, advocates for the senior citizens of Chinatown are opposed to the development.
Chanel Ly of the Youth for Chinese Seniors project expressed concerns to CBC News that the development would also displace local shops and other services that cater to senior clientele, potentially putting them further out of pocket.
In addition to a three-year plan to stimulate economic growth in Chinatown, the City of Vancouver’s Chinatown revitalization initiative funds the preservation of historic buildings. Since 2011, the council has approved numerous grants toward this purpose, including the Chinese Society Legacy Program—a $36-million project dedicated to the rehabilitation of heritage buildings in need of repair. The council is expected to report on their program funding strategy by March 2016.
On December 10 2015, the Council approved a third round of Chinese Society Buildings Matching grants. These grants have supported various Chinese clans and societies. In addition to heritage building preservation, the applicants used the grants to fund a total of 714 low-cost housing units renting between $100 and $670. Twenty-five of the original 30 grants proposed in 2014 and 2015 are now in progress or complete, with the remaining 5 either incomplete or withdrawn by the applicants. As of the announcment, the council had approved $400,000 towards the third round.
CCAP figurehead King-mong Chan feels that more needs to be done. “The mayor cannot with one hand establish a fund to rehabilitate these buildings, while with the other create and approve policies and development applications that approve the market housing that breaks apart the community,“ said Chan in a CBC interview.
He was also concerned with the lack of communication between the Council and the CCAP regarding the revitalization plan. “Without such an assessment, the city should not be approving any further projects that affect Chinatown.”