| Chris Huggins (Flickr)/photo
Planning department shows city still has considerable challenges if it wants make good on mayor’s promise to end homelessness in the next decade.
A new report from city hall says 450 new housing units are needed to end homelessness in Vancouver by 2015.
City Manager Penny Ballem’s report garnered praise from councillors during a festive Lunar New Year session. Only Coun. Suzanne Anton questioned the projected shortfalls and the secrecy of the report.
“To me, my conclusion [from the report] was that 450 units will solve homelessness in Vancouver. Well… no,” Anton said. “450 units will not solve homelessness.”
| Thomas Quine (Flickr)/photo
|The report projects – despite the city’s partnership with BC Housing creating 14 new supportive housing sites by 2012 – the city will still be short hundreds of units by 2015. This shortfall will increase 750 units by 2020 to a total of 1,200 units if additional housing is not provided.
“Elimination of homelessness is quite realistic, it could be rolled back province-wide by an investment equivalent to the new stadium roof — $568 million,” said Coun. Geoff Meggs. “All that’s missing is political will.”
Anton, the lone councillor outside of Mayor Gregor Robertson’s ruling coalition, believes these numbers are greatly undervalued.
“There’s about 7,000 built now, so there really needs to be 3,000 more to properly accommodate all the people who are living [downtown],” Anton said. “I think the mayor was looking for a real political solution to his election promise.”
Anton was also disappointed with lack of transparency in the report. “I thought it was a disgrace to democracy that it was brought in that forum so that nobody had any notice of it.
| Coun. Suzanne Anton
|“It was a PowerPoint
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and council didn’t even have it in front of them. There was no opportunity to properly challenge it or question it or prod it or to see what it actually meant,” Anton said. “This mayor is famous for his disinterest in hearing from people. And presenting it in this way so nobody could address the subject was very odd indeed.”
Coun. Tim Stevenson thinks the report — on which the city will hear from the public and report back to council by the end of April — and its compiling of concrete numbers is another step in a larger process of understanding Vancouver’s homeless began by previous administrations.
“I’ve been awaiting this report for a number of years and it is excellent in my opinion,” Stevenson said. It will certainly lead us into the future.”
The report focused on mapping the city’s total homeless population, supportive housing and rental units. The report claimed only 10 per cent of Vancouver’s homeless — largely single men — come from other provinces, dispelling a popular myth that many migrate to get away from cold winters further East.
The Community Services department will conduct another count of the city’s homeless population Mar. 16, 2011, as part of its annual report card on the issue.
The report stressed the need for 12 to 15 more supportive housing sites to close the eventual 1,200-unit gap by 2020.
“There’s no question that the only way to get adequate housing is for senior levels of government to help with the funding,” Anton said. “The best housing is when there’s partnerships with the city — which is usually land and facilitation services — BC Housing non-profit groups and the province.