Cracks in the Foundation
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms still allows homeless people to sleep on the streets, beg for money, and carry all their belongings around with them. Even the law will not stop public defecation when there are no accessible toilets, a daily dilemma for many people. The solution to the housing crisis in Vancouver must address not only the symptoms, but also the underlying causes of homelessness.Affordable, accessible housing must be available to those who need it before it is fair or practical to speak of law enforcement as a solution to the public disorder and disturbance that accompanies a lack of low-income housing.In Vancouver’s formal Bid Book, filed when it applied competing to host the 2010 Olympic Games, Canada made an “Inclusivity Commitment,” in which the City, Provincial and Federal governments promised to be proactive in addressing negative impacts the Games might have on low-income individuals.Specifically, the government committed to protecting rental housing stock and ensuring that people were not made homeless, involuntarily displaced, evicted or subjected to unreasonable rent increases. Above all, the government made a commitment to “provide an affordable housing legacy, and start planning now.”Urgent, effective action is needed to avoid the looming crisis of public poverty facing the City of Vancouver as it prepares to host the world in 2010. Without immediate action, the estimated 2.3 million visitors to the Games will see a City in the midst of an urban epidemic of poverty, and witness the clear evidence of a broken commitment to address the impact of the Olympics. There are three years left, however. If we act now, with practical and effective plans to address the impending housing crisis, Vancouver will show the world a thriving, healthy city, and the results of successful efforts to make sure that everyone, regardless of income, shares in the benefits of the Games.The authors of this report make a number of recommendations, in several key areas. However there are five core recommendations.Government must:1) actively protect, maintain, and improve the existing low-income housing stock, through vigilant enforcement of existing regulations and bylaws;2) adjust welfare rates to reflect the rising price of rental accommodation and the cost of living;3) create a more effective and accessible residential tenancy dispute resolution process;4) allocate funding to meet the official target of 800 units of affordable housing a year for the next four years; and,5) create market incentives for businesses and developers to incorporate low-income housing in new developments.