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Affordable homes, health, social services coming to Downtown Eastside

July 5, 2024 at 1:34 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

Plans for a community building are moving ahead in the Downtown Eastside (DTES), and will now include additional supportive and affordable homes, connected to health and social services.

“This opportunity for a community cornerstone is made possible by the commitment and passion of our partners in the community, as well as across multiple ministries within the provincial government,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. “We know that SROs are not a long-term housing solution for most people, and we need to phase them out over time. This shows how, by working together, we can create innovative housing solutions to ensure people living in the DTES have access to safe and appropriate housing options.”

The redevelopment of 301 E Hastings St. was initially planned in 2018 for 75 units and consisted of one lot (301 E Hastings St.). Since then, Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (VCHA), which owns 301 East Hastings, has acquired three adjacent properties, and a land donation by 625 Powell Street Foundation has led to an expanded development opportunity for the site in a way that will include more units and better meet the needs of the community.

“People deserve to have a safe place they can call home and a supportive environment that promotes healthy living so they can lead a meaningful life,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “That’s why our government is taking bold action to build more affordable housing and strengthen primary care so people across the province, including the Downtown Eastside, can get the support and health care they need where they need it.”

The building, which will span four lots, is expected to have up to eight storeys, featuring below-market homes for people with low to moderate incomes, as well as supportive homes for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. The first floor will be dedicated to community health services. VHCA is engaging with health-care providers, Indigenous partners and the DTES community on the types of services that will be offered. 

“We are proud to donate to this project, which will provide housing to some 200 people currently experiencing or at risk of homelessness and health-care services to even more,” said Donald Mackenzie, director, 625 Powell Street Foundation. “The current crisis of homelessness in our city is, in part, directly tied to the current crisis in housing. To solve one, we must continue to address the other. This is a true humanitarian crisis, and housing is a critical first step.”

BC Housing and the City of Vancouver have worked together to identify the types of housing needed in the DTES to serve local residents. Planning is underway for hazardous material removal and demolition. Both organizations will work on the design of the building with health-care providers, Indigenous partners and the DTES community over the summer. The Province, BC Housing and VCHA will work with the City of Vancouver for an application to redevelop the site in fall 2024.

“The Downtown Eastside community has long advocated for the Buddhist temple site (301 E Hastings) to be turned into social housing,” said Wendy Pedersen, executive director, Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative. “Not only is the Province taking full advantage of the site with this redevelopment, they are adding even more much-needed housing and health supports with the extra three lots of land. More social housing is one of the main actions that governments can take to stabilize our community and make it a better place to live, work and play.”

Revitalizing the DTES is a key priority for the Province. The new development partnership is a step toward ensuring people living in the DTES have access to dignified housing options, creating the standard of housing envisioned for communities throughout B.C.

The Province is making a historic $19-billion housing investment to deliver more homes for people in B.C. Since 2017, the Province has nearly 80,000 homes that are delivered or underway, including nearly 8,500 homes in Vancouver. Of these, approximately 2,500 are supportive housing units.

The Province’s Belonging in BC homelessness plan will add nearly 4,000 new supportive housing units and 240 complex-care spaces provincewide.

Quotes:

Dr. Penny Ballem, board chair, Vancouver Coastal Health –

“Vancouver Coastal Health is proud to support the redevelopment of an integrated, community-based site. This much-needed redevelopment – made possible with the immense support of project partners, including BC Housing, 625 Powell Street Foundation, VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation, as well as the Downtown Eastside community – will enable VCH to continue delivering culturally safe, client-centered health-care services to local residents.”

Joan Phillip, MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant –

“We know that we need to build more housing, so that folks can live in dignified, affordable homes, in their community – so that buildings like this are no longer underutilized. Today we are announcing just that, and more with the three adjacent buildings as well. Our government has deepened its work with the neighbourhood over the past year, and we’re taking action to ensure that everyone in the DTES can live a healthier, safer life.”

Ken Sim, mayor, City of Vancouver –

“We want to ensure Vancouver remains a place where everyone can find a sense of belonging, regardless of their income. By combining affordable housing with essential health and social services, and through the collaboration of government and community partners, we’re building a community where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.”

Vincent Tong, CEO, BC Housing –

“This project is an example of the invaluable work we can accomplish when the provincial, municipal government and community partners come together to address local need. We’re working closely to transform the land at 301 E Hastings into a beacon of safe, secure housing in the Downtown Eastside.”

Quick Facts:

  • Since March 2023, the Province has opened more than 750 new and renovated housing spaces for DTES residents, 590 of which are net new.
  • In addition to the open spaces, another 850 new and renovated housing spaces are underway, approximately 600 of which will be net new.
  • The Province, through BC Housing, has opened 240 shelter spaces in the DTES since March 2023.

Learn More:

To read the Belonging in BC plan, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/BelongingStrategy.pdf

Learn about mental-health and substance-use supports in B.C.: https://helpstartshere.gov.bc.ca/

To learn about B.C.’s Homes for People action plan, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2023HOUS0019-000436

To learn about the steps the Province is taking to tackle the housing crisis and deliver affordable homes for people in British Columbia, visit: https://strongerbc.gov.bc.ca/housing/

A backgrounder follows.

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