Put the right pressure in the right place for affordable housing

Hogan’s Alley in 1969: 232 and 240 Union Street, at Main. City of Vancouver Archives, Ref COV-S168-: CVA 203-43

Housing in general and housing affordability in particular continue to grab attention in Vancouver.

In the case of the development of Northeast False Creek, the City of Vancouver owns two blocks on Main Street near Chinatown and Hogan’s Alley that it expropriated in the ’60s for the Georgia Street viaducts.

If ever there were a perfect place and opportunity for the city to build affordable/social housing, surely this would be it. Hogan’s Alley Society is calling on the city to build 100 percent rental housing on this site, with 70 percent of the units earmarked for non-market housing. This would provide much-needed affordable housing in one of Vancouver’s poorest neighbourhoods.

With Vision Vancouver currently holding a majority on city council, I’m not optimistic that the proposal put forward by the society will be acted on by the city’s administration. I would, however, be much more positive if we had a Green/COPE majority at 12th and Cambie.

On another housing front, several metro area cities are looking at the idea of a “locals first” policy when it comes to selling or pre-selling new condo developments. West Vancouver has recently been toying with the concept. The City of Port Moody and the District of North Vancouver have already directed their staff to look at policies along these lines, as has the City of Vancouver.

But I’m not sure “locals first” strategies will have the desired effect. What is needed, instead, is a requirement that all developments over a certain size make one-third of the units available on a rent-geared-to-income basis whereby the renter would never pay more than 30 percent of his or her income on rent.

When it comes to housing, let’s do everything we can to keep putting pressure where it belongs — on Vision Vancouver. Housing affordability is a basic human right and is not something we should leave to the marketplace.

Hogan’s Alley in 1973: The former Union Laundry at 274 Union Street. City of Vancouver Archives, Ref COV-S168-: CVA 203-65

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