Nearly one in 18 people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside are homeless, according to the latest hotel and housing report by the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP).
The report, which was released on March 20, examines how soaring rental rates and “gentrification” are impacting the lives of those living in the Downtown Eastside.
“Homelessness in the DTES is a humanitarian emergency,” said the CCAP in the report.
According to the CCAP’s findings, one of the main reasons for the neighbourhood’s staggering homelessness rates is rent increases at Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels.
“In 2016, the average rent in privately owned and run SROs hit a higher than ever $548 a month,” said the report.
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Hotels in the Downtown Eastside also continue to raise their rents.
The CCAP found that the average rent at 10 hotels– including Alexander Court, the Lotus, New Columbia, and Metropole–had reached an average of $1,101 per month. The report highlights that this increase is due to the “gentrification” of these areas.
Welfare rates not helping
Individuals living on the social assistance rate of $610 a month and paying the average SRO rent of $548 have to live on $62 a month, or about $2 a day, the report points out. This is all the money they have left to spend on food, laundry, transportation, and other costs.
“Because welfare is so low, people who lose their jobs, come out of prison or foster care, or people who can’t work for health reasons, simply will not have enough money to pay rent unless they can get into social housing or have friends or family helping them,” said the report.
All levels of government must take ‘immediate action’
The CCAP says that all levels of government “must take immediate action to prevent homelessness from continuing to escalate in Vancouver.”
The report recommends the provincial government raise the welfare rate to $1500 a month and disability rate to $1800.
The report also calls on the City of Vancouver to designate enough land for 5,000 units of social housing in the Downtown Eastside.