The City of Vancouver’s Affordable Housing Agency (VAHA) is partnering with Vancouver Chinatown Foundation (VCF) and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) to provide greatly needed homes and expanded access to health care services in the Downtown Eastside. The innovative project at 58 West Hastings will create a facility with about 250 homes and a 55-thousand square foot integrated health centre.
“Today, the City has taken a significant step in bringing forward a proposal for rezoning by June 2017 to build 100% subsidized housing at welfare and pension rates on the City-owned site at 58 West Hastings,” says Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Our target is 100%; today, we are already starting at 50% with the help of Vancouver Coastal Health and the Chinatown Foundation. This collaboration is a unique opportunity to provide affordable housing that meets the needs of some of our most vulnerable residents, while providing vital health services on-site.
“I want to recognize and thank both Vancouver Coastal Health and the Chinatown Foundation for stepping up and contributing their time, effort and resources to making this project a reality. There is an urgent need for more welfare and pension rate housing in Vancouver. In the coming months, the City will be advocating with Our Homes Can’t Wait and Downtown Eastside residents to the BC and Federal governments for additional investments that will get us to 100% social housing at 58 West Hastings. We’ll also continue to advocate for the first increase in the shelter portion of the welfare rate since 2007 – to at least $600 per month – to reflect the rise in cost of living as Vancouver faces a homelessness and affordability crisis.”
The Vancouver Chinatown Foundation (VCF) has committed to fundraise and build an innovative housing and health facility for local people at a level of affordability greater than originally envisioned in the Downtown Eastside Plan, which requires one-third of the social housing homes to be affordable to residents on fixed incomes and income assistance. With the assistance of additional funding from VCF, the level of affordability has been increased to 50%, providing much needed additional affordable homes for pensioners and people on income assistance.
“With this project, the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation is continuing its long-term commitment to this community.” said Carol Lee, Chair of the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation, “The 58 West Hastings project is one of several projects the Foundation is working on to increase the supply of affordable housing in the Downtown Eastside and Chinatown communities.”
The project will be the first of two purpose-built integrated health care centres planned for the Downtown Eastside, providing health care that is easy to access, covers a broad spectrum and intensity of needs, and includes specialized services, with a focus on mental health and substance use challenges.
“As part of VCH’s DTES 2nd Generation Strategy, our vision is to create welcoming, safe and culturally appropriate facilities and services that will support people living in the DTES and ultimately eliminate preventable health complications,” said Laura Case, Chief Operating Officer, Vancouver Community, Vancouver Coastal Health. “We’re excited for the opportunity to work in partnership with the City and the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation, along with our own VGH/UBC Hospital Foundation, in making this vision a reality.”
This new housing project is one of a number of innovative partnerships which VAHA is pursuing in order to answer the urgent need for housing in the city.
“We were pleased when the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation came forward with its offer to build on this site,” said Mukhtar Latif, Chief Housing Officer and CEO of the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency, “This is part of our wider plan of developing creative partnerships to build new homes that are more affordable than market for people living and working in our city. We will now have in planning nearly 1,000 new affordable homes for seniors, families and working people. We will continue to explore new partnerships to increase that number.”
The City has offered 20 sites worth $250 million to the BC and federal governments to build affordable housing. VAHA will pursue developments on these sites that will offer a mix of housing to meet the needs of working residents, seniors and families at low to moderate incomes. Rental rates for all homes will be slightly below market rate, though deeper affordability will be achieved if VAHA can secure financial support through the senior levels of government and other partnerships.
VAHA is moving forward with the development of these sites to address the need for affordable rental housing in Vancouver; rental vacancy rates are at 0.6%, among of the lowest in Canada. Since 2011, the City has enabled over 12,000 affordable homes by working with partners and creating new policies. The City has set a goal of building an additional 2500 new affordable homes in the next five years.