VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Housing advocates and those living on the streets of the Downtown Eastside are once again occupying 58 West Hastings, a lot which outgoing mayor Gregor Robertson pledged to develop social housing on over two years ago.
The new occupation comes days before the city’s municipal election. Advocates are challenging the next mayor and council to fulfil the promise of 100 per cent welfare and pension rate housing at the site, or face more demonstrations.
Vincent Tao, an organizer with Our Homes Can’t Wait says Robertson’s initial promise has since been scaled back, so that instead of all 231 proposed units guaranteed to be rented at welfare and pension rates, only 76 will be.
Here at 58 West Hastings where an occupation is underway. Housing advocates are calling out @MayorGregor for not following through on his promise to build a welfare and pension rate #housing complex here #vanpoli pic.twitter.com/zp0o3Zl1Q3
— Kurtis Doering (@KDnewsguy) October 16, 2018
“The rest of the units will be rented at HILs (Housing Income Limits) rates, and that will be, let’s say $1,100 is the average. That is not affordable to anyone living on the streets of the Downtown Eastside,” he argues.
Tao was also among the group of advocates and homeless residents who stormed Vancouver City Hall this past May, blocking entrances and leading council to cancel the day’s meeting.
As Robertson exits office after 10 years as mayor, occupiers are challenging him to meet with them one last time at 58 West Hastings.
“He has not responded to us,” Tao says. “We would like to say goodbye to him. He seems to fashion himself as a friend to the Downtown Eastside and the people of Vancouver, so why doesn’t he just come down?”
Despite Robertson’s pledge to end homelessness in the city by 2015, the number of homeless has gone up under his reign. The latest count found 2,181 homeless Vancouverites, including 659 living on the streets.