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Statement on CCAP Funding

Statement on CCAP Funding

April 13, 2013

Vancouver’s downtown eastside is a community under pressure, in what is rapidly becoming one of the least affordable cities in the world. The DTES neighbourhood, the long-standing home for a vibrant community of resource workers, low-income families, and working men and women, is facing a rate of change brought by development pressures that is unprecedented. Ecodensity, urban living and mixed use housing projects are all contributing to changing this beloved but beleaguered neighbourhood.

Vancity has been supporting the Carnegie Community Action Project, an initiative of the Carnegie Community Centre Association, in a three-year project to undertake a grassroots community visioning project, and to participate in land use planning in the neighbourhood. In 2010, with Vancity’s support, they organized a community-wide consultation that involved 1200 residents of the neighbourhood. We have provided support to Carnegie previous to this, for other community engagement projects, always in service of helping the voice of residents to be heard in planning processes.

We believe in supporting a diversity of voices in community debate and discussion; this is the essence of a healthy democracy. And we are committed to helping shine a light on important social justice and equity issues in our communities: Vancity is a sponsor and member of the Poverty Reduction Coalition and the Living Wage Campaign. We also support numerous social enterprises in the DTES and have many business members who are committed to working in, and with, this neighbourhood.

What is the right mix of housing solutions in a community like the Downtown Eastside? We don’t know; the issues in the DTES are complex, and may need a range of solutions. We’ve worked with the private sector, Portland Hotel Society and Habitat for Humanity to deliver affordable home ownership in the neighbourhood at 60 West Cordova, and we are working on similar projects in the future with developers and community partners. We hope our support to CCAP and other groups in the DTES helps to form partnerships to bring that range of solutions. As a community credit union, our strength comes from our membership, which we know wants us to support all the members in our communities, and their health and prosperity.

CCAP has, through its research reports and community consultations, identified an important nuance that is often missing in the housing discussion. While Vancity is committed to helping maintain existing affordable housing stock and to create new affordable housing stock (and we understand affordable to be 25% below market), there is a need in communities like the Downtown Eastside for safe and secure housing at shelter rates, rates for people with disabilities, and for income-constrained seniors must also be part of the housing mix. It is important that this need not get lost in the campaign for affordable housing.

We have become very concerned that one DTES resident has chosen drastic action to bring more attention to the debates on housing and the rate of change. The resident known as “(formerly homeless) Dave” has risked his health and life on a hunger strike to bring attention to issues in the neighbourhood; we urge him and those supporting him to end his protest and to know that his efforts will lead to more dialogue, collaboration and positive action.

We also cannot and do not support lawlessness or criminality, and a healthy debate cannot cross that line. We have met with the leadership of both the Carnegie Community Action Project and the board of the Carnegie Community Association over the past few weeks to confirm that our support is limited to participation in planning processes and research on housing. We have advised the leadership that, in consideration of project renewal later this year, we need to ensure that the overall work of CCAP is in line with our vision of building strong and healthy communities in a spirit of positive and solutions-focused discussion and debate.