Mayor Robertson & Rich Coleman shook hands on taking the wrecking ball to Little Mountain housing
It looks like another group is about to deal a blow to Mayor Robertson's already headache-filled week. Holdout residents in the Little Mountain social housing development have allied with COPE City Councillor Ellen Woodsworth (she's the COPE Councillor who shows up to meetings) in an attempt to scuttle plans to redevelop the site. Woodsworth has circulated an email to supporters and community activists that she thinks Little Mountain should house Vancouver's homeless (the email in its entirety is pasted below).
Woodsworth's plan might be a surprise to the neighbours of the Little Mountain community, who probably had not counted on their neighbourhood carrying a large part of the burden of Vancouver's homeless problem.
For those who have been following this storyline over the past few years, the Little Mountain site has 224 apartments built just after World War 2 in a low density woodframe building with asbestos in the walls. The buildings sit on a 15+ acre site centrally located in the City of Vancouver next to Queen Elizabeth Park.
The City under the previous Council deftly negotiated a commitment from the Province of BC to develop fourteen City-owned sites with new social housing. In order to pay for the new social housing on the fourteen sites, BC Housing is developing the Little Mountain site as a mix of private and social housing. The private housing will outnumber the social housing units, but the Province justifies the plan because the profit will be redirected into creating a large quantity of affordable social housing across the city.
BC Housing has given years of notice to tenants that their building is being closed. It also has provided new accommodation elsewhere, as well as covering the costs for moving. It is a burden for people to move, of course, and some of the residents came to rely upon local schools and amenities. But it is social housing, and most residents in the 224 units accepted the Province's offer of new homes and covering their expenses.
Most, but not all. Less than 15 residences in Little Mountain remain occupied by a group who are determined to keep things as is.
Below is a copy of the email circulated by Councillor Woodsworth.
SUBJECT: 224 affordable housing units to be demolished ? WHY ?
224 affordable housing units to be demolished ? WHY ?
Despite the propaganda that Rich Coleman has been spewing about the Little Mountain Housing Project I wanted to send you some information and a letter from the tenants.
Little Mountain could be reopened to house over 700 hundred people in the 224 units at about $10,000. per unit. Why would taxpayers agree to spend millions to shelter the homeless when we have perfectly good housing available in the middle of Vancouver ? Everyone needs a home to get their lives together.
Is Coleman just papering over the affordable housing/homelessness crisis during the Olympics?
People are on the streets because they don't have affordable supportive housing. The Salvation Army has released a study showing that one third of the men in their shelters are working but the minimum wage isn't enough to keep them in housing.
Coleman is the Housing Minister. His responsibility is to house people. Why is he tearing down perfectly good housing at a site that will not see new housing built on it for anywhere up to 10 years !
Please let the media and Rich Coleman know what you think of his decision as Housing Minister. Is this the way you want your tax dollars spent?
Join the tenants Sunday July 4 at 1 :00 Little Mountain Housing Project at 36 and Main.
Open Letter to BC Housing
To Shane Ramsey, CEO of BC Housing, June 25, 2009
BC Housing has started demolishing the homes at Little Mountain, with no demolition permit. There are no plans or dates for new construction, no dates for re-zoning consultations, no plans or dates for community consultations and it does not look as if the deal with the developer is even still on. It is very clear that no new construction will happen for years to come. This week, demolition crews came in without warning, right next door to where tenants are still living, took chainsaws to the interiors of the vacant units, ripped out appliances, fixtures and pipes. Perfectly habitable homes are being destroyed.
We, the tenants who are still at Little Mountain, remain here for compelling personal, family, economic and social needs, not because we are being difficult tenants. We require the following immediate measures:
- Reinstate security on the site; repair outside lights; and secure uninhabited buildings.
- Relocate all tenants within close proximity in the South-East area of the site.
- Stop the destruction and dismantling of those units outside of the fenced area.
- And further, stop any and all illegal demolition of homes.
The actions that BC Housing has taken this week are tantamount to eviction by fear and intimidation. In the letter addressed to Little Mountain tenants on June 1, 2009, BC Housing stated, ³
The application for these permits will not affect your tenancy at this time you will notice that there will be increased activity on the site in the coming weeks, once the appropriate permits are issued.²
We submit that there has never been a good reason to displace the tenants during the redevelopment. A phased project would have accommodated all who wanted to remain in the community and on the site. We recognize that your continued pressure on us to move has now escalated to harassment and intimidation. Since this site is only the first of many to be redeveloped, we fear that the actions of BC Housing may set a precedent for the treatment of many other tenants. Displacement and intimidation of tenants must not be repeated here or in any future development.
The remaining tenants of Little Mountain
CC: Rich Coleman, Minister of Housing
Dale McMann, Regional Director of BC Housing
Vancouver Mayor and Council
Shane Simpson, Housing Critic
Don Davies, MP Vancouver Kingsway
Mable Elmore, MLA Vancouver Kensington
Libby Davies, MP Vancouver East