Public & private sector leadership come together on housing announcement

Post by Mike Klassen in


These faces and many more represent the combined work to produce new social housing

The Province, City of Vancouver and the Streetohome Foundation this morning have announced the next stage in the development of over 1000 social and supportive housing units in Vancouver that has been in the making since 2007. While the initiative was started by the leadership of the previous administration, the current government at City Hall should be credited with moving this file forward. Above all, great credit goes toward BC's Housing Minister Rich Coleman who has been driving this initiative since its inception.

The politics were not pretty in the beginning. As an effort to define Sam Sullivan's term in office the opposition Vision/COPE councillors regularly blasted the NPA as a "do nothing" council. Concurrently, social housing protesters constantly attacked Sullivan and the Province on the promise of more social housing units in advance of the Olympics. The fact that the City employed Ken Dobell, former top aide to Premier Campbell, on a contract to identify housing solutions was lambasted by Vision Vancouver and their political allies. In the end, the size of the commitment to social housing effectively silenced those critics.

As today's announcement proves, we should be glad that Coleman, Rogers and Sullivan ignored the critics and kept focused on the goal of creating new housing. The Streetohome Foundation are a private partner who made the investment of public dollars from the Province, and the commitment of property and reduced cost levies from the City an easier sell. Of course, the creation of a private entity to help end homelessness was another idea met with enormous skepticism by Vision Vancouver, but it's good to see they've now bought in.

There are many names who must be credited for this initiative. Of course Rich Coleman gets the lion's share of the praise for this project. He's been clear that when cities and municipalities are willing to come to the table with dollars, reduced DCLs or other bargaining chips, he can then persuade Premier Campbell and his cabinet to pony up matching dollars.

Sam Sullivan deserves credit, and so does is former "Housing Minister" Councillor Kim Capri. It's believed that Capri's skill at negotiating with Coleman helped secure the full commitment of 14 housing projects. Of course, former city manager Judy Rogers was instrumental in creating Streetohome and working with Ken Dobell to make this housing society work.

Frank Giustra, Bob Rennie, Tamara Vrooman and John Mackay are also bringing significant dollars – both personal and corporate – to Streetohome's coffers. While Streetohome gave a one-time contribution of $500,000 to Gregor Robertson's HEAT program during the winter 2008 cold snap, they demurred when it came to giving more money for non-permanent housing.

What someone suggested to me earlier was to listen to Mayor Gregor Robertson's speech at today's announcement. I was not able to attend the press conference so I'll have to rely upon the reports of others. Robertson to date has never liked to give credit to Sullivan, Rogers or anyone before his government when it comes to cutting these kinds of ribbons. It's a sign that despite winning successfully in the last election he lacks the confidence to share the stage with his political opponents. I hope that during today's announcement that he and his Vision colleagues are a bit more generous to those who made this significant housing commitment happen.

Here below is the Province's announcement. The full release on their website includes a backgrounder with specifics on the properties affected. See also the Globe and Mail report from this morning, a story broken by Frances Bula.

- post by Mike


The Province of British Columbia, City of Vancouver and the Streetohome Foundation are partnering to provide more than 1,000 new supportive-housing units in Vancouver, Premier Gordon Campbell announced today.

“These new investments will make a significant difference in improving the lives of more than 1,000 people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness,” said Premier Campbell. “I want to thank all the partners who have come together to improve the lives of people looking for safe and secure housing.”

The 1,006 new supportive-housing units will be located on eight sites owned by the City of Vancouver. The Province is providing $205 million and the Streetohome Foundation is providing $20 million towards construction as part of a new agreement that will see the foundation raise money from the private sector. The City of Vancouver provided the eight sites announced today valued at about $32 million.

“We firmly believe that permanent housing with the appropriate supports is going to improve the quality of life for those on the street, or who are at risk of becoming homeless,” said John McLernon, chair of the Streetohome Foundation. “This is a major step forward in our goal to bridge the housing gap in Vancouver, and today we are announcing the first donation of $5 million from Frank Giustra, Streetohome Campaign Chair, toward our capital campaign.”

The eight new projects are in addition to six projects previously announced by the Province and the City that will see 569 new supportive housing apartments. Combined, the 14 sites will provide 1,575 new units, create more than 2,100 direct jobs and represent a capital investment of $333.4 million. The City has contributed 14 parcels of land valued at about $64 million to the overall project. Construction on the original six sites has already begun. Construction on the remaining eight sites will begin this year subject to final municipal approvals.

“This new partnership demonstrates the commitment of the private sector to join the Province and the City in our collective effort to build new supportive housing for those who are homeless,” said Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman. “A major source of funding for the 14 City-owned sites is the proceeds from the sale and redevelopment of Little Mountain, so the legacy of Little Mountain not only replaces all the social housing on that site, but helps to make possible the creation of more than a thousand new supportive apartments.”

“Today’s funding commitment is a huge step forward for providing some of our most vulnerable citizens with a safe, permanent place to call home,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “We’ve got a lot of work left to do, but the development of these eight sites of social housing will move us significantly closer to our goal of ending street homelessness in Vancouver by 2015.”

Katherine Sanford Housing Society is among the non-profit operators that will be providing the tenant supports that will make these supportive housing developments successful.

“Today’s announcement of secured funding for sites in Vancouver is very welcome news,” said Bonnie Rice, executive director for Katherine Sanford Housing Society. “Providing more housing options in every neighbourhood will allow individuals requiring supported housing to remain in their own community.”

Since 2001, the Province has built more than 14,000 new affordable housing units and another 4,176 are currently planned or under construction across B.C.  In Vancouver, 2,070 new affordable housing units have been built, with an additional 1,575 to be built on the 14 sites.

In addition, the Province has purchased 26 single-room occupancy hotels securing 1,550 rooms for people at risk of being homeless.  Twenty-four of those hotels and approximately 1,400 of those rooms are located in Vancouver.

In 2010-11, B.C.’s budget for social housing is approximately $562 million, more than four times as much as in 2001.

‘Breaking the Cycle of Homelessness’ is a website providing a comprehensive and detailed look at provincial programs and services to address homelessness. Visit for more information.

For more information on the Streetohome Foundation, visit


I see Robertson has inserted ending 'street homelessness' into his portion of this announcement rather than the campaign promised 'ending homelessness'.

Ah, good Mayor - no matter how many times you use the 'updated version' we all still remember the original sound we heard it time and time again during your campaigning.

Tsk, tsk.

This is good news all around. The 1,006 new supportive-housing units announced today, and the 1,575 new supportive housing apartments (six buildings, for which funding was announced March 2009, are currently under construction), overall, will go a long way to providing quality of life for some of our most vulnerable citizens. All parties involved in the process leading up to today's announcement are to be congratulated.

Nice to see, too, that the new supportive housing apartments are being built across our City - from Dunbar to South Granville, as well as in the West End, along East Broadway and in Yaletown - and not just on the DTES.

When you consider the 1575 new housing units referred to above, along with the $86 million the Province spent a couple of years back to purchase 24 SRO's in Vancouver - and the $54 million expended to renovate the 1400 rooms in these SRO's - as a British Columbian, you have to be darn proud that with these announcements British Columbia would now appear to stand at the forefront (at least in North America) of responding to the needs of all members of our community (now, if they'd just do something about 'reno-victions'), and most particularly our province's most vulnerable population.

Good to see that Sullivan is actually getting some credit on this, considering he was the guy who got is started. Even Bula mentioned him in her article today. Amazing. As for Gregor, yes, he is now inserting the word "street" in front of all of his statements when it comes to ending homelessness. He does think we are a bunch of idiots.

Congratulations to Sam Sullivan's administration for creating more social housing than any administration in the city's history and for launching the StreeToHome Foundation that made Mayor Robertson's announcement yesterday possible!

Check out!

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