A “Chateau” for the Homeless

Located on Burrard near Robson, this was the 2016 site of the closed clothing store Le Château. Unfortunately, this is a very typical scene in Vancouver with people sleeping in doorways, and no one taking any particular notice. Not that people don’t care – it’s just the problem has become overwhelmingly common. It’s part of our daily life, we wait for our bus, go about our business and tacitly accept the situation.

In 2016, the underestimated total of homeless people in Vancouver alone was 1,847.

The homeless count includes people on the street with no shelter at all living in doorways, alleys, parkades, parks, vehicles, etc. as well as those who use emergency shelters, transition houses, detox facilities and couch surfers.

The homeless count continues to rise and is the most noticeable aspect of Vancouver’s housing crisis. For those not homeless, a recent article in the Westender cited the average cost of renting a 1-bedroom apartment in Vancouver as $1,820 while the average 2-bedroom goes for $3,030! The average price of a detached home in Greater Vancouver is 1.5 million, but it’s clear you won’t be getting a chateau for that price.

The need for affordable housing finally has begun to be addressed. A 15-per-cent tax took effect for home purchases in the Metro Vancouver area that involve foreigners. The government is also clearing the way for the City of Vancouver to impose a tax on vacant homes. Self-regulation of real estate agents will be ending, and there are proposed restrictions on short-term rentals.

In the meantime rents are not decreasing, property assessments have gone through the roof, and most of what’s being built or renovated is still not affordable. Real estate values only complicate the situation for the homeless.

The problem of homelessness is complex, but one wonders why something cannot be done to provide permanent shelter along with medical, social and psychological care to 1,847 people. Currently, there are no limits on political donations in BC., including municipalities like Vancouver. Even the New York Times has reported on this phenomenon. Kinder Morgan, along with other oil factions, has donated $715,000 to the BC Liberal Party that has recently approved the new Kinder Morgan pipeline. Wealthy donors pay tens of thousands of dollars to meet with Premier Clark at private fundraisers ensuring their concerns are heard. What kind of voice does that leave the average citizen who is without the funds of large corporations, banks, and real estate developers and other interest groups? Imperial Metals, a contributor to the BC liberal party, whose mine tailing pond spilled billions of gallons of toxic debris in 2014, has now been permitted to operate an even larger mine.

Unlike politicians in most other provinces, Ms. Clark personally benefits from these political contributions and, until a few days ago, had been receiving a stipend of $50,000 from her party through political donations on top of her $195,000 salary. But to BC Liberals, this is a normal, long-term practice and the province’s conflict of interest commissioner sees no conflict here. BC has the 2nd highest poverty rate in the country but there is no poverty reduction plan except apparently Ms. Clark’s personal one.

Perhaps instead of this shameless profiteering, higher taxes could be imposed on these interest groups to foster housing for the homeless and affordable housing for all.