Downtown Eastside residents march to raise awareness of housing crisis

Housing advocates say homelessness in Vancouver is expected to rise to around 4,700 people by 2030. Downtown Eastside residents marched in protest Saturday to raise awareness about the lack of affordable housing in the city.

Downtown Eastside residents took to the streets in protest Saturday to raise awareness about the lack of affordable housing in the city.

Organizers of the event say the number of those experiencing homelessness is predicted to grow to at least 4,700 people by 2030, and without real change, the housing crisis will only get worse.

“We need thousands of units of social housing — but not just any old social housing,” said Jean Swanson, housing advocate for the Carnegie Housing Project.

“Most social housing excludes poor people, because you need to make a certain amount of income.”

Aboriginal Front Door executive director Chris Livingston says the city needs to enforce rent control to prevent landlords from raising rent when a unit becomes vacant.

Livingston was among those speaking at the event about the state of Single Room Occupancy (SRO) units, saying they are uninhabitable.

“How many people have to see rats, bedbugs, cockroaches? How many people are subjected to violence from their neighbours?,” Livingston said.

“We invite the city council, MPs and all levels of government to stay at my SRO for 24 hours. Come on down and see how it is.”

Many protesters were calling on SRO hotels like the Empress to transition to a tenant-led operational model.

“So there is an idea that we get together as organizations and take hotels out of private ownership,” Livingston said.

Advocates say more rentals should be offered at the same rate as the shelters.

“If this happens we can end homelessness by 2030,” Swanson said.

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