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Vancouver’s unhoused could reach more than 4,700 people by 2030: report

Housing Minister Kahlon says improvements have been made, but acknowledges more work ahead

A new report warns of rising homelessness in B.C.’s biggest city.

Unless government builds and saves more housing for low-income individuals, the number of homeless in Vancouver could rise to 4,700 in 2030 from about 3,150 today, according to the Carnegie Housing Project.

The Carnegie Centre Community Association, based in the heart of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood, released the report in late February.

The report draws attention to the growing loss of Vancouver’s 6,567 single room occupancy rentals located mostly on the Downtown Eastside in the face of gentrification. Just under half of all SROs (3,174) spread across 93 buildings are privately-owned and the report notes that they are becoming increasingly unaffordable.

Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is among the poorest postal codes in all of Canada. The area of Vancouver recorded the highest numbers of death per 100,000 people, with almost 553 lives lost in 2023, according to figures from the BC Coroners Service released in January.

The report from the Carnegie Housing Project refers to SROs as the “last resort of homelessness” and fears that their loss to gentrification, rising rents and other issues will push more people into homelessness. The report also laments the future loss of publicly financed modular housing in Vancouver.

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Under the best-case scenario, the province enacts vacancy controls to prevent gentrification and meet building targets, while authorities extend the leases for existing modular housing units, as well as minimize structural losses from fires. Under this scenario, homelessness in Vancouver would drop from a current estimate of 3,150 to 1,795.

However, under the worst and “most likely” scenario homelessness could rise to about 4,700, it reads.

The report acknowledges that it will be difficult to calculate how many new people will lose their housing in the coming six years, but points out that Vancouver recorded a 16 per cent increase in homelessness in the 2023 homeless count – a stat considered an “under-count” given it being a snapshot in time.

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said Wednesday (Feb. 28) government has opened up 563 SROs and supportive housing units in the last year and a half.

“We have three projects under construction right now,” he said. “We have $11 million for the SRO Collaborative (a non-profit working to improve SROs). So there are significant investments going into that, but we know the challenges are real and we will continue to work at finding solutions.”

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Kahlon echoed statements made in early February, when he promised additional policies following the coroner’s inquest into the 2022 Winters Hotel fire in Vancouver which killed two people.

Those recommendations include phasing out public funding for SROs in privately-owned buildings and ramping up fire safety bylaw enforcement.

“We definitely need to move away from the private SROs over time,” Kahlon said. “Doing that just overnight is a challenge, given that we do have people living in them and we need to make sure people have housing available. But we’ve said for many years now that type of housing is not the type of housing we want people to live in.”

He said the province needs to work with Vancouver and the federal government to reform SROs and have housing that is better-suited.

A rise in homelessness has reached all corners of the province, with several rural communities outside the traditional hotspots of Metro Vancouver and Greater Victoria experiencing significant increases.

– with files from Canadian Press

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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