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Housing/Poverty Advocates Making Things WORSE

September 28th, 2017 · 35 Comments

It’s all very well … even noble … to demand more and better housing for those without or living in what most of us would regard as poor conditions.

But what if all the pressures, rules, restrictions, enforcements by well-meaning advocates and both elected and bureaucratic officials are actually making things worse???

This is a much more difficult question than many people would imagine.

The latest report on homelessness in Metro Vancouver shows homeless numbers have jumped 30% in the past three years … to more than 3,600.  And a whopping 45% of those … 992 … are homeless this year for the first time …victims of the increasing unaffordability of housing … even for those who are working.

They are now in ALL Lower Mainland municipalities and even beyond.

But let’s keep it real: many of those living on the streets, in tents or doorways, have some very serious drug, alcohol or psychological problems …. the study found 82% of them are dealing with at least one of those conditions.

That makes some of those very, very difficult if not almost impossible to house … except in expensive, publicly-operated special facilities.  And those often have too many rules so that intended residents refuse to live in them … preferring the street, occasional shelters or tenting with friends in parks.

Be honest!  How many of US could … or would …. actually provide accommodation, for say $325 a month, to people who REGULARLY act out serious behavioral problems …destroying/stealing your bathroom sinks, toilets, showerheads … throwing up, urinating or defecating almost everywhere and marking up and/or punching holes in your walls during fits of drunkenness, drug overdoses or psychosis???

Like to be their landlord?

At first glance …and thanks to shallow reporting by the media … housing and poverty crusaders offer GREAT show-and-tell evidence of how lousy some of these places are.

But by demanding the City enforce ALL its bylaws …. and shut down so many units …  I would suggest THEY have contributed to the current homeless and lack-of-low cost housing crisis.

When those crummy places are shut down, even if the residents are  moved,  it actually hurts/reduces the overall low income housing stock … increasing pressures/prices on the whole housing market. Supply and demand!!!

And now, housing activists are even suggesting our housing crisis could be IMPROVED by freezing rents!!


All that would do is lead to MORE rental units being sold off as condos or used as Bed and Breakfasts … and certainly discourage more rental units from being built.

What we NEED is MORE rental housing … a LOT more!

And the only way to achieve that is for to the city, province and even the federal governments to offer INCENTIVES: much greater tax incentives for rental unit construction/renovations; expedited municipal development processes;  improved tax write-offs for occupied rental units; rent-controls on both new/old rental supply; and, for those offering rental rates below certain levels (ie for the hard to house) even greater municipal tax reductions to encourage low rents  … and even provincial paid subsidies to enable better upkeep/repairs if/as pre-approved by inspectors.

There is just no way to realistically increase PUBLIC spending with enough BILLIONS of dollars to build AND operate long-term housing projects for thousands more people … as land/construction/housing prices continue to rise … and not just in the Lower Mainland.

A program like I’ve outlined could improve the rental housing crisis in many communities across the country.

Doing nothing… the situation is guaranteed to get worse.

Harv Oberfeld

(Reminder: you can get First Alerts of all new topics on this blog by following @harveyoberfeld on Twitter. No spam…just First Alerts of new topics. )

Tags: British Columbia · National

35 responses so far ↓

  • 1 e.a.f. // Sep 28, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    In my opinion there are two different types of housing needed, assisted social housing and affordable housing. that social housing is for those who are hard to house, I. e. those with some real issues which make them unacceptable to most land lords.

    The affordable housing is for those who don’t have all the issues and are on disability, low incomes, working poor, middle income, etc.

    What most of the money goes into, from what I can see is social housing and that leaves a lot of others falling through the cracks so they wind up on the street.

    As Jeremy Hunka of the Union Gospel Mission said last year, they were seeing a whole new class of homeless, those with money and incomes. People with pensions of $2K a month may not be able to find housing and where do they go? It is not enough to tell people to move to other parts of the province because the other parts of the province don’t have the services many need. You may be old, need to see a doctor regularly but in many rural areas that doesn’t work. Have cancer, you won’t be getting the treatment locally. You also don’t have the income you once did to pay rent. These people will actually be much easier to house and the government, at all levels, continue to ignore them.

    Those who require assisted social housing, that is a whole other ball park. Many of them need hospitalization, perhaps not what we see as acute care but almost like an extended care. We ought not to expect private land lords to provide them housing. WE either get slum lords or land lords who get their property ruined.

    Case: person and spouse with mental health issues. Health authority provides contract services to go into the home 4 times a day to ensure medications are taken. However no one pays attention to the horrible disgusting conditions in the unit. The land lord phones sibling of person to complain and they have to deal with it. Now please will some one tell me why a contractor or a Health authority sends people in 4 times a day and they can’t see the bed is full of shit and the toilet not flushed to the extent it is backed up. How can we expect a land lord to put up with that. how much money are we as taxpayers spending on this type of lack of action. would it not be easier and cheaper to house these people in another manner or send in cleaning staff, so the land lord is at least happy and their property not destroyed.

    this has all been going on for over 3 decades and its only getting worse. It is about time, we as a society and the government decide what we are going to do It may be costly but not providing adequate housing will in the end be much more expensive.

    As a society we may need to change our minds about how we view land and housing. It is not enough to say we can’t tell a land lord how to operate a business or it is not a land lord/business owner to provide a solution to a problem, in like its not their problem or business.

    To all of those, your business benefits from the tax dollars which support your business, property by the roads we build, the police, fire departments, infrastructure, etc. When you sign on to live in a community if you can’t see beyond your own nose one day its going to be cut off by some one with a long knife, who would have not been “your problem” if they had been adequately looked after.

    You can not effect change to people’s problems without first providing basic housing no matter how often they go to rehab.

    when the former mayor of Portland was once asked how he attacked their homeless problem, his response was, we started building. Its about time we did also.

    When people take housing off the market to use for ar b n b. They are contributing to homelessness. when land owners leave houses and land vacant, they are contributing to homelessness. At some point we have to decide whose rights take priority, society’s or the property order.

  • 2 e.a.f. // Sep 28, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    People who run b & bs out of their homes or their vacant homes need to start being subjected to the same game rules as regular businesses, i.e. hotels, motels. They need to pay business licenses just like the hotel down the street. The accommodation needs to be held to the same standard as hotels, motels. Their income from these businesses need to be taxed as businesses. Civic government need to stop turning a blind eye to it all.

    When a large proportion of the population lives from pay cheque to pay cheque it will not turn out well if there is a down turn in the economy.

    (Response: I believe they ARE now being licensed and paying taxes…but if you can get $100 to $200 a night from a tourist…sure more lucrative for many than providing long term rentals … unless we give them incentives to do that. h.o.)

  • 3 Gene The Bean // Sep 28, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    Last year I took the Hastings Street bus from downtown to Commercial Drive.

    It was a war zone. I have been in some pretty sketchy areas of the world but what I saw made me cringe and wonder how WE could have fallen so far as to allow this to happen here in Canada. I was in shock, literally. It was vile and disgusting and it made me feel profoundly ashamed. If anything confirmed my utter distaste for the selfish right – it was that.

    When we started closing mental hospitals because it was “too expensive” and when we started cutting back on dozens of medical and outreach programs because it was “too expensive” we put the wheels in motion to have the DTES exist as it does today. Only when individuals became so selfish and morally bankrupt that they didn’t care about anything except themselves and the almighty dollar and elected governments to do “their” bidding did this happen. I challenge every single one of you to take that bus ride.

    These are people. Someone’s son or daughter, uncle or aunt. They live and exist(?) in conditions that no one that read this blog would ever put a dog into. Yet most of us turn a blind eye.

    Everyone wears this. Everyone should see it.

    It is over for those people. We can only hope to help those that are headed down that path.

    I may post later on some thoughts about housing and the working poor.

    This subject is very painful and emotionally draining for me. It makes me feel dirty just thinking about how this could happen in Canada.

    The bigger question is – how does it make you feel?

    (Response: It’s truly awful to witness the downtown area around Main/Hastings and there’s no doubt we should increase spending/resources on providing facilities for those who want help. For others, increasing modular storage unit/housing could help… but the overall problem of increasingly expensive rental housing is too big for government to solve on its own: private investment in rental stock should be SUBSTANTIALLY encouraged the rental availability numbers will be increased SUBSTANTIALLY. h.o)

  • 4 Diverdarren // Sep 28, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    Harvey, I think you nailed the problem with your line, ” That makes some of those very, very difficult if not almost impossible to house … except in expensive, publicly-operated special facilities. And those often have too many rules so that intended residents refuse to live in them.”

    REFUSE to live in them.

    To actually make a difference in the homeless/ mental deficient/ addicted population we need to make the tough choice that these people do not have the capacity to consciously refuse.

    If society deemed that the person lacks mental capacity it’s the duty of the state to take them into custody.

    Now, I know that in today’s Canadian society where the SJW’s and the poverty pimps and the complacent governments looking to cut costs have fought long and hard so that these members of society should be considered contributing members of society. And thus should be in society. And that’s been great.

    Indeed they do contribute. Anyone of us can witness their contribution with a drive past
    100 E Hastings St.

    There will be a day when the people that work and pay for the city we have around us will demand that the resources be used to make a better city for themselves and that will include incarceration of the sick in expensive state run facilities.

    Just to be clear. The issue of the addicted/ mental deficient/ un-employable homelessness and its possible solutions is not the same as the working poor’s housing issues. the working poor do need innovative support by the government. Both in programs of rental construction and rental rules/laws to ensure their survival in a changing Vancouver.

    (Response: Very difficult to make subjective decisions to have people taken into involuntary “custody” when they have not broken any laws, have not endangered others or harmed themselves. And you’re quite correct …there is a difference between those people and the working poor or even not so poor who cannot afford today’s outrageous rents. But there just isn’t the public money available to subsidize everyone like that’s rents … the only realistic solution to that is encouraging a much larger private rental stock … through the methods I’ve suggested …and others too. h.o)

  • 5 r // Sep 28, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    should have not shut down riverview.?
    not everyone only needs a perscription./

    time to bring back M>U>R>B tax build credit?

    (Response: Right on both accounts! h.o)

  • 6 e.a.f. // Sep 28, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    private investment won’t be there as long as more money can be made in upscale housing. Its the nature of capitalism. They are not there to act as social agencies.

    Governments do have a responsibility to take action and yes it will be expensive, but its not going to get any cheaper than it is today.

    People (customers and developers) might want to take a look at what is being built. Granite counter tops are not a must have, neither are high end appliances, hard wood floors, 2 or 3 bathrooms with soaker tubs and 6 ft. shower stalls lined in high end tile. It all ads up. It is possible to build with less expensive products.

    In the early 1980s when MURBs where giving developers blank cheques to build and the interest rate was 19% co-ops, part of a federal program, were still able to build. What they built was affordable and basic. Land may have been less expensive but a lot of it was being built on land owned by one level of government or another.

    This evening’s CHEK 6 news from Victoria was reporting on a high rise building where the developer was being financed by the government, buyers had to make less than $150K and had to live in the unit for at least 2 years before renting it out or selling. Well I’d suggest they’re using government money to finance, that these units never be used as rentals but rather simply as housing which could be bought and sold, but no increase in price higher than the cost of living with the ad in of the cost of interest. It would establish a pool of housing which could not be used to increase a portfolio but rather provide affordable housing for people living in the city. that might also be a good requirement. this type of housing be reserved for those working and living in the city.

    If Greater Vancouver becomes the play ground and home for only the rich, where will we the people who work here and have lived here for generations go to live. Oh, right ask any First Nations person how that turned out for them. Perhaps we will no understand their perspective on the loss of their homes.

    (Response: I’d bet there are lots of developers … if the incentives and long-term prospects and revenues looked good …would see the benefits of building AND holding residential stock …just as they do commercial buildings, where the profits and writeoffs are much better… and they end up with legacy properties that keep churning out profits for decades …well beyond their investment. h.o.)

  • 7 harry lawson // Sep 28, 2017 at 7:20 pm


    i had the pleasure of being a board member of a major non profit housing provider. i use my real name on all post.

    my opinions are mine and not that of any board or society i have served.
    it took us years to get in to this mess and regretfully it will take years to get resolve.

    the hard to house is a symptom of years of cutbacks in our healthcare. we closed tranquil, riverview, promised that the the health authorities would ensure patients would be cared for then came the cuts of 02 and 08.

    as this was happening the feds reduced and stopped funding co op and social housing.

    the solution is to allow more market rentals with incentives to be built, we need to ensure the hard to house get the health care that they need, we need to reinstate social programs in mental health.

    i have a lot of suggestions that come from 15 plus years in the trenches however what i have suggested is a great start.

    we truly need to take the profit out of poverty

    (Response: As I’m sure you know, drug and alcohol addiction and psychosis is not the sole purview of the poor or hard to house. It extends to every economic and social strata .. and we certainly DO need more facilities and programs to deal with these problems. But as others have pointed out our housing affordability crisis is now taking a severe toll on many working people …even causing homelessness at the lower end of the employed scale. What we NEED to alleviate that problem is not huge amounts of publicly built and eternally operated housing projects, but incentives for private builders to get back into rental housing in a big way… probably built nicer, cheaper and better run than government projects would end up. Supply and demand MUST be addressed together. h.o.)

  • 8 13.. // Sep 28, 2017 at 10:33 pm

    Re opening Riverview and turning it into a state of the art facility is on the table. Having lived next door to the abandoned grounds for 25 years I found almost no NIMBY ism among the people in Coquitlam that lived in the area. The 3 levels of government could make a substantial dent in our homeless numbers and help many people in need.
    All it takes is the commitment to move forward. Not speeches not studies not tons of beauacracy just commitment. Mayor Stewart is on board, all we need is Justin and Horgan .
    Furthermore once the government gets rid of ICBC the huge empty claims centers can be re purposed into shelters. Old schools and abandoned government buildings including 312 Main St. Once again the buildings are already standing it just take commitment.
    Something Gregor talked about but never achieved.

  • 9 jay // Sep 28, 2017 at 10:50 pm

    As a paramedic who worked in the downtown for several years i can tell you a few things.
    Firstly, mental health housing is sadly lacking since the government shut down places like riverview.
    Second, strange as it may seem, alot of people living on the street like it that way. I was astonished some days when we offered bed and blankets and who knows what only to have them declined. Not by an irrational mental health patient but someone who knew thier situation and accepted it.
    Third, i worked downtown for a while and never had anyone harrass, intimidate or panhandle me, even out of uniform. I remember driving down hastings and other streets wonder why shop owners actually had produce and items on display outside their store where they could easily be stolen. The answer? No one was stealing. Even the homeless have a code sometimes.
    Do the homeless need more care and housing and such..absolutely.
    The problem lies in that many don’t want it due to some sort of feeling that they will be obligated to return the favor or that they will lose their freedom. It sounds strange to those outside their world but it is a fact.
    Drugs, alcohol abuse and violence infest that world but we can’t paint them all with the same brush because some are just down and out. Some like where they are. Some unfortunately are beyond help.
    The big problem with many is that they don’t know anything else. All their friends are in that community. You can take them out, sober them up, clean them up and unfortunately many will go right back to the old lifestyle because they go back to their friends who haven’t had the ability or motivation to get out.
    The sad thing is that in my years of doing paramedic work, I have dealt with people who were amazing but fell on hard times. They were our veterans, teachers, paramedics, doctors, nurses, police, and many other walks of life. They served this country and for whatever reason fell into hard times.
    But for the grace of god go I..remember that everyone has a story..and they aren’t all terrible.

  • 10 e.a.f. // Sep 29, 2017 at 1:54 am

    Harvey your response to #7, the last time that was tried it was the MURBS by the federal government. But that was only good for 25 years when they were free to sell the apartments at market value and the people who lived there had to find other housing and the cycle began all over again. ‘
    Given the profits to be made from building housing no one is going to build to make less. The incentives would have to be so large, we the taxpayer would find it cheaper to have done it ourselves.

    The real money is in condos buying and selling and keeping the flow of money going. Rentals, unless you’re charging a ton, which most average working people can’t afford, there really isn’t any money in it.

    when it comes to supply and demand, the demand is there, but the supply isn’t because there is bigger money to be made in the upscale market. its called capitalism and the name of the game is to make as much money as possible. No one is going to make less when they don’t have to.

  • 11 Harry lawson // Sep 29, 2017 at 4:15 am

    Housing should not be warehousing. Clean ,safe affordabile housing should be a basic human right in this country. The question becomes what is affordabile ? And how is it going to be provided ?

    After the Second World War we had a huge concerted effort to provide housing for the vets. The private sector stepped up with assistance from the government and built communities.

    We need to have a concerted effort from all of society to fix this. Some municipalities it takes years to get a project built because of wait times for approvals ,permits and inspections.

  • 12 13.. // Sep 29, 2017 at 7:51 am

    The creation of market based rental units of all kinds needs to make sure builders , developers, and
    landlords can make profits on their investments. The 3 levels of government need to create tax breaks that make people want to build rental units. Want to rent a basement suite. Want to rent long term and not air bb. Want to build a laneway house. Governments need to make permits affordable or free for rental construction
    To help with affordability tie the tax breaks to a scale Low rents get low taxes property, income,etc.
    Sadly the real morally bankrupt are the governments that only know how to increase taxes and user fees . Governments should eliminate the red tape and delays in issuing permits. Entrepreneurs and capitalists need only the ability to turn a profit and if governments want rental stocks to soar just allow the people with money to make money

  • 13 D. M. Johnston // Sep 29, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    Our housing crisis has so many problems, on so many levels, it even begs Solomon to find an answer.

    Mental illness, lack of social housing, money laundering, selling residential property off-shore and more has caused today’s crisis.

    Government is only paying lip service to this ever growing cancer, but real action, nada, not a peep.

    The higher purpose persons now get into the fray many with unworkable solutions based on political fancy and nothing more.

    I do not have the answer but government must provide social housing (isn’t this what government is for?); provide adequate services for the mentally ill (governments actions to date are pathetic); and deal coherently with the large scale drug problem (why not as many political donors flirt with drug dealers).

    Lots of talk, angst and hand wringing, but little or no action from those who run the show.

    (Response: I agree government must provide social housing for those who really need it and cannot take care of themselves … but NOT just free housing for anyone who wants it and can’t be bothered to work. That would simply not be fair to those who DO work long hours and/or at low wages to take care of their own needs or as part of a plan to progress/get ahead. My suggestion for new, imaginative rental housing incentives could sure help them by substantially increasing the supply without sacrificing profitability … and thus lower rents required to make the system work. h.o.)

  • 14 e.a.f. // Sep 29, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    much of the housing which we need, is for families who work and live in the lower mainland, but providing them housing “without sacrificing profitability” isn’t going to happen. We have a capitalist economy and without government intervention, changes in the current housing stock isn’t going to happen. If changes come, they won’t be welcomed by many because the government will have interfered with the market place to too great an extent.

    In the Netherlands the government owns 40% of the housing stock. In some Scanda countries its less but in the ball park. Many of the European countries started their housing stock after WWII when it was desperately needed. Now 60 years later, they have stock. New York has a variety of housing game rules which they have developed over the years but then I suspect some one in New York discovered if you didn’t provide housing for those who provided services to the rich, they’d have no one.

    B.C. isn’t going to do much beyond house those with issues because that is what catches the most news. The working poor, students, retired, disabled are on their own.

    Even if municipal governments said, if you build affordable housing we will fast track your permits within 30 days it still wouldn’t happen. there is no money in it. Now if the various levels of government said, you build this building and you accept so many people who work in the area, then they have to do it. I’m not talking about housing for “social” cases, but housing for the working poor, middle income, disabled, students, etc. Once these people are adequately houses, the housing they leave behind, might provide housing for those with some issues.

    governments need to house those “with issues” but it won’t be cheap and won’t help those in the middle, those who work, go to school, etc. they just need affordable housing and that isn’t going to happen in our life time unless there is a real uprising or corporations start to have to consider moving to find workers. Yes, that may yet happen. Corporations not being able to find top tier employees because housing is too expensive in greater Vancouver. If you have to make $600K a yr to buy a house in Vancouver, not many qualify. Commuting from Abbotsford or Chilliwack isn’t fun. we are seeing people though moving to Nanaimo and commuting to downtown Vancouver, its easier, on a ferry, you can sleep.

    If various levels of government would have bitten the bullet 10 years ago we wouldn’t be having this problem, but everyone was making too much money to care. Now we have to live with those results.

    (Response: There absolutely ARE ways for government to limit/control rents at rental properties built under special grants, write-offs and tax subsidies etc. Builders/landlords who sign on to benefits could be required to have rents/increases restricted as well to slightly better than cost of living … or be forced to pay back the economic benefits they had received etc. h.o.)

  • 15 e. a. f. // Sep 29, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    Harvey, you are correct, their are ways, but no government is going to go down that road. Even if one government went down that road, the next government could simply sell off the real estate. There is too much money involved.

    it will be interesting to see what happens in Champlain Heights. south east corner of Vancouver. Many of the co-ops there, which supply affordable housing are on leased land and some of those leases will come to an end. My money says in this climate the city of vancouver sill sell the land, tell people the developer will provide some social housing and then nothing will be done. We have only to look at the Little Mountain social housing, people evicted, land sold and nothing built except some housing for those who held out and it was clear they weren’t going any where. No government in this province is going to upset the apple cart. the NDP will provide housing for those with issues to get them off the street, may provide some incentives for a few moderately priced places to live, but anything else is off the table. This is not Europe and this is not New York.

    (Response: The government would not ad should not own/develop that land … far too costly/inefficient for them to do that. I believe private developers would get into the long-term rental game again if they could BUY land at a fair price to do that, get an expedited process and write-off incentives to build and operate …. and be allowed (regulated) to make a decent profit above inflation …and still own the property so in 30 years, they could pass on to their legacy. Incentives like that would no doubt lead to many more rental developments… perhaps thousands of units throughout the Lower Mainland … produce the NEW and more reasonably priced rental supply for middle income earners….and, as they move up to better accommodation, the increased supply would no doubt bring prices down at the lower rental end. h.o.)

  • 16 Eldon // Sep 29, 2017 at 11:33 pm

    I’m with 13. Any government that promises to reopen and expand Riverview has a good shot at my vote. People of sound mind that choose homelessness don’t get a lot of sympathy from me, but those who are mentally ill need help and shelter.

  • 17 RIsaak // Sep 30, 2017 at 9:47 am

    As someone who worked for a rather long spell in the development industry, the notion that any developer would build social or even rental housing when the market is in a full speculative frenzy is absurd. The developers are all about turning over capital and reaping as healthy a return on investment in as short a period as possible. ROI’s of 18-20% are as common place as pre sales to offshore buyers. Lets not forget the recent efforts (stir) which have yielded far less affordable housing than any of the talking heads inferred it would. Unless you consider $1900.00/ month for 680 sq. ft. to be affordable?
    Civic councils who view development fees (there are many in many forms, which vary from Municipality to Municipality) as a ongoing personal pet project funding source are equally to blame. I understand Burnaby is the least accommodating Municipality in the region when it comes to building any social or fixed cost rental housing, yet I see many high-rise builds ongoing. All the affordable 3 story walk-ups are going Dodo in favor of concrete eclipses.
    The federal government is very heavily influenced by offshore wealthy who use our market as a laundry and convenient aid to move large sums of cash with very little oversight, this contributes to the housing deficit as well. The current ruling party openly has included many with wealth of questionable ethical origin have openly forwarded the notion of being insiders, this is due to the politicians penchant for campaign contributions without properly vetting the donors. Pay to play has taken a far higher priority than social housing or caring for the mentally challenged.
    The poverty pimps (I’d really like to know the true numbers of advocates who make over 60K/yr.) , considering the lack of any real positive change or betterment causes one to question the moneys spent on their efforts which seem to yield substandard results.
    This issue has many interested parties, with many concerns which cannot be solved without all the parties reaching some form of consensus on making a real difference. Sadly many are loathe to surrender their own vested interests for the greater good. Anyone who supposes a fast, easy or tangible result is possible given the many agendas in play is delusional. This whole issue will take a fresh, comprehensive plan, one which will no doubt cause much whining and crying from the current folks who lets face it, have failed massively on this issue.
    The mentally challenged panhandler who terrorizes my area is exactly one who has fallen through the cracks of responsibility from many levels of governance. Me & my neighbors will continue to have to go to the parking lots to meet our visitors who have been assaulted on a few occasions by someone who has been failed by governance. He should be institutionalized for others and in fact his own safety, sadly both have become reality recently in this case. But flights of fancy, public art, redesigning roads and allowing developers to buy their way out of social housing requirements have all but eclipsed the needs of this unfortunate soul who could be cared for in a far superior manner than he currently is.

    (Response: You cannot tar all developers with a single description. If governments made available special tracts of land, gave attractive tax breaks and write-offs for rental housing along with allowances for reasonable returns on investments, I’d bet there would be some takers ..esp keeping min mind that after any agreement expires, say in 30 years… those who developed the sites wold then be able to benefit from re-development as well. I think you might even get groups of investors on community societies that would come to9gether to enlist in programs like that. h.o.)

  • 18 Gary.T. // Sep 30, 2017 at 10:34 am

    I agree with you Eldon @# 16. This problem exploded when the Liberals closed Riverview, promised supports & housing for the people there, then just abandoned them. There have always been people who chose to be homeless, but never like the situation now. Rents have shot out of sight. My wife and I would love to have a choice of places to move to, but we cannot afford the rents being asked as seniors. Since we moved back to the coast ( really bad idea on our part ) rents in Langley have almost tripled. These places are not nice by any stretch of the imagination either. I really don’t know how people with a lower than our income can even come close to making it, let alone anyone that is challenged.

  • 19 david hadaway // Sep 30, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    When e.a.f. points out the high levels of government owned housing stock in Scandinavia (and the same applies in many other parts of the world) this is highlighting the one and only way that housing crises have been consistently and sucessfully dealt with. We can see on repeated occasions here how attempts to resolve the issue through incentives and subsidies to the private sector have ended up being exploited by developers while providing no more than a temporary palliative.

    It makes no more sense to expect that the private sector will solve the problem of homelessness and substandard housing than to imagine it can solve the often associated mental health issues. This a matter for society as a whole, which like it or not means our government .

    Only governments have the capacity to organise and provide finance (which they can obtain on terms far more favourable than any company) at the scale required.

    Like some other people here I have practical experience, I started my professional career working for a local authority in England, which in those days was building rental housing on a scale and to a quality that can scarcely be imagined today. They were let at fair rents for a wide cross section of society. Tragically the ‘private good, public bad’ dogmas of the Thatcher government finished that, leading to the end of building, the sell off of stock and the crisis now afflicting the UK.

    In the UK, however, there does seem to be dawning the idea that what worked in the past can work in the future. Here, tragically for many, there seems little likelihood that we will do much more than repeat the past mistakes that lead to where we are.

  • 20 e.a.f. // Sep 30, 2017 at 6:45 pm

    Harvey, the land was leased by the City of Vancouver to the co-ops which built the housing. The co-ops were funded by the federal government to the degree that they subsidized mortgages, and people who couldn’t afford normal housing rents. The co-op program the federal government ran until it was scrapped provided decent housing to a wide range of people. It was most likely the best thing the federal government did in providing housing for working people, the disabled, seniors, etc. The group who formed the co-ops took care of hiring the architects, builders, etc.

    RIsaaks is bang on with his comments. And if I think he is who I think he is, he really does know what he is talking about.

    Harvey, that 30 year thing, isn’t going to work. it will once again put public lands in private hands and when they go to “re develop” that project in 30 years, we will be right back where we started because people will continue to move here and low income workers, seniors, etc. will always be with us. Having watched the MURBS, which gave developers tax incentives to build housing, which they did and maintained for 25 years. Once that 25 years was up all those apartments were sold to private individuals and those who were living in those apartments had to go look for new low cost housing. It was not a fun time for those who had to look for new housing, which was most of them.

    MURBs also distorted the housing market in Great Vancouver. towards the end of the “project” offered by the federal government, developers were handing builders blank cheques to build before the deadline and made building anything in 1981 a tough deal. I know, we were trying to build a co-op on a budget. We as a society got out of it was tax breaks for developers and then a big sale at the end.

    The government whether it wants to or not is going to have to get into having a housing stock which will offer blended housing (based on income). That is what works. It doesn’t turn into ghettos, people have permanent housing based on their income levels. It works. Private enterprise will always need to make money and those who are currently in the game are not going to leave. The only large developer who I can recall who actually did some work in the way of affordable housing was Progressive Construction, back in the day. They built a few co ops and did it at on budget. Today you’d be hard pressed to find a big developer who would work for no to little profit.

    What governments can do is start by having a decent tenants rights act. One which does restrict increases of rent and that ceiling has to keep up with inflation. At the same time the act needs to be up dated so land lords don’t have tenant who destroy their units and walk away. It ought to be easier to evict them.

    As to the housing stock we have, it maybe time to tell owners you can’t tear down buildings, its still good to use and provides housing. Its not in the interest of society to tear it down. Then if the owner wants to, they can provide the tenant with temporary housing and a place back where they lived, at their old rent.

    A tenancy act needs to also include SROs and mobile home parks.

    A tenancy act also needs to include a provision that if the owner fails to maintain the building in accordance with the area’s codes, the rent is taken by the local authority who then does the work. Not waiting for the building to deteriorate so no one can live in it.

    In some areas manufactured home parks are going to be re developed and it is going to lead to a lot of homelessness. It started back in the 1970s. It needs to end. The owners made profits for 30, 40, 50 years and now want to toss the renters out because they can sell the land for even larger profits.

    Back in the 1980s and 90s, in the U.S.A. they determined that one of the leading causes of homelessness in some areas was the re development of manufactured home parks. They also discovered that even in dysfunctional parks, there was a level of support amongst the owners of these homes, which far exceeded what was out in the community.
    Housing ought to be a right in this country. We are certainly rich enough.

  • 21 Hawgwash // Sep 30, 2017 at 11:06 pm

    The responses to this post have been the best of any HO topics. Great reasoned experienced voices.

    In my opinion though, it is hand wringing that can only result in raw fingers.

    Some random bits from the news over the last few days:
    25,000 empty homes in Vancouver.
    50% of home owners in Dunbar, Point Grey and Richmond qualify as low income.
    1.5 million dollars in $20 bills run through River Rock in a single day.
    A Richmond spa owner is known to have laundered 200 million in one year.
    BC condo presales are not available to local buyers.
    Condo presales are not subject to foreign buyer’s tax.
    Vancouver Mayor visits China secretly.

    So, again in my opinion, homelessness, affordability, fentanyl and all the other day to day issues run through this space and backyard BBQs are just topics that keep us nicely distracted from the real issues.

    Post 17 by RIsaak should be in bold print.

  • 22 Gene The Bean // Oct 1, 2017 at 9:30 am

    Some very astute and thoughtful comments here.

    Many are saying what I constantly say here – that a certain ideology that not only promotes but worships selfishness and the almighty dollar is, as usual, the base reason behind many of these horrible issues.

    Decades of purposeful governmental maliciousness has given us the current state of the DTES. The laundering of billions of ill-gotten foreign money that has ruined the housing market was ignored. The horrible state of our so called ‘social services’ etc etc etc….

    Remember, this didn’t all occur by mistake. It is purposeful. It was done with true intent. Maybe just let that sink in for a moment.

    Forcing developers from the municipal level to include rental or social housing in developments will not work. They just move to ‘friendlier’ locales.

    Harvey ended this piece with “Doing nothing… the situation is guaranteed to get worse.” That is true but the Genie is out of the bottle now……

    It’ll never be “cost effective” to treat ALL people with dignity and respect …. so folks, pick a side and stick with it.

  • 23 Hawgwash // Oct 1, 2017 at 11:30 am

    Something amiss with your site over the weekend? This is my third attempt to publish this piece. Prior 2 just vanished when I hit “Submit.”

    The responses to this post have been the best of any HO topics. Great reasoned experienced voices.

    In my opinion though, it is hand wringing that can only result in raw fingers.

    Some random bits from the news over the last few days:
    25,000 empty homes in Vancouver.
    50% of home owners in Dunbar, Point Grey and Richmond qualify as low income.
    1.5 million dollars in $20 bills run through River Rock in a single day.
    A Richmond spa owner is known to have laundered 200 million in one year.
    BC condo presales are not available to local buyers.
    Condo presales are not subject to foreign buyer’s tax.
    Vancouver Mayor visits China secretly.

    So, again in my opinion, homelessness, affordability, fentanyl and all the other day to day issues run through this space and backyard BBQs are just topics that keep us nicely distracted from the real issues.

    Post 17 by RIsaac should be in bold print.

    (Response: Haven’t heard of others having this problem. When I run into problems on various sites, sometimes I find best just to copy anything I’ve written into a file and then restart my computer… cutting and pasting when I get in again. h.o.)

  • 24 Hawgwash // Oct 1, 2017 at 11:33 am

    Gene the Bean at 21, para 4…

    “Remember, this didn’t all occur by mistake. It is purposeful. It was done with true intent. Maybe just let that sink in for a moment.”

    ————-EXPO 86————

  • 25 Hawgwash // Oct 1, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    Gene the Bean at 21 para 4, again…

    “Maybe just let that sink in for a moment. ”

    The City of Shanghai is the size of the lower mainland from Horseshoe Bay to Mission/Abbotsford.

    Population; 25 million.
    Tallest building; 128 floors.
    Number of empty homes; 1 in 5.
    Most lucrative industry, real estate.

    How it goes;
    The goldmine of collusion—real estate
    Illegally obtaining land
    Money cycling
    Entrapping customers
    Tax evasion
    Skimping on construction to reduce building costs
    Changing terms of land use

  • 26 e.a.f. // Oct 1, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    Perhaps what has caused the huge spike in real estate values is explained by Sam Cooper’s new article regarding the subject of money laundering. RossK of the Gazetteer has an article up titled, “What did the Minister Know and When did He know it”

    RossK quotes Sam Cooper’s article on money laundering, and it is some interesting and may explain what caused the housing problem. It also refer to Mike de Jong’s knowledge of the matter. Sam Cooper writes, “The direction from de Jong in 2015 came after B.C. casino operators reported $177 MILLION in SUSPICIOUS CASH entering their casinos in 2014, government documents, show….

    So when the RCMP, on 15 Oct. 2015 with a battering ram raided a Richmond office, “he was in the lobby of Silver International Investment, a high end money transfer business, surrounded by bullet proof glass.” (never heard about that on the news)

    For those of us realllly interested in why the cost of housing is so high in Greater Vancouver, we might want to go read the article at The Gazetteer and then go buy a paper and read Sam Cooper’s articles. Might be very enlightening.

    We then might want to find out what did the minister and the rest of the cabinet know, like what did de Jong and Coleman know back then about money laundering? What did they do about it besides de Jong covering his “ass” with a letter. Who brought this money in to the casinos and after it was cleaned, where did it go? Who were all those people who attended Christy Clark’s soiree’s at $10 to $25K and what did they get out of it. We know a lot of real estate has been purchased in the lower mainland, Victoria, Kelowna, which has not been lived in and just sits empty. Doesn’t help with our housing crisis either. If its thousands of units then we as a society need to know and those homes need to be placed on the market. perhaps some of those homes ought to become assets of the province, given they just might have been purchased with money laundered via the casinos in this province.

    The real issue in the housing crisis is the high cost of purchase. How did it get so high? Well we can all recall the over asking price offers with no subjects and it just got more and more expensive until we are where we are today with most people not being able to afford housing in the greater Vancouver area. when a small condo can run almost run $500K how do working people afford that? If a town house in Surrey goes from $400K to $600k in over just 2 years how do people afford that? the lack of affordable housing isn’t just about those with “issues” who need “social housing”, it about all the people who work for their livings and make a decent income who have been priced out of the market.

    it really is about time this province passed legislation which restricted who bought what in this province. Some may cry foul on behalf of those whose properties will fall in value but, if its a place they are going to live in and they can currently afford it, it doesn’t matter. It only matters to those who use housing as a flipping tool to make money. In a capitalist system every one knows at some time that which went up will come down. this time the down may be provided by laws which restrict who buys here and what they buy here. As the housing crisis grows, at some point we have to tell those benefiting so richly, the party is over, the young people who are working and living in this province deserve a chance to buy something.

    We have a rental crisis because people who once purchased a home can no longer do that. If a 500 sq ft. condo costs $500K in Vancouver how do people afford that? Even those working in decent jobs such as nurses, lawyers, teachers, trades people, i.e the $70K a year range, won’t be able to afford that and live.

    Young people are finding “affordable housing” out in places like Port Moody, but that is running approx. $600K for a new condo. Not much old housing stock out there. Six/seven years ago you could still purchase a town house in Vancouver for that amount,

  • 27 Harry lawson // Oct 1, 2017 at 1:27 pm


    I strongly believe that affordabile housing is a right. In a country like Canada it is a shame it’s not.

    The definition of affordabile is a percentage of income.

    We could have the Canada pension plan , as well as other pension plans could invest contributions in housing . Many pension plans all ready own a lot of rental housing stock.

    The key is affordabile safe housing, it is possible and I hope in my life time it happens,

  • 28 BMCQ // Oct 1, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    I also had a Post gobbled up and Deleted..

    I simply thought I was Hacked by (edited..h.o) or the Russians.

    I will attempt later.

  • 29 Hawgwash // Oct 1, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    BMCQ @ 27
    Maybe it was a Burnaby thing as that’s where mine were vaporized.

  • 30 BMCQ // Oct 1, 2017 at 4:52 pm

    I work in BURNABY but I am at home today, obviously OK now.

  • 31 13.. // Oct 1, 2017 at 8:19 pm

    @ Gary T, The BC liberals also planted the ice berg that sank the Titanic.
    Believe it or not the BCL are not solely responsible for the demise of Riverview. From the mid sixties the decline began and continued though many years of Socred and NDP (no green back then) governments .
    I can clearly remember the decline in the 70s when I delivered goods to Riverview for CPT . It was in complete disrepair. But even with the neglect it wasnt hard to see that the facility was earning it keep. It was a safe haven for the mentally ill. Some who were in vary degrees of coherence would interact with the truckers that made deliveries. One giant of a man used to just climb in the passenger side of any truck that didnt lock the doors. Another man was called the counter. He spent every day year in and year out on a perch overlooking the Lougheed Hwy watching the traffic go by. Just 2 examples of people that would perish in the current situation.
    The need is there. The property is there. One of the 3 levels of government is there. Now its the golden opportunity for John Horgans NDP to fix the problem that WAC, Barrett, Bennett, Clark, Zalm and the many others created.

  • 32 Harry lawson // Oct 2, 2017 at 7:41 am

    I must say with the brain power that shows up on This blog I expected more responses . Really

  • 33 BMCQ // Oct 2, 2017 at 11:14 am

    Harry – 32

    You are correct there should be more Posts on this.

    Homelessness, Housing, Real Estate, Real Estate Fraud, Real Estate Manipulation, Drug Addiction, Crime related to Drug/Alcohol Addiction, Criminal Activity related to Drug/Alcohol Addiction, Mental Illness from Psychosis triggered by Drug Addiction which NO ONE talks about are the biggest Plague and Threat to our Society today in B.C. YVR, Vancouver and the rest of Canada.

    I travel a lot and believe it or not our Homeless problem is nowhere near what it is in many other places that unlike us do not really have an affordability problem.

    Unfortunately various Federal Liberal and Conservative Governments missed opportunities to control Immigration/Migration and Investment into this Country going back to the late 80’s and the problem has only become worse.

    Looking back it is really too bad that when PET and Lalonde implemented the very unpopular FERA they did not do more and include Legislation to Control and Police Off Shore Investment Dollars into Real Estate including Development and Re Sale/Flipping.

    CRA is also very guilty on that Cap Gain Tax, Income Tax Reporting, and other devious ways of Off Shore Investors manipulating the System.

    Far too many “Higher Purpose” Politically Correct types not willing to hold Chinese and others to Account because of concerns of Racism complaints. When will we ever learn?

    Then of course there are the Poverty Pimps like Mayor Mumbles, Meggs, the rest of their Visionite Minions, Kwan, Swanson, Davies, DERA, Portland, and the rest that have defrauded and literally stolen from the Hard Working Tax Payer and the Seniors that should have really been the People that received Housing.

    Government Funding from all 3 Levels invested Billions into Social Housing and SFO type Shelters. Before any Drug Addled 30 year old Male Repeat Prolific Offender got inside the door of any of those Government Provided Units every single deserving Senior should have been looked after first.

    Then there should have been Housing provided for the Physically Handicapped, Single Moms with Children attempting to build a life, and the Mentally who should have been Housed and Treated at a refurbished Riverview.

    Over 80% of the Crime in Vancouver Proper is carried out by the same 300 Repeat Prolific Drug Addled Criminals. Many of those are here on Non-Returnable Warrants for many many Crimes carried out in other Jurisdictions their original Homes.

    We need to start apprehending those Offenders and PAY to have them sent back to their Home Province to face the Courts. Perhaps they will be Jailed there and that would keep them out of your House, your Car and it might stop them selling Drugs to your Children.

    Judges need to be challenged to get Repeat Offenders Off of our Streets by sending them to Federal Prisons for over Two Years so they receive Drug Treatment and they may be saved. By doing that it would make our streets safer, we would not need more Court Houses, Jails, Police, Legal Aid Lawyers, Sheriffs, other Court House and Jail staff as our Crime Rate would Plummet!!

    WE then needd to demand that PM Justin Amend the Constitution and Implement New Legislation similar to the Baker Act of Florida where Drug Addicted or otherwise Mentally Ill People are Apprehended and put into Detention and Forced Treatment.

    Of course it is not a perfect solution but if we do not do something immediately to treat Drug Addicted People we are doomed to fail a whole new generation of young people.

    I lost a Sister to Drug addiction, I had Friends that Died of Overdoses, my Wife’s Sister has been a Drug Addict her whole Adult Life and she should not still be alive.

    Unlike some here that took a Bus Ride along Hastings St. I grew up down there between the Waldorf Hotel and Eatons Dept. Store. My Father worked down there and unless I was playing Soccer or Baseball I had Breakfast at the New Zemith, Blue Eagle, Waldorf, or Ovaltine Cafe every Saturday.

    We then spent many a night underage at places like the Kubla Khan Brown Bagging it or at the Niagra, Stratford, Alcazaar, and a few others that let us sit and have a Beer quietly in the corner if we kept our Mouths quiet.

    One of his good friends owned the Ferry Market Butcher Shop that was in the same Store Front that now Houses the Injection Site. Up until only a few years ago I had my Shoes Shined only 3 Stores up. People that Shoot different Drugs Shoot up many times a day, trust me they DO NOT walk back to the Injection Site any near half the time to Inject.

    With Fentanyl and other Killer Drugs we need to get control of the Drug Addiction problem or we will be seeing 5,000 Deaths a year before long. I laugh at those on this Blog that blamed the B.C. Liberals for all of those problems. I ask this question, let’s see how the Death Count looks by the end of this year and next! Please let me know.

    Then there are the very Dishonest Poverty Pimps that attempt to convince us “The Great Unwashed” (yes that includes me) that most of the Drug Addicted are down there because of Mental illness. An absolutely Bold Faced Lie!!

    Most of the Mentally Ill Drug Addicted anywhere in Vancouver or B.C. or Canada or anywhere else are there because of the Psychosis created by the use of Heavy Hard Drugs!!! Do Not let them lie to you.

    Poverty Pimps need People to be on the Street and Addicted, that is what provides them a living and feeds their industry!! Disgusting.

    Mental Illness is going to be a Tsunami within only a few years. Unfortunately many Seniors will be experiencing Mental illness because of Drug use over their life.

    Contrary to what most claim Marijuana IS a Gateway Drug and it is perhaps our biggest problem as almost everyone I knew that became addicted to more serious Drugs began with Marijuana.

    It might not affect any of us with periodic use but
    it does lead some to try more serious Drugs.

    We need to demand that the Courts start sentencing Drug Dealers to serious Jail time to create a deterrence before it is too late.

    Between Housing Affordability, Shortages, Homelessness, Drug Addiction, Criminality around Drug Addiction, and the rest we have no time to waste.

    I will be travelling a lot during October and most Cities I visit are Disaster Zones.

    We need to demand more from Politicians, The Courts, CRA and all of the rest I have mentioned.

    This should be a Bi Partisan Effort and the Media needs to bring this combination of problems to the attention of the Tax Payer/Citizens Immediately.

    Hope some of this works and makes some sense Harry, I rambled on a bit here and did not proof read, my apologies.

    The one I lost yesterday may have made more sense but I pushed the wrong button.

  • 34 BMCQ // Oct 2, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    Housing Advocates like Swanson and their talk of “Rent Freeze” give me Brain Freeze”,

    By imposing that kind of legislation Property Owners would be driven to Air BB and others.

    One thing that would really help is for the Provincial Government to restructure the Mill Rate and the way Property Taxes are calculated.

    Contrary to some Reports on this Blog NOT ALL Landlords are Cannibals and Morally Corrupt. Many Landlords are faced with ever increasing Property Taxes that make it close to impossible to pay for expenses, maintain, and service the Mortgage of Rental Properties for Retail, Industrial, Residential or other Properties.

    Take a STroll of a Bus Ride as some might do along Davie Street to Robson and then up Robson to Burrard St. There are currently over 50 – FIFTY Empty Store Fronts on those few Blocks. Property Taxes are NOW so high that hard working Shop Owners cannot afford to pay Property Taxes in their Triple Net Rents, we have discussed this on other Blogs.

    The same applies to Land Lords for Residential, their Property Taxes increase each and every year while at the same time the City Provides far fewer services than ever before.

    Why is Media not asking Mayor Gregor and others about that?

    ARE you aware that when Mayor Mumbles was first elected 6 years ago there were about TWO Communications Employees at City Hall?
    Well guess what, there are now over 50 of those highly paid, pensioned, and benefited Civic Employees.

    Are you also aware that the City of Vancouver is also providing at NO Charge about 400 Free Parking Stalls at City Square Mall across the Street from City Hall for City Employees that drive in from Squamish, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, White Rock, and the rest while Mayor Gregor and his Minions tell the rest of us we should Transit, Walk, Skateboard, or Row to work all winter long so we can be good Environmental Citizens?

    Where the Hell is Norm Farrell on this?

    He should have time to look into some of this now because after all the NDP are doing such a Great Job Provincially there is nothing to worry about!!!!

    I have more tp say but……………

    How do we SPELL “Hypocrites”?

  • 35 e.a.f. // Oct 2, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    Harry, 32, that is because most of us on this blog own houses, condos, etc. Those who read, comment here are if not middle class, are close to it or live at a standard which they find acceptable to them and their life styles are what they want. that is not to mean some wouldn’t want improvement, but we’re not scrambling.