Highlights from the report include the following:
While the city brags about its housing accomplishments, the housing crisis in the DTES got worse in 2012. Not only were there about 850 homeless people, up from 700 last year, thousands of people are still living in crummy SRO hotel rooms with no bathroom or kitchen, and often cockroaches, bedbugs and poor conditions… which they increasingly cannot afford.
At least 426 hotel rooms that were accessible to low-income tenants in 2011 were lost to rent increases in 2012. That’s one finding of the Carnegie Community Action Project’s (CCAP) latest annual hotel report, called “We’re trying to get rid of the welfare people.”
“For decades, residential hotel rooms in the Downtown Eastside have been low-income people’s last resort before homelessness,” said Fraser Stuart. “People on welfare and disability and seniors with a basic pension have only about $375 a month for rent. This year we lost at least 426 rooms to rent increases above $425.”
Many hotels are now consciously trying to get rid of people on welfare and disability in favour of young workers and students, says the report, which quotes statements like the one in the report’s title that a desk clerk made to CCAP surveyors posing as prospective tenants.
Only 5% of the rooms (159)* are in hotels where all the rents are $375 or lower, down from 7% last year;
· Vacancies are minimal with only one vacant room found that rents for the welfare shelter rate of $375;
· Some hotels are still charging between $200 and $375 extra when two people share a tiny room
· 2012 was a terrible year for new self-contained social housing in the DTES with only 24 units opening.
The report calls on the city to:
· Buy 10 lots a year for social housing;
· Stop condo development until current residents have decent social housing;
· Declare the Oppenheimer and Hastings Corridor areas of the DTES a Social Justice Zone where the unique low-income community can survive and thrive.
The province should:
· Fund social housing for 850 homeless residents and SRO replacement units;
· Amend the Residential Tenancy Act to prohibit discrimination based on social condition
· Amend the RTA to enact effective rent control based on the unit, not the tenant