Many of us are worried about the future of the Pantages Theatre site, which is in the process of being demolished. The site was bought in 2004 by Worthington Properties, whose owner is Marc Williams. Marc Williams also owns all the sites between the Regent and the Brandiz Hotels — almost all of the 100 block of East Hastings! Now he’s applied to build mostly condos at the site called “The Sequel 138”. We need to work hard to stop this project and ensure it is 100% social housing.
Here are some reasons to oppose “Sequel 138”:
Condos at this site would be a gentrification bomb in the heart of the DTES.
The 100-block of East Hastings is symbolically important because it includes single room occupancy housing for about 400 low-income people.
It also includes key gathering places where low-income DTES residents feel comfortable, including:
– Carnegie Community Centre which serves 5000 low-income people and is a hub for food and recreational activities.
– Insite which ensures access to critical health services for thousands of IV drug users..
– Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre which is a drop in and safe-space for thousands of low-income women.
– Aboriginal Front Door which is the only centre in the area run by and for Indigenous people.
Bringing condos to this block could change all of this. Condos cause higher property values, higher rents in SROs, and displacement of low income people from the SROs as we have seen with Woodwards. This contradicts the “without displacement” part of the city’s policy of “revitalization without displacement” in the DTES. The condo-social housing mixed development at Woodward’s caused rents in neighbouring hotels to increase and pushed out low-income residents. Expensive restaurants and boutique stores sprang up and more private security guards and police pushed low-income people out of public spaces. This is why we want 100% social housing, not 80% condos with 20% social housing.
The Pantages parcel is in the Downtown Eastside Oppenheimer District (DEOD), the only zoning area of the DTES that requires 20% social housing in all new developments.
This requirement has kept condos out of the DEOD and ensured that the area is for low-income people. It has also kept land prices low, so lots are cheaper for governments to buy for social housing. Under the current zoning, the Pantages proposal will be required to contain 20% social housing but the other 80% of the project will be condos. This will open the flood gates to other condo developments in the DEOD.
Building more social housing as well as defending and preserving our DTES community are more important – and more life saving – than letting developers make millions in the DTES.
Worthington Properties bought the Pantages in 2004 for $440,000 and added it to four adjacent properties. The 2010 assessed value of all five properties was $3.7 million; about three-times the purchase price. The Vancouver Sun reported that Worthington posted the properties for sale in July 2010 for $9 million, almost 7 times the estimated purchase price.
The Pantages site is an opportunity to create a project that works for the low-income community in the heart of the Downtown Eastside. We have to come together to defend and preserve the site for the low-income community. We demand that the City buy it and designate it for 100% resident controlled social housing and a low-income community space.
Allowing condos at the Pantages will violate the city’s DTES Housing Plan which calls for “the pace of development of new market and low-income housing” (page 6) to be similar. Condos are outpacing social housing affordable to DTES residents at a rate of 11:1.
The city’s DTES Housing Plan calls for monitoring the ratio of market to social housing development in the DTES. According to city housing staff who met with CCAP on May 31, almost 500 units of market housing are in the planning stages for the DTES’s future:
Pantages: 79 market units
424 and 452 W. Pender: at least 80 market units
Atira at United We can site: about 80 market units
900 E. Hastings: about 80 market units
58 W. Hastings: about 160 market units
Total market housing: 499
Social housing units planned include:
Atira: about 20
900 E. Hastings: 10
Remand centre: 95 but only 24 will be at welfare rates
Above library on E. Hastings: 15-20 at welfare rates
Total social housing: 163 maximum
This means market housing is outpacing social housing by a rate of 3 to 1 at least.
And it gets worse: social housing only means that the housing is owned by the government or a non profit. It does not mean that rents will be affordable to the vast majority of current DTES residents who can only afford $375 for rent. For example, some of the units at the Remand Centre will rent for $758 or more. Most social housing has to rent at levels that would be 30% of an income that is about $10,000 a year above the Stats Canada low income cut-off line, or about $32,000 a year ($800 a month for rent) for a single person.
If we look at a comparison of market housing planned vs. welfare rate housing planned, we get 499 to 44, with market housing outpacing housing for people on welfare, disability, basic old age pension and part time and/or low wage work at a ratio of 11 to 1.
The DTES Housing Plan clearly states (page 6): “The pace of development of new market and low-income housing should be similar.” If the Pantages and other condo developments are allowed to proceed before social housing for low income residents is in place, market housing will be outpacing social housing by a ratio of at least 3 to 1; and in reality for low income DTES residents, by 11 to 1.
The community clearly does not want more condos in the DTES until decent, affordable housing for current residents is secured.
This is shown by over 1200 petition signatures as well as 40 groups that have signed the Community resolution calling on the city to stop the Pantages development. Read more here: https://dtesnotfordevelopers.wordpress.com/savepantages/
We can win this –Pantages belongs to the DTES, not developers!