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2015 Homeless levels decrease slightly; We take further action to protect SRO housing stock

July 7 2015

“The City will continue its dedicated work to ending street homelessness in Vancouver, and we are hopeful our partners will provide further support to help the most vulnerable,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Aaron Munro of RainCity Housing

Today, City Council considered amendments to the Single Room Accommodation (SRA) Bylaw to:

  • Better protect low-income tenants facing displacement
  • Improve conditions and maintain affordability in Vancouver’s low-income Single Room Occupancy (SRO) housing stock

Council was also presented the results from the 2015 Report on Homelessness, which showed that Vancouver’s homeless population decreased slightly in the last year.

“The City has done everything in our power to make a difference, and will continue to do so. Despite the progress we have made in adding new units of permanent and interim housing and shelter beds, without further senior government support we can only do so much,” says Mayor Gregor Robertson.

“Our partnerships with senior levels of government are pivotal to addressing the complex challenges our homeless residents face, whether it is building more supportive housing, more resources for the foster care system, or mental health and addictions treatment,” added the Mayor. “The City will continue its dedicated work to ending street homelessness in Vancouver, and we are hopeful our partners will provide further support to help the most vulnerable.”

Homeless count results

The annual homeless count on March 24, 2015, revealed that even with the opening of 615 net new permanent and interim/supportive housing units over the last year, which housed 458 street/sheltered homeless, a total of 488 homeless people remain unsheltered – a decrease of 10% in street homelessness compared to last year.

The results from the homeless count show a total of 1,746 homeless people in Vancouver on March 24, 2015:

  • 488 street homeless
  • 1,258 sheltered

The numbers decreased slightly from 2014, with 1803 homeless people counted:

  • 536 street homeless
  • 1.267 sheltered

Of those counted in March 2015, about 50% had been homeless for less than one year. Currently, there are almost 4,000 people in Vancouver on BC Housing’s waiting list for social housing.

Next step to support low-income residents

As a next step to support low-income residents, Council will consider further SRA Bylaw amendments that will address issues with single-room occupancy hotels, which often provide housing as a last resort for people in vulnerable situations.

Although Council heard the report today on amendments to the SRA Bylaw; speakers will be able to make their views respecting the proposed amendments known to Council on July 22, 2015, at a Standing Committee meeting.

Council proposes a number of actions, including:

  • Expanding the definition of “conversion” to include any changes that require a tenant to be relocated
  • Requiring a landlord to allow a tenant to return to a renovated room while paying the same contribution of rent as before
  • Increasing the conversion fee that may be charged for removing a room from the SRA bylaw, from $15,000 to $125,000 per room
  • Developing a grant/loan fund to support the improvement of private SROs
  • Requesting the Provincial government to amend the Residential Tenancy Act to create an SRA category and tie annual rent increases to a room rather than the tenant

In 2014, the Downtown Eastside Plan and SRO Strategy focused on improving building conditions and supporting SRO tenants while maintaining affordability. Today’s actions build on the framework laid out in the Downtown Eastside Plan.

Creating a home for everyone