On Wednesday, March 12th, City Council will debate whether to dismantle the concept of “social housing” in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Council will be voting to redefine the term “social housing” in the neighbourhood to include any rental unit owned by government, or a non-profit, or a co-operative – regardless of the rent level. Housing at market rates will also be included in the core definition of social housing. This is a blow to affordability in Vancouver.

“It sounds ridiculous because it is ridiculous, but Vision is proposing to remove the affordability requirement from its definition of social housing in the Downtown Eastside,” said Maureen Bourke of COPE’s Housing Committee.

“But what we’re hearing from residents is that social housing has always meant housing that is affordable to low-income people,” Bourke continued. “Social housing should be affordable housing for low-income people, period.”

COPE has long supported the clear definition of affordability used and accepted for decades in Canada: CMHC defines affordable housing as housing that costs less than 30% of household income at a given income level.

COPE’s 2012 Affordable Housing Report warned that real estate “developers have consistently argued that units rented or sold at market rates are ‘affordable’. If somebody – anybody – can afford an apartment, it is by definition affordable. This absurd view is increasingly accepted as common-sense by the city and the pro-developer parties on Council.”

In September of 2013, Vision Councilor Kerry Jang told CKNW: “Well, you know, affordable housing is something that somebody can afford.”

COPE says social housing should be affordable for low-income people