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Leaders must commit to social housing: Vancouver mayor

Vancouver City Council has called on the provincial party leaders to support the city’s Interim Housing Solutions Strategy and fund 14 permanent social housing sites.

“We have a homelessness crisis on our streets, and we need to take action now,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson, according to a press release.

Council passed a motion today calling for the leaders to publicly pledge their commitment.

The housing strategy would create 550 temporary housing units this year and the city also has 14 sites for permanent housing.

“We have several social housing sites ready for construction, and we’re prepared to take unprecedented steps to get people off the street,” said Robertson. “But we can’t do it alone - we need the next provincial government to provide the necessary funding.”

According to the city, the government has only committed to six of the sites, even though there are additional sites ready and only awaiting provincial funding.

This appears to contradict comments by Premier Gordon Campbell last month and the B.C. Liberal Party platform, which says six of the sites are still waiting for the city’s approval.

The platform says:

We will build on these and other initiatives by further investing more than $172 million in housing projects on six sites in Vancouver, with another six sites ready to go when the city gives them appropriate approvals.

A representative from the Liberals could not be reached immediately to clarify if the money has been committed and whether the party has considered the additional two sites called for by the city that are not mentioned in the platform.

The B.C. New Democratic Party fully supports both the housing strategy and all 14 permanent sites, said Vancouver-Mount Pleasant incumbent NDP candidate Jenny Kwan, who was at today’s council meeting to support the motion.

She questioned why the Liberals have not committed the additional funding and have maintained they are awaiting the city's approval.

“The eight sites are ready to go - the city is not holding them up,” said Kwan. “What they need is provincial funding.”

Kwan said the NDP’s commitment to both the housing strategy and permanent sites are part of the party’s broader strategy to end the province’s “homelessness crisis.”

The party has committed to build 7200 affordable housing units over five years, with 2400 units in the first year alone.

The New Democrats would also do an inventory of empty buildings around the province to determine if they could be used for social housing and immediately use a $250 million endowment for housing initiatives, Kwan said.

Garrett Zehr reports for The Tyee.

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