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Little Mountain housing fight brought to BC Legislature

After 32 years living in Little Mountain Housing in Vancouver, Sammy Chan gets around his home easily despite being legally blind. He's one of a few hold-outs yet to leave the publicly owned housing which is slated for redevelopment.

“I'm not an animal,” said Chan, who was among a group of current and former residents of Little Mountain that visited the B.C. Legislature today.

Property managers with B.C. Housing have been putting boards over windows in preparation for demolition, making it even more difficult for Chan to see, Vancouver-Mount Pleasant NDP MLA Jenny Kwan explained. The evictions have happened despite doubt the project will proceed, she said.

“In the midst of a housing, homelessness crisis we have 200 units sitting empty,” Kwan said.

The Tyee reported in July 2007 on the gamble the provincial government was making with the redevelopment of Little Mountain. The plan was to replace 224 units of public housing with some 2,000 condos built by a private partner and to use sales to fund another 1,200 housing units.

“The project is either dead or severely delayed. Either way the damage is done,” said Kwan. “Does [housing minister Rich Coleman] honestly believe in today's market he's going to build and sell up to 2,000 high-end units?”

During question period Coleman said the Little Mountain units have problems including asbestos, underground oil tanks and lead-based paint. “We made the decision that we could use this property by densifying it and actually building 224 new homes for the people that live there so that they can come back to a new home,” he said.

Current resident Ingrid Steenhuisen and former resident Tommy Thomson insisted the housing units are solid and Chan and other residents should not have been disrupted or displaced.

“This was a stable place for children to live,” said Thomson.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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