Little change to Vancouver downtown street encampment as residents wonder where to go
VANCOUVER — It was difficult to see any difference had been made to the tent encampment in Vancouver’s troubled Downtown Eastside on Wednesday, a day after city staff began what’s expected to be a weeks-long process to remove the structures.
That’s for good reason, said a resident who goes by the name Edith Elizabeth — the people who live in the tents have nowhere else to go.
She said previously, residents would relocate their structures nearby so city staff could clean the street.
“It’s just like, ‘Okay, cool, take down our structures and move down the block so they can wash it,’ and that’s it,” said Elizabeth. “But here, now, it’s just like we have to disappear or something.”
Vancouver fire Chief Karen Fry ordered tents along the stretch of Hastings Street dismantled last month, saying there was an extreme fire and safety risk.
The city has said staff would concentrate their efforts on the “highest risk” areas, but several structures in those areas remained in place on Wednesday.
The neighbourhood struggles with many complex challenges including drug use, crime, homelessness, housing issues, and unemployment.
It was tense on Tuesday, Elizabeth said, with a heavy police presence on the street.
The Vancouver Police Department released a statement Tuesday saying multiple people were arrested after officers were assaulted during a “melee.”
It said staff at a community centre had called police to report a man throwing computers and behaving erratically. The man resisted arrest, police said, as “a large crowd gathered, and became hostile and combative with the officers.”
Elizabeth said police used pepper spray and the incident left people feeling scared.
An update from the city on Wednesday said a big contingent of police at the Main and Hastings intersection in the afternoon “was not as a result of the City’s effort to remove structures”, and instead stemmed from the incident outside the community centre.
The city said staff aimed to approach encampment residents “with respect and sensitivity, encouraging and supporting voluntary removal of tents and belongings through conversation.”
“We recognize that some people believe the city should not do this work, but there are significant safety risks for everyone in the neighbourhood that the city cannot ignore,” it said.
Elizabeth stood near her belongings on the sidewalk where she said she’s been staying for about three weeks after moving from another spot nearby.
“It’s not like this is a forever, permanent place,” she said, although she’s not sure where she might go next.
“As far as options down here, generally there’s been Crab Park, which is like tent city,” she said, referring to tents set up around the park near Vancouver’s waterfront.
Elizabeth said she, like many others living in tents along the street, doesn’t feel comfortable or safe in single-room occupancy buildings with “awful” conditions.
The city said staff have been meeting each week with a community-based working group since May, and more frequently with members of the Overdose Prevention Society and Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users over the past two weeks.
Staff spent Wednesday telling residents about storage options for their belongings, the city said.
These included up to two 360-litre storage totes, which staff would seal with tamper-proof labels before placing them in short-term storage. The city said the totes are on wheels, so owners can take them away if they did not want them stored.
A long-term storage container is also being provided nearby, the city said.
Community advocacy groups, including the drug-user network and Pivot Legal Society, have said clearing the encampment violates a memorandum of understanding between the city, the B.C. government and Vancouver’s park board, because people are being told to move without being offered suitable housing.
The stated aim of the agreement struck last March is to connect unsheltered people to housing and preserve their dignity when dismantling encampments.
The City of Vancouver may enforce bylaws that prohibit structures on sidewalks “when suitable spaces are available for people to move indoors,” it reads.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2022.
The Canadian Press
Canada needs 300,000 new rental units to avoid gap quadrupling by 2026: report
An aerial view of houses in Oshawa, Ont. is shown on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. A Royal Bank of Canada report predicts Canada’s rental housing shortage will quadruple to 120,000 units by 2026 without a significant boost in rental stock. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg
By Sammy Hudes in Toronto
Canada’s rental housing shortage will quadruple to 120,000 units by 2026 without a significant boost in stock, Royal Bank of Canada said in a report Wednesday.
In order to reach the optimal vacancy rate of three per cent, the report suggested Canada would need to add 332,000 rental units over the next three years, which would mark an annual increase of 20 per cent compared with the 70,000 units built last year.
The research analyzed vacancy rate data released in January by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).
Canada’s vacancy rate fell to 1.9 per cent in 2022, its lowest point in 21 years, from 3.1 per cent in 2021.
Competition for units also drove the highest annual increase in rent growth on record, by 5.6 per cent for a two-bedroom unit.
Canada’s rental housing stock grew by 2.4 per cent in 2022, led by Calgary at 7.4 per cent and Ottawa-Gatineau at 5.5 per cent, while Toronto and Montreal saw the smallest percentage increases at 2.1 per cent and 1.4 per cent, respectively.
“We haven’t seen that many additions to the purpose-built inventory in almost a decade, so you would think that added supply of units would ease some of the competition, but what the CMHC rental market data revealed to us was that it didn’t,” said RBC economist Rachel Battaglia.
Slow growth in Canada’s two most populous cities has been outpaced by rapidly increasing demand, partly fuelled by high immigration levels, she said. Annual federal immigration targets are set to grow eight per cent by 2025, meaning demand is unlikely to let up.
Battaglia also pointed to affordability and behavioural preferences for the influx of rentals sought. She said more Canadians are choosing to live alone, meaning fewer incomes per household.
“You have a lot of people being funnelled into the rental market who maybe would have liked to own something but it’s just not financially in the books for them right now,” said Battaglia.
The report estimated an existing deficit of 25,000 to 30,000 units of rental stock across Canada. In addition to building more supply, it recommended turning condo units into rentals, converting commercial buildings and adding rental suites to existing homes to help ease the pressure.
Without such measures, Battaglia said the market could “become infinitely more competitive.”
“Which is not something that we want to realize given the competition we’re already seeing,” she said.
“You’re already seeing rents increase dramatically.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 22, 2023.
Anholt tabbed to lead Canada’s world junior squad after success with U18 team
Canada celebrates the win over Finland IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship gold medal game action in Edmonton on Saturday August 20, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Calgary – Peter Anholt has been tasked with helping Canada win a third straight world junior hockey championship after two successful seasons leading the country’s under-18 program.
Anholt, who heads the front office of the Western Hockey League’s Lethbridge Hurricanes, is one of three Canadian Hockey League general managers tabbed by Hockey Canada to oversee its men’s under-17, under-18 and under-20 programs in 2023-24.
He takes over the world junior program from Ottawa 67’s GM James Boyd, who helped Canada win two titles over the span of six months.
Canada beat Finland 3-2 in overtime to win the 2022 championship in Edmonton, which was held in August after being postponed from its traditional December/January slot due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Canadians repeated with a 3-2 overtime win over Czechia on Jan. 5 in Halifax.
The 2024 world junior championship begins Dec. 26 in Goteborg, Sweden.
Hockey Canada also announced Wednesday that Dave Brown of the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters will guide the men’s under-17s this season, while Cam Russell of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Halifax Mooseheads will take over Anholt’s former position with the U18 team.
The three will work alongside Hockey Canada’s hockey operations staff as part of the organization’s “Program of Excellence” management group.
Duties include assisting with player and coach selection, and providing input during camps and tournaments.
Brown will lead the U17 team through the 2023 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Canada lost 2-1 to the United States in the final of last year’s event in Langley and Delta, B.C.
Russell, meanwhile, will look to help Canada to a second consecutive Hlinka Gretzky Cup title. Canada won its 23rd gold medal at the best-on-best U18 tournament last year in Red Deer, Alta., with Anholt at the helm.
Canada did not participate in the 2021 event due to the pandemic, but won that year’s U18 worlds.
“All three individuals bring a wealth of CHL experience to our program,” Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada senior vice-president of hockey operations, said in a statement. “We look forward to having them work alongside our athletes and staff while leading our men’s national teams next season.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 22, 2023.
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