[Update: its a hoax! Of course it was, Gregor Robertson would never do such a thing.]
We just received this news release. There has been no confirmation in other news outlets. Apparently Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver have reversed their market-based approach to build Social Housing in the DTES.
Mayor Gregor Robertson and Developer Marc Williams announce 100% social housing project at contentious Downtown Eastside site.
November 18, 2011 - Mayor Gregor Robertson is proud to announce a new 100% social housing project on the 100-block of East Hastings Street at the site of the former Pantages Theatre. This breakthrough contribution to the City’s fight to eliminate homelessness is made possible by “Sequel 138” condo real estate developer Marc Williams’ sale of the site to the City of Vancouver at real estate assessment price.
“Vision Vancouver’s housing policy includes taking real action to replace all SRO hotel rooms with dignified and affordable housing for low-income residents in the area,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “The Vision team is proud to be moving towards that goal in such a symbolically important area of the city.”
The 100-block of East Hastings includes hundreds of problem SRO hotels like the Regent, where two Aboriginal women have died under suspicious circumstances in the past year, and the Brandiz and Balmoral where city inspectors have worked for years with landlords to improve conditions.
“We decided that it just doesn’t make sense to build quarter million dollar condos in sight of some of the worst housing conditions in the country,” said real estate developer Marc Williams. “We tried, but the square peg just doesn’t fit in the round hole. We heard loud and clear that the community wants social housing not condos, and that’s got to count for something eventually.”
The City had approached the Pantages property owner with offers to buy in the past, but had not been able to agree on a price. Marc Williams explained his change of heart, “I was thinking about business when I should have been thinking about what’s right. I realized I can make a real difference in the lives of a hundred needy people and that’s what’s right. The Downtown Eastside is not a place for profit making investors and business. It’s a place to do what’s right.”
The Pantages social housing project will begin development in the summer of 2012 and is expected to provide housing for 122 low-income people.