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Low-Barrier Supportive Housing: The Real Story

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In these last days before the public hearing on the rezoning application for Arbutus & W7th / W8th on June 28, 2022, we have heard Housing Minister David Eby making statements to the media dismissing the concerns of the neighbourhood surrounding the site of the proposed 129-unit low barrier supportive housing project at 7th/8th and Arbutus. Minister Eby repeatedly asserts that any problems that arise at new supportive housing projects settle down within six months, and then "people don't notice the buildings…they really blend in nicely" (see the 3:20 mark in Jas Johal's interview with the Kitsilano Coalition).

The facts show that is NOT the case.

A comparable building, in terms of size and residents, to what is being proposed at 7th/8th and Arbutus is the Marguerite Ford Apartments at Olympic Village. This residence was opened in May 2013 and has 147 units.

To confirm the statements made by Minister Eby that sites "settle down" in 6 months, we made a request to VPD for calls for service (911 calls) to the 200 block of West 2nd Avenue (where Marguerite Ford Apartments is located). 

Our FOI request was made for the following:

  1. The number of 911 calls for the two years before the residence's opening (2011-2013).
  2. The number of 911 calls in the first two years after this residence was opened (2013-2015). 
  3. The number of 911 calls in the most recent two years (May 2020 to May 2022) to see how things are going eight years later. 

This data (see the bar chart below) showed that the VPD received a whopping 972 calls (a 1700% increase from the previous two years).  

In addition, the number of 911 calls from 2020-2022 was 855. That's a decrease of only 12% in over eight years!   This is not a "settling down" in 6 months as Minister Eby claims.

Note also on the far right, the past two years (2020-2022) of calls for the 7th/8th and Arbutus site as a baseline. One can see that before the residence was opened, the area for the Marguerite Ford site had 55 calls in 2 years, which was very similar to 8th and Arbutus, which had 52.

 This is also highlighted in the chart below. The orange bars are the 8th/Arbutus number of 911 calls for the past two years to show an additional comparison.  

Both Marguerite Ford and the project planned for Arbutus & W7th / W8th and Arbutus share a notable similarity. They are both low-barrier supportive housing projects for the hardest-to-house of the homeless population. A noteworthy difference at the Arbutus & W7th / W8th site is that there is a 500-child elementary school within 20 metres of the proposed site.  

Significant traffic and safety challenges also already exist in this area, with school pick-up/drop-off times and tight access for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. The confined space, and inability to service this many 911 calls (each call often responded to by numerous emergency vehicles),  represents a risk to the individuals needing these calls and the surrounding neighbourhood.

The numbers speak for themselves, Minister Eby.

By denying and dismissing this information, Minister Eby is simply propagating the challenges and suffering of the individuals housed within this site and deliberately ignoring the impact of public safety on the community.