The Chinatown Shockwave: By King-mong Chan and Wilson Liang
Redeveloped in 2009, anti-poverty activists have described the Woodward’s project as creating a ripple effect of gentrification throughout the Downtown Eastside. This redevelopment project at Abbott St. and West Hastings St. brought in 536 condos and despite including 125 welfare-rate units for singles and 75 social housing units for families, the ripple effect led to various negative consequences for the existing community. Contributing to the gentrification of the area, the Woodward’s project led to a change in retail character, as low-cost retail was pushed out, and at least 404 low-income units in privately owned single room occupancy hotels within an one-block radius were lost because of rent increases.
However, compared to what happened at Woodward’s, the situation in Chinatown is even more grim.
The Chinatown shockwave: 759 housing units unaffordable to existing low-income residents, with ONLY 11 welfare-rate units for singles (as of Feb. 9, 2015). The Woodward’s project has contributed to the loss of 404 low-income units even though 37% of its units were at welfare-rate. In comparison, ONLY 1.4% of the current Chinatown developments have units at welfare-rate! “The current Chinatown developments is like a deep water bomb that sends out not only a ripple effect, but also a shockwave throughout Chinatown and the whole DTES!” says local resident Wilson.
The Chinatown shockwave is one that has already been sent out. Walking around Chinatown, it is impossible to miss not only the market housing projects under construction on Main St., but also the changing character of Chinatown as more coffee shops and high-end stores continue to open. The traditional character of Chinatown is at threat of disappearing entirely if this shockwave gets even bigger. Plus the shockwave will change the demographics of the current residents and will displace the low-income residents in Chinatown and the adjacent areas.
In response to their changing community, Chinese residents in Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside have gathered as Carnegie Community Action Project’s Chinatown Concern Group and have initiated a petition, demanding that Vancouver City Council immediately place a moratorium on new market developments in Chinatown until there is comprehensive community consultation and clear policies to protect the future of Vancouver’s Chinatown.
If you haven’t signed the petition already, come by the Carnegie Community Action Project’s office on the second floor of Carnegie across from the kitchen, or sign the online petition at bit.ly/unite4chinatown. We must unite to stop the shockwave from destroying Chinatown! Sign the petition #unite4chinatown and send a strong message to policy makers that Chinatown must be protected!