VANCOUVER – Premier Gordon Campbell must act immediately to close the housing gap and reduce the growing number of homeless in British Columbia created by B.C. Liberal government policies, NDP Leader Carole James said today.
“The Campbell Liberals created a homelessness crisis that hurts our province’s most vulnerable and threatens our economy,” said James. “They cancelled B.C.’s social housing program, restricted access to income assistance for those who need it most and watched the B.C. Housing waitlist grow by over 50 percent.”
Speaking from the Lookout Society’s downtown shelter in East Vancouver, James called on the Campbell government to restore B.C.’s social housing program in order to close the housing gap the B.C. Liberals created.
“If the Campbell government hadn’t cancelled B.C.’s social housing program when they took power, almost 2,500 additional homes would be available for those in need of housing today,” said James. “But the Campbell Liberals cancelled that program. They chose not to invest in affordable housing. And the result is a huge housing gap and homelessness problem that is unprecedented in our province’s history.”
The cost to close the housing gap created by B.C. Liberal cuts would cost about $40 million annually, a cost far outweighed by the social and economic costs that result when people are forced onto the streets.
“We see evidence of the housing gap every day,” said Al Mitchell of Lookout Shelter Society. “Last year, Lookout turned away over 5,000 people who ended up on the street. And those who get into our shelter can’t get out unless someone else loses their home. Without an adequate supply of affordable housing, homelessness is a vicious circle.”
“Increasing homelessness is bad for B.C.,” said Diane Thorne, Opposition critic for Housing. “It hurts businesses, communities, and families. But without a significant increase in the supply of affordable housing, we won?t reduce homelessness.”
“Increasing the supply is critical,” said Wes Hosler, President of the Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C. “Other schemes like housing allowances are useful but work best when there’s a good supply of low and middle income housing. But the vacancy rate in the Lower Mainland is too low.”
“In 2004, Gordon Campbell struck a task force and promised to make homelessness a priority,” said Jenny Kwan, NDP MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant. “But we still have a housing gap of 2,458 units. The task force hasn’t delivered and homelessness continues to grow.”
James called on the Premier to immediately implement a plan to reduce homelessness and eliminate the housing gap.
“If we don’t act now, the homelessness crisis will continue to grow as we head towards the Olympics,” said James. “I’m calling on Mr. Campbell to fully restore the B.C. housing program, build the 2,458 units he failed to fund and help those British Columbians his government forgot.”