Zoning Not the Right Tool

Cordova-600 blk_Pano

600 Block E Cordova—Signs of the Problem: Turning a back on this neighbourhood is longstanding City policy.

A new proposal in the 500-block E Cordova Street exposes the fault line in our community vision. A 2.5 FSR project will provide social housing units on the ground floor. The developer is answering local policy by providing 3 units at SRO rates of $375.

Yet, the feeling on the street is that this is just a wolf in sheep’s clothing. A comprehensive community planning process underway is reported not getting traction.

Cordova-E555-Proposal

Proposal 555 E Cordova

Half of the problem is that we are trying to get the market to build social housing. The requirement that 20% of the building be non-market housing skims profit right off the top and developers have to find other ways of getting that profit back from the project. Canada should get into the business of building and owning social housing, rather than the private sector. Then, governments should partner and regulate non-profits to provide property management and supports. A roof over the head of the street involved is simply not enough.

The other half of the problem is that we have created the DEOD as a kind of welfare ghetto. If you run into mental health and addiction problems, then you end up here and good luck to you. Zoning is not the right tool. It has concentrated one group in one place away from the rest of society. In a municipal system that is tone deaf to providing neighbourhood infrastructure that supports social functioning the result of using zoning as the tool to induce the private sector to deliver supports and housing has been a place lacking in livability. The design and maintenance of the public realm fails to address the bare minimum of local needs as the view of the 600-block E Cordova (top) makes plainly obvious.

Also lacking, as we reported below, is an end to the revolving door of emergency room help, short term hospitalization, shelters, and federal and provincial incarceration. This policy costs more per capita—in property damage, and having an entire neighbourhood zoned as Skid Row—than if we were to provide housing with supports for anyone living on the street.

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