A new report from a Downtown Eastside advocacy group says 156 businesses are too expensive for residents.
Coordinator of the Carnegie Community Action Project Maria Wallstam says what she calls “zones of exclusion” are taking over the community.
Zones of exclusion are retail businesses where she says low-income people are not welcomed.
Wallstam adds the City of Vancouver’s focus to bring market retail into the Downtown Eastside is hurting residents.
“What we know down here that market retail doesn’t help low-income people and gentrification is pushing people out to the streets… we’re worried about the rapid rate of gentrification in the Downtown Eastside.”
Mugabo says a number of businesses that “catered” to community members have been replaced by high-end shops.
“Poor people are being pushed off through a process of gentrification that turns businesses and single-room occupancy’s into higher end micro suits… imagine furniture that costs $3,000, people have $610 to live off of for the entire month, they can’t afford this.”
Many residents, like Erica Grant feel unwelcome in new market-value stores and that their options are disappearing.
Grant says the discriminatory actions of businesses is what really concerns her.
“We have security guards following us around like we’re in there to steal. We’re not down here trying to steal stuff, we’re in there trying to get what we need and get back out.”
Welfare rates remain unchanged
The provincial welfare rate has remained at $610 a month for the past decade.
Mugabo calls the government’s decision to not increase welfare rates this year, “shocking.”
“It shows where the priorities of this government are.”
He feels the government has enough money to support residents of the Downtown Eastside but has chosen not to prioritize their needs.
“We have money but the government has chosen to turns its back on poor people and we find this not acceptable at all.”
The CCAP retail gentrification report has seven recommendations, including “implement measures to stop new zones of exclusion.”
Story by Koy Tayler