June 2024 Seniors, Housing and Safety Report

By Sheila Pepper, Seniors, Housing and Safety Convenor

The WNHH Network is a national women’s homelessness group working for all women to improve their local housing and services situations. In BC, several new housing starts for vulnerable women, families and seniors have been reported, in some northern and rural areas, but more is needed in the Lower Mainland. Some residents of this area are opposing more immigration due to the greater pressure on housing and shelters for homeless people.

The Happy Cities group, in Our Urban Village, a group of strangers together in a shared home, with common areas for gathering and cooking, and with private rooms, is a recent example of co-housing in Vancouver. CMHC’s Housing Accelerator Fund is helping to support several rapid affordable housing development.

There is a report on discrimination against gender diverse people for housing from landlords, building managers, and shelter staff; thus addressing housing rights for 2SLGBTQQIA is important.

The National Conference on Ending Homelessness is in Ottawa in October 2024, and is calling for presentations on all aspects mentioned, and experiences from all, especially from Indigenous people. (CAEH24). There is a June 11-12th hybrid event, exploring solutions and support systems, at #HousingMatters. Safety for all these groups above mentioned, and for all women, their families and seniors continue to be of great concern, as so many innovative ways to target these vulnerable groups are circulating on the internet. Many organizations are alerting seniors to these scams, but we must particularly help all seniors who live alone. Many non-profit organizations and religious groups are helping vulnerable people personally, as they arrive in our communities, to find the services they need, as soon as possible.

Seniors, as we know, are a growing cohort, and will continue to be so in the next decades. Many more services are targeting seniors for their continued independence and comfort. My latest is a Drivers’ Refresher course, as I approach my 82nd birthday, and another driver’s test of my abilities and safety as a driver, carer and driver of my husband, and for all my organizational meetings and events.


March 2024 Seniors, Housing and Safety Report

By Sheila Pepper, Seniors, Housing and Safety Convenor

Housing: I attended the Intersectional Housing Agenda Organization meeting on February 13th, also attended by Beryl Matthewson and many others. The Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network, the Indigenous Women’s Housing Network, the Pan Canadian Voice for Women’s Housing, and the National Right to Housing Network were all represented.

The discussion repeated the urgent need for more affordable, accessible, available and non- discriminatory housing for women. The ‘Financialization of Housing’ was another aspect discussed. The YM/WCAs across Canada address Social Housing and contribute many of their buildings to it.

We recalled the innovative housing models, such as NORC’s, Oasis, PAL, co-op and co-housing, and new ones, such as tiny and converted containers for homes. Khulud Baig said ”There’s a gendered crisis” in housing, “and all stakeholders should be ‘at the table’ where policy is made”.

There are 15 Calls to Action regarding immediate, medium term (2 to 5 years) and longer term (5 to 7 years) needs for this type of housing. Many organizations and individuals have written  to various levels of government over the last years to address these housing needs, and 1,200 did recently, they reported!

“Ninety national organizations, networks, grassroots and community groups, advocates and individuals” have endorsed these Calls to Action. I reconnected with the local ‘127 Housing Society’ recently. They have three apartment buildings in Vancouver, housing 355 mainly low income seniors, including a community worker in each building.

Seniors and Safety: Since my last report, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) aspects of communication for all seniors’ issues have been discussed in the media and at meetings.
So much electronic communication is changing so rapidly, it’s difficult for seniors to learn how to protect themselves from scams, false news and reports, and claims of many organizations and companies they may need to access. We need younger ‘navigators’ in this field, to help protect us from many types of confusing intrusions into our lives. Contact your MP, MLA and Councillors to help protect BC seniors from the new, ever innovating dangers to our mental and physical health.



February 2024 Seniors, Housing and Safety Report

By Sheila Pepper, Seniors, Housing and Safety Convenor

Our BC government is promising many more social housing builds of various forms in most parts of this province, but many are slow to be approved and funded, as so many other financial pressures are put on the province’s funds every month. Research shows that these promises are for future years, when so many need housing now, particularly our chronically homeless, new refugees, immigrants who have been waiting for weeks or months, as have asylum-seekers, all urgently needing accommodation. Others who must change residences are finding huge increases in costs of housing in all sizes of homes, due to the current lack of supply.

We heard from the CBC and at last month’s meeting, from Alison Silgardo, of the Seniors’ Services Society of BC, that there has been an increase of seniors over 60 who are homeless, and thus are less able to stay well and be safe in winter in particular. Many seniors are finding they must move to smaller homes for mobility and financial reasons, and they are finding many challenges in doing so. Hopefully, some other solutions can accommodate them, such as: house

sharing, co-operative combinations, laneway approvals for small homes. Many seniors are feeling more vulnerable to infections, and hospitals and most health care clinics are struggling to

help those who need their services. As we have experienced colder and severe weather conditions all over BC this January, many communities are struggling to keep roads, paths and highways clear of snow and flooding, and providing more warming shelters overnight, in churches and other community buildings.

Safety is always a concern for us all. It seems there are more ways to entice money from particularly vulnerable people. We see so many more ads recently for gaming and gambling, and more pressure put on everyone to join. Years ago, in Ottawa, we put pressure on our governments to stop gaming companies from putting gambling opportunities in retirement homes, resulting in peer pressure to increase participation. Gaming companies offered incentives to the owners, and many of these companies tried to increase gambling in many places, both online and at local stores. We must be more vigilant and learn all the new ways predators are trying to prey on vulnerable people.



November 2023 Seniors, Housing and Safety Report

By Sheila Pepper, Seniors, Housing and Safety Convenor

My three issues, seniors, safety, and housing, are continually in the national, provincial, territorial and local news almost every week.

Housing, of course, is an urgent problem for most people these days, whether they own their own homes and are struggling to pay higher taxes, repair and modify as they age, or make major renovations.

Others who rent are paying more each year, or ‘extra’ fees for services which were included previously, and many with necessary repairs and upgrades to appliances and infrastructure are not completed in a timely way.

Landlords are squeezed in several ways too, with higher costs of materials, but ‘renovictions’ are on the rise.

Those who are homeless and must live in shelters or other temporary accommodation experience many other difficulties, such as crowded facilities, mandatory enter and leave times, and safety of their possessions and pets (if they are allowed). Many immigrants and refugees experience additional threats.

Safety is often a problem as people move on streets, in the evenings, on public transportation and when travelling distances. Seniors have experienced all these problems and more and are less able to recover.




October 2023 Housing and Safety Report

By Sheila Pepper, Housing and Safety Convenor

We are pleased to see initiatives for upgrading, repairing and building new affordable, supportive housing in the Greater Vancouver area. The various city and provincial government departments are better coordinated and committed to solving this urgent problem.

So many more migrants, immigrants, foreign students and homeless people need accommodation in the areas around Vancouver. Monthly rental prices for even smaller apartments and condos have risen dramatically over the last five years in particular, and in the last three decades in general. Many laneway small homes have had City approvals, finally, and many more need to be built in our densely populated downtowns.

Foreign students come to our cities for the fall to spring education institution years in particular, and their situation is critical, as is the situation for the many newly homeless families, youth and singles coming to our area every year. We have been pleased to see so many churches committed to social housing on their attached parking lots and lands. Hopefully, the various city and provincial authorities in charge will improve and streamline the approval processes for building new accommodation for these groups; they have promised to do so.

Safety has always been a concern for us all, particularly for vulnerable populations such as women, children, youth and seniors. Many of us are well aware of the various risks and can prepare ourselves and our families for most of them. When on our streets and in public transportation, we can protect our belongings and our bodies with careful planning and preparation. Courses are available, in person at community centre and educational institutions and online.

Seniors are now more aware of concerns for their health, housing situations, community connections and safety than in decades past. For example, we used to hitchhike with confidence when we were young, but that changed dramatically in the 1970’s and since. Many aspects of seniors’ lives have changed in recent decades and we are more aware of the urgency in cases of our health, fitness, continuing education and training in many aspects of survival than our parents seemed to be concerned with.



March 2023 Housing and Safety Report

By Kerry Gibson, Housing and Safety Convenor

Affordable housing opportunities across BC have accelerated. However, circumstances such as floods and fire continue to displace lower-income residents in Kamloops, Princeton, and the Downtown East Side.

In Vancouver, city officials are simultaneously increasing approvals while trialing controversial policies affecting specific demographics (such as 50+), and Victoria passed a “missing middle” vote that has satisfied neither the supply proponents nor the residential home owners.

Despite the increase in discussion and approvals, supply correction will not manifest in the time frame required, due to inflation and supply chain concerns. Economists have been eyeing softwood lumber prices and tariffs as an indicator forecasting a slump in builds.

An 8% increase in student housing costs has alarmed many post-secondary students already on tight budgets. The increase will affect food budgets, which have already been affected by inflation. The increases may cost many students out of continuing their education.

During a time when skilled labour is in short supply, and UBC is the primary supply for medically trained personnel, the province may look to significantly subsidizing students in identified industries where BC experiences shortfall, with contingencies to keep those skills local.

Tiny homes may offer a transitional opportunity for populations such as the currently unhoused, displaced populations, and returning veterans. Tiny home communities have sprung up all over the world, and are a cleaner, safer alternative to tent cities and SROs. These mini-residences offer the privacy, resources, security, warmth, pride of place, and dignity necessary for individuals and families to gain their footing. The model has also proven to be more cost-effective than supporting people residing on the street. Although some communities welcome the idea, others (such as Mission) have ousted the proposal which may be short-sighted without a contingency plan.


December 2022 Housing and Safety Report

By Kerry Gibson, Housing and Safety Convenor

As Premier Eby, former Housing Minister, has been sworn into office, housing advocates appeal to his understanding of the housing crisis for a renewed push for mitigation and reform. Eby is urged to review what is occurring in New Zealand regarding changes to minimum zoning standards, noting that New Zealand enacted national reforms that established minimum zoning standards and legalized multifamily housing. They recommend that six-plexes be the minimum standard to be economically viable and sustainable.

Although the housing crisis is highlighted most frequently in an urban Vancouver context, and reflected in the unhoused population in the DTES, the crisis has affected communities across BC. In particular, communities with colleges and universities have been struggling to house students as well as dealing with community push-back on the creation of more student housing, citing NIMBY politics opposed to neighbourhood disruptions they fear young people will bring with such developments.

The Bank of Canada has reported that with increasing interest rates, housing prices will continue to fall through 2023, but not enough to create affordability. Canadian Real Estate Magazine reports that housing supply affordability is driven by a number of factors. With huge immigration numbers fuelling high demand for real estate, it is likely that prices will remain unaffordable for a large number of Canadians. The Bank of Canada is set to continue sustaining rising interest rates through 2023, which keeps mortgage rates higher even as prices start to come down. This will be exacerbated by increasing immigration targets throughout 2023 and 2024. Curbing immigration is not the answer, however. As labour shortages continue to mount, immigration is necessary to drive an economic return. Wages are not being increased in accordance with the increases in cost of living metrics, therefore not keeping up with the increase in inflation.

BC Housing, Kamloops, and Social Services are looking to establish an extreme weather response shelter for vulnerable people. As climate change continues to deliver atypical conditions, these shelters may require more prevalence and permanency than previously established. However, staffing concerns may delay operational readiness. All municipalities will need to continuously review their readiness plans in order to prevent loss of life in extreme conditions.

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim is following through on his campaign promise of 100 new police officers and 100 new mental health nurses by tabling a motion to allocate $6 million to the initiative. However, there is concern both within council and from community advocates that there are better and more cost-effective ways of accomplishing the end goal of supporting the public well-being. Hiring would be done by VPD and VCH. The discussion and vote is set for November 23rd.

November 2022 Housing and Safety Report

By Kerry Gibson, Housing and Safety Convenor


On October 15th, 2022 Ken Sim was elected Mayor of Vancouver with primarily an ABC and OneCity slate. This may imply that the platforms of those dominating parties will reflect in upcoming developments regarding housing concerns in City Hall. The OneCity platform can be reviewed here and the ABC platform here . Neither platform is comprehensive, however both seem progressive-leaning.

CMHC has noted that housing development, particularly in the condominium sector, are down substantially (46%) as developers are hesitant to engage in projects that may not be as profitable as in the past. This may be problematic when considering Vancouver’s supply concerns, although this may correct as Ken Sim has a platform to execute on pre-existing relationships with the developers to see it through. Another hindrance, however, “There is insufficient labour capacity to address significant housing supply gaps in British Columbia,” the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation reported last week. The lack of skilled trades people has been problematic across all industries particularly through the pandemic. This may be an opportunity for contractors to be more inclusive in apprenticeship and hiring practices for women. Although the trades offer a secure and fairly stable economic opportunity for women, many women still report that male-dominated environments such as building sites are not welcoming and inclusive. A cultural shift would be welcomed to engage more women into trades positions, given the shortfall. Also, an assessment of immigration might be necessary to not necessarily prioritize those with post-graduate degrees but also those with qualified trades skills that are lacking locally. A shortage of tradespeople will result in an increase in labour costs, therefore an increase in development costs, which most likely will get incorporated into either rental or market pricing for the end consumer, which, without consideration or government intervention, will continue to decrease the opportunity for access to sustainable housing models.

Indigenous-led supportive housing is on the rise, as First Nations are striving for self-determination. For instance, in Terrace the Kitselas First Nation is building 40 new units, only 32 of which will be wheelchair accessible.  Ahmed Hussen, federal minister of housing, promised better housing for Indigenous communities in announcing on October 13 more than $25 million in combined federal and provincial money for the project. Indigenous communities are no longer trusting government contractors, who can develop sub-standard and insubstantial housing, instead taking the reins and directing feasibility studies, contract negotiations, and vetting processes, suppliers, and contractors in order to co-design quality structures. However, while the federal government might be supportive, local coalitions may not be. For instance, in Kitsilano, two local community groups have filed complaints regarding the Squamish Nation development which will surely impede the process of the build.

The BC NDP has decided to exclude Anjali Appadurai from the NDP leadership race because of electoral violations. This may be a blessing in disguise, as the former Minister of Housing David Eby, who is aware of housing concerns throughout the province, will maintain his position as the future leader of the NDP party. Whether his understanding and learnings of the concerns will play a part in his leadership has yet to be determined.



Given the surge in violent crime, all levels of government are responding to public outcry, both financially and through policy development. Given the municipal mayoral candidate who platformed 100 new police officers and 100 new supplemental social workers to work alongside them was elected in Vancouver, the “defund the police” movement was overruled (sidebar, the original “defund the police” movement was intended to achieve just that…more social workers involved in police de-escalation). All levels of government are now in consultation to determine funding and programs to mitigate violent crime.


September 2022 Housing and Safety Report

By Kerry Gibson, Housing and Safety Convenor


Developers have broken ground in Victoria for a 97-unit affordable housing complex that will replace three existing aging buildings. The new complex will become two four-story buildings in James Bay.

CEO of BC Housing Shayne Ramsay resigned amidst a litany of controversies and concerns. It remains to be seen if Atira will retain funding from BC Housing with the absence of the previous conflict of interest, or if that funding will require new oversight with new governance. On July 8th, there was a dramatic overhaul and dismissal of the former board of directors, which may have led to Ramsay’s resignation along with the results of the Ernst and Young report, which comprehensively condemned the effectiveness of the organization.

University students are finding each year more and more difficult to find safe, affordable, and available housing in Vancouver. Price-gauging is also a concern. This logistical obstacle is having long term consequences for students, who are forced to defer or drop out altogether.

The BC Rent Bank has released a survey that has determined a 94% success rate to provide stability through financial supports for low-income renters. The main reasons people utilized this service were to maintain custody of their children, engage in recovery from addictions, and resume employment. This initiative is supported by VanCity and the federal government.


A review was recently released regarding the 2021 heat dome determining that over 600 lives were lost. Minister Farnsworth has announced that preparations are being made for 2022 climate conditions, and that the province’s emergency alert system would be in readiness in June 2022 to notify the public of extreme conditions. The federal government has also announced an allocation of over $200 million to be designated to disaster recovery and climate resilience.

The Minister of Mental Health announced a harm prevention strategy to decriminalize the possession of less than 2.5 grams of formerly illicit substances. The opioid epidemic has resulted in significant loss of life in BC, and Minister Carolyn Bennett hopes this measure will mitigate the stigma associated with drug use encouraging users to seek support resources that prevent loss of life.

The escalation of both targeted and opportunistic violent crime continues to be a major concern to the community, both in daylight and nocturnal hours. It is important to be cognizant of one’s surroundings, walk in pairs whenever possible, do not wear ear buds that restrict spatial awareness, and consider carrying a personal alarm. Do not be afraid to call 911 regarding criminal acts, even if the call is after the fact.

Homeless people are especially vulnerable, and there is speculation that a recent podcast by Joe Rogan has contributed to the violence against the homeless, as he was quoted as saying in response to a question regarding the homelessness issue, “…just kill them”.

The South Asian community is also concerned about racial profiling. A list of 11 wanted men with photographs was released by the police, and people may use the wanted poster as the vitriol necessary for hate crimes on the community.