The Chinatown Residents' Committee is a group of Chinatown residents and community members who met together for the first time on March 12th, 2011. Our first meeting consisted of 60 people who came together from twelve social housing and SRO buildings in Chinatown. The committee formed as result of a series of community meetings, consultations, and outreach door knocking organized by the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council (DNC) in March 211.
Residents' Committee Declaration
Chinatown is a distinct area within the Downtown Eastside that deserves distinct development plans to protect its special character. The distinct character of Chinatown comes from our community's history and living heritage.
The city must recognize that gentrification has a negative impact on low-income people and businesses that serve them. If condos are built to the extent allowed by the proposed new zoning, the higher land prices, taxes and rents could push out low income people in market housing and the food and clothing businesses used by low income people from nearby social housing and from all over the city.
Heritage is more than buildings; it is what happens around and inside of buildings. Chinatown's heritage is alive in the hotels, social housing projects, and local serving small businesses. And like the heritage buildings in the relatively protected Pender St. tourist district, the living heritage in Chinatown South is also threatened by plans to increase building heights and build condos we can’t afford.
We want to the city to preserve and protect the living heritage of Chinese culture and Chinese language rights in Chinatown. Cantonese and Mandarin speaking seniors' sense of community depends upon the visibility of Chinese language business signs, menus, and store clerks who speak Mandarin and Cantonese. Affordable stores are part of our community and we have to protect them from increased rents and taxes. We've already seen low-income friendly spaces replaced with spaces for higher income people where we don't feel welcome. New stores that can afford higher rents probably won’t sell products or services that low-income seniors need or can afford.
Our community is under-housed. We need 500 units of self-contained low-income affordable and resident controlled social housing for Chinese seniors, working families, and low-income singles in Chinatown to replace the SROs and end homelessness. This housing will protect and enrich the healthy communities that we have built around our existing buildings while improving the living conditions in these buildings. "Social mix" housing built with public benefits from condo developers will not provide enough money or housing to make a dent in this need; we need 100% social housing buildings built specifically for our needs.
We're outraged that the city is trying to change Chinatown without involving or consulting low-income residents of Chinatown.
We want city council to vote against the plan to raise building heights in Chinatown until our housing is secured and improved, our services and shops are protected, and our quality of life and the living heritage here in our home community is saved. Chinatown should be added to the Local Area Planning Process to make sure that low-income people, and especially Chinese seniors, are not harmed by the city's condo development plans.