City releases 2016 homeless count results and updates on low-income housing

May 31, 2016

The impacts of Vancouver’s significant housing challenges, with low vacancy rates and high costs of living, were clearly reflected in the results of the 2016 homeless count, presented at Council this morning.

Almost 6% more homeless than in 2015

The tenth annual homeless count in Vancouver, held on March 9 and 10, 2016, found 1,847 individuals facing homelessness – an increase of almost 6% over 2015, which counted 1,746 individuals. Of those counted this year, 539 were living on the street and 1,308 living in shelters, compared to 488 street homeless and 1,258 sheltered in 2015.

Year Street homeless Sheltered homeless
2016 539 1,308
2015 488 1,258

“The homeless count results are disappointing, considering the aggressive approach the City has taken over the last five years help people who are homeless and to address the root causes of homelessness. We’ve made significant investments and with our offer of 20 sites of city-owned land worth $250 million, the City continues to do more than our share. We’re ready and willing to work with the BC and federal governments to build thousands of homes for people in Vancouver who are homeless and on low and modest incomes,” says Mayor Robertson.

Results from the count showed that:

  • 61% had been homeless for less than a year
  • 78% were facing at least one physical and/or mental health condition
  • 71% of homeless people who have been in Vancouver for less than one year came from outside Metro Vancouver

Findings about homeless youth

The count also found that, when compared to the total homeless population in Vancouver, youth are more likely to identify as LGTBQ2+, significantly fewer have a source of income, and a greater proportion reported having an addiction/substance use issue or mental health concern.

Read the Homeless Count report  (1.3 MB)

Read the staff report to Council  (4.3 MB)

Increasing economic inequality

Over the past decade, market forces have increased economic inequality across BC and rents have continued to rise faster than incomes. Provincial income assistance rates have not increased since 2007: the current basic income assistance is $610 a month, with a shelter component of $375 a month. There are over 4,000 people on the BC Housing wait-list for social housing in Vancouver and 9,500 across Metro Vancouver.

Update on low-income housing

Council also received an update on efforts to increase and protect low-income housing.

Since we established an integrated enforcement team for problem properties and launched the online Rental Standards Database, safety violations have decreased 80% since 2013.

The impacts of Vancouver’s record-high housing costs and low rental-vacancy rates – less than 1% – have also been seen in private Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels. These rooms have seen a drop in vacancy from 14% in 1992 to 4% in 2015.

Vancouver has also seen the loss of 300 private SRO rooms at shelter rates since 2013 and the addition of 469 rooms above shelter rates ($450 and up) since 2013.

Our next steps

Our next steps include:

  • Advocating to the federal and provincial governments to partner in building affordable housing on the 20 sites of City-owned land worth $250 million
  • Advocating for the provincial government to tie rent increases in SRO rooms to the unit in order to prevent soft conversions of low-income housing
  • Launching two modular housing projects for people on fixed incomes at 1500 Main St. and 1060 Howe St.
  • Aiming to secure BC Housing commitment for 600 shelter spaces and target an earlier opening of winter shelters
  • Advancing a new permanent Aboriginal shelter at 1015 East Hastings St. to replace the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre shelter at 201 Central St.
  • Launching a new $2-million grant program to upgrade SROs operated by non-profits

We will continue to address housing needs through an unprecedented $125 million of strategic investments in affordable housing as committed to in the 2015-2018 Capital Plan. From these funds, $85 million will enable 2,550 new supportive and social housing units.


Shelters and outreach

During the 2015/2016 winter, we partnered with BC Housing to open 210 shelter beds, the largest number of shelter beds to date. Since 2009, over 1,000 individuals have been housed through the winter shelter program.
Temporary housing

We have opened 392 rooms of temporary housing since 2014 to provide housing for street and sheltered homeless residents while more permanent housing is being built.
Single Room Occupancy hotels

In 2015, we amended the SRA Bylaw to better protect low-income tenants facing displacement, improve conditions, and maintain affordability in Vancouver’s low-income Single Room Occupancy (SRO) housing stock. We’ve provided over $900,000 in grants for upgrades to single room accommodations.
Social- and supportive housing

Now halfway through the Vancouver Housing and Homelessness Strategy, we have met 67% of its five-year target for social housing (1,683 units completed or under construction) and 81% of its five-year target for supportive housing (1,844 units completed or under construction).


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