Homes or an art palace? Which would you choose?

Proposed design for Vancouver's art palace
Proposed design for Vancouver’s art palace

City council is happy with a new deal to give $22 million worth of land to a non-profit developer to build about 350 units of rental housing on four sites in South Vancouver. I probably would have voted for the project myself if I had been on council.

But there is another council decision I wouldn’t have voted for: a decision to give an estimated $200 million worth of land and relief of taxes to help build a fancy new art gallery. For $200 million, the city could build, without any help from any other level of government, at least 800 brand new self-contained units of social housing that could rent at welfare rate because they would have no mortgage. That would almost wipe out all homelessness in the Downtown Eastside. The shelters could be closed!

But the art gallery folks aren’t satisfied. They want to get the federal and provincial governments and some other donors to give them about $300 million more for their half a billion dollar Art Palace. With half a billion dollars we could have 2000 units of self-contained social housing, enough to wipe out street and shelter homelessness in the Lower Mainland.

Personally, I’d be a lot prouder of Vancouver if it could say it had no homelessness than if it could say it had a fancy Art Palace.

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