April 24th, 2012
02:05 PM GMT
(CNN) Every three years city officials here in Vancouver comb the street corners, counting each and every person who doesn't have a home.
In 2011 they tracked down 2,623 people sleeping rough.
Housing is at a premium in Vancouver. Prices are the highest in Canada and affordable homes are in demand. This is North America's most expensive city, according to the Economist. The pressure for housing is a large part of the homelessness equation.
The goal is to eradicate homelessness completely by 2015. Progress is being made, but still, over 700 people sleep rough on the streets of Vancouver every night.
For the first time in a decade the number of people on the streets is dropping. In central Vancouver numbers are down by 82%.
Gregor Robertson, Mayor of Vancouver, explains: “We have focused on opening emergency shelters, low barrier shelters, so anyone can come in off the streets … building hundreds and hundreds of units of permanent housing to deal with this.”
Building affordable housing is high on the political agenda.
Dr Kerry Jang, a councillor at the City of Vancouver, said: “Many large cities like Vancouver have a land bank. They actually own a lot of property that they use for civic purposes. We've been deliberately going out and leveraging land. We're able to build 14 sites, about 1,300 new units of supportive housing. The city provides the land, senior levels of government provide the healthcare and the actual capital construction.”
High property prices are pushing people out of the city they once grew up in.
“Vancouver has seen incomes increase over the past decade by about 9%, and the cost of housing go up by several hundred," said Judy Graves. “You know that people simply can't afford housing. And of course, somebody falls out the bottom of that system, usually the most vulnerable people. That's where homelessness comes from.”
This city's future lies in rising to the challenge of providing more affordable homes ... especially for lower income people.
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