BC Govn't Plan for Riverview causes Concern

Last week, Rich Coleman, the BC Minister for Housing, announced in a Vancouver Sun article ("B.C. targets homeless with Riverview Project") that he planned to turn the old psychiatric institution, Riverview, into a massive real estate development that mixed a large number of market housing with some social housing for poor and mentally ill people. Anti-poverty and mental health advocates and Coquitlam city politicians are opposed to any type of of market housing on the site (See Vancouver Sun articles - "Coquitlam 'appalled' by Riverview housing proposal," "Riverview housing plan sparks political backlash," and the CBC article - Coquitlam mayor opposes massive Riverview redevelopment".) They want the site used for social housing and for the care of those suffering from mental illness.

Ten years ago, the provincial government began shutting Riverview down as part of the process of de-institutionalizing mental health patients. The idea was that patients would receive treatment in their communities but many people who left institutions like Riverview ended up homeless, vulnerable to drug addictions and without treatment. Mental health consumers, advocates and others have been pushing the provincial government to fund more treatment for the mentally ill. Last week a group of nurses from Riverview demonstrated outside the Health Minister's office to protest deteriorating medical standards due to three years of government cutbacks. For more on Riverview and Rich Coleman's plan see the Tyee article, "Coleman's Gambit" and the following press release from the Carnegie Community Action Project:

News release
For immediate release
July 27, 2007

Riverview plans more about developer profits than housing homeless

"The provincial government's plan for a massive housing development on Riverview land in Coquitlam is more about helping developers make profits than about housing the homeless", says Jean Swanson of the Carnegie Community Action Project.

The Minister in charge of housing, Rich Coleman, a former developer, suggests that 1100 units of social housing will be among over 7000 units, mostly condos, to be built on the site. "It could take 5 or ten years or more before even one unit gets built," said Swanson. If it takes ten years for the project to open, that's 110 units per year for homeless and poor people. That might meet the need in Coquitlam, but Vancouver needs 800 units of new social housing per year according to the city."

About 2000 people in Vancouver are homeless now, according to city officials, with a possible 3000 by the time of the Olympics.

"Coleman should be using the governments $4.1 billion surplus and the $250 million he has parked in a housing endowment fund to build hundreds of units of social housing now," said Swanson.

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Contact: Jean Swanson 604 729-2380

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