Melody Ma said it boldly in her tweet on Carlito Pablo’s story in The Georgia Straight about the new housing development proposed at 835-837 East Hastings Street.
One of Chinatown’s clan associations, the Lee’s Benevolent Association of Canada purchased the site to redevelop into a 6 storey mixed-use development which would include retail/office on the street floor, with 39 units exclusively for non-market seniors rental above.
The reason? “Lee’s Benevolent believes this project is a great opportunity for…aging Chinese seniors in the neighbourhood to remain close to the Chinatown community with its associated sense of community, social opportunities, shopping, groceries, produce, and other supports,” according to a letter by George Lee to the City of Vancouver.”
Many Chinese seniors want to live independently as they age, and being able to live close to places that seniors habituate as part of their community is vitally important. But there is also an aspect of sociability and bringing cultural attention to Chinatown too, connecting seniors’ living spaces to areas of cultural importance. Carlo Pablito cites the Chinatown Senior Housing Feasibility Study produced in 2015 by the City of Vancouver and the Province.
This study indicates that “over 90 per cent of Vancouver’s Chinese seniors are first generation immigrants and most of them speak a Chinese dialect at home. They have unique needs in addition to all the critical issues faced by all Canadian seniors due to their limited language capacity and understanding of the available support systems. Recent research from UBC has concluded that in the next 15 years up to 3,300 Chinese seniors in the City of Vancouver will need subsidized housing that offers culturally and linguistically an appropriate environment.”
The Chinese Benevolent societies and family associations have traditionally viewed their purpose as ensuring that seniors can participate culturally in the community and feel connected to it. Several societies have also expanded their mandate to include seniors’ lower cost housing in society owned structures in Chinatown and adjacent Strathcona.
The Lee Benevolent Society’s proposal by architect Patrick Stewart is currently before the City of Vancouver for approval. In the words of the watchful Changing City website, the proposed building’s design ” isn’t particularly exciting, but given the location, and the budget available that’s not at all surprising. The use is the most important aspect of this building; 39 social housing units for Chinese seniors… The scale actually fits very well with a number of hundred year old apartment buildings now used as SRO (single room occupant) hotels.”
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