Lack of services in South Vancouver, social spending to be the subject of next council vote

Residents of South Vancouver have poorer access to services, with social spending per capita over five years nearly 10 times lower in some areas.

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There are fewer parks, transit, child care options, even tree cover, in South Vancouver’s working-class neighborhoods, but a community movement is trying to change that.

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After years of study and conversations, a motion ready to go before Vancouver council outlines the “inequalities” that have developed over time in neighborhoods along the Fraser River near southeast Marine Drive, and lays out a plan to ensure the area gets its ” fair share”.

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“It’s time for them to get the attention and support they deserve,” Vancouver County said. Christine Boyle, who filed the motion.

The area, which includes the Killarney, Sunset, and Victoria-Fraserview neighborhoods, has the largest number of non-English speakers in Vancouver, with more than half of residents identifying as immigrants. Households are larger than the city average, while incomes are lower. One fifth of Vancouver’s children live in South Vancouver.

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“There’s a feeling that the neighborhood doesn’t get as much support,” Boyle said. “And that’s backed up by data.”

South Vancouver neighborhood.
Homes on the southern slope of Vancouver, east of Main Street at SE Marine Drive. Photo by Jason Payne /png

In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, some of those inequities became apparent as food banks closed and some residents struggled to find support. South Vancouver Neighborhood House contacted a Simon Fraser University program that studies communities to help quantify disparities.

The resulting study by SFU professor of urban studies Meg Holden and researchers Farina Fassihi and Caislin Firth showed that South Vancouver lags far behind the rest of Vancouver in social spending, Holden said.

Residents have poorer access to transit facilities, health care, and child care, as well as parks, community centers, and arts and cultural opportunities, with five-year per capita spending nearly 10 times lower in some areas.

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“The data shows that the area is getting worse,” Holden said. “It used to be an average middle-class neighborhood, but it’s falling behind.”

The neighborhood house followed up with conversations with more than 2,000 South Vancouver residents to show the human impacts. Residents shared stories about the lack of programs for children and seniors, transportation problems, such as a mother who had to take two buses and walk up a steep hill with a stroller to get to a community center for a children’s program, and problems with security caused. by bad sidewalks and lack of crosswalks.

South Vancouver Neighborhood House executive director Mimi Rennie said the city hasn’t done enough to seek input from residents who might have barriers to participation, such as speaking a different language or lack of transportation.

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“Their voices have been silenced,” he said. “The resources we have do not meet the needs of the community. In general, what we are asking for is more equity.”

Pall Beesla, co-founder of the Punjabi Market Collective, said it’s easier for a government to neglect a racialized demographic and neighborhood than it is to find a way to hear their voices. This abandonment has worsened over many decades until reaching the current situation.

He wants the city to join with grassroots cultural groups to create safer spaces for people to come together and support each other. That in turn can create innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as community connection, he said.

Boyle called South Vancouver’s lack of funding a “tragic reality” at various councils. “Residents in South Vancouver have been advocating for updated parks and public spaces, for better public and active transportation… It’s time for South Vancouver to get its fair share.”

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If it happens on Wednesday, the motion directs staff to submit recommendations to the council to “address the historical under-resources of the neighborhoods in South Vancouver and Marpole.”

That includes budget investments in food safety, increased parks, including water parks, skateboard parks, public restrooms, covered areas and green spaces, as well as lighting, flowers and gardens, and quiet spaces to retreat from main or noisy streets. It also calls for better access to spaces for heating and cooling during extreme weather events, improved public transportation, traffic calming, and safe infrastructure for pedestrians.

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