02/28/2014 00:26 EST | Updated 04/29/2014 05:59 EDT

$1B Downtown Eastside local area plan unveiled

The City of Vancouver has unveiled an ambitious 30-year plan to overhaul the Downtown Eastside, without pushing out any of the 18,500 people who call it home.

The plan, which is part of the city's local area planning process, is budgeted to cost just under $1 billion and calls for social housing units, along with affordable market housing, and increased residential and retail — all, apparently, without increasing density.

The neighbourhood's low-income history is something planners say they have taken very seriously, after spending two years consulting with residents and the people who work with them.

The plan is designed to provide better housing for people already living in and around the Hastings St. corridor, said Brian Jackson, City of Vancouver's general manager of planning and development.

"There is a serious problem in the Downtown Eastside and we need to improve the housing for the people who live there," he said.

One half of the plan's 10 figure budget will have to come from outside the city's coffers.

"We need the other levels of government, other non-profits and the faith-based groups and the development community to make this a reality," said Jackson. 

The G word

The neighbourhood is more than familiar with battles between residents, entrepreneurs and developers over issues of gentrification. However, some neighbourhood advocates are optimistic.

"I think it's doable," said Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council member Jacel Lorek.

"We can keep the people from being displaced from the Downtown Eastside, even though much more is planned to come."

The plan says the character of Gastown and Chinatown will be enhanced. But, new market housing will have to be affordable, and social housing can only be restored — not demolished.

Vancouver City Councillor Andrea Reimer said the plan will lift the community.

"Thirty years from now, I think what [we] will see is a more vibrant local economy, groceries, restaurants, retail outlets," she said. "I expect we will see no people sleeping on the street."

The plan goes before Vancouver city council and public hearings in March.