This weekend, several hundred people took to the streets in Vancouver to highlight the housing crisis and protest against corporate housing policies.
In 2014, the city’s homeless population was the highest in recorded history. Vacancy rates and the construction of affordable housing are at historic lows in the city of Vancouver, while the number of residential demolitions are at a 10-year high.
A full third of renters are today living in “core need” according to Metro Vancouver, which means they are in inadequate housing due to the condition of the unit, the size of the unit, or the cost of the unit.
Saturday’s march started at the Pantages condo development site next to the Carnegie Centre. This gentrification project is going forward only with a massive subsidy from the Provincial government. BC Housing has bailed-out condo developer Marc Williams (Worthington Properties) with $23 million in sub-prime loans. BC Housing said that it has a mandate to fund “revitalization.”
The marchers then protested outside gentrifying condo projects in Chinatown. King-Mong Chan of the Carnegie Community Action Project spoke about the eviction of Chinese Seniors.
While the crisis is city-wide, the effects of the housing crisis are uneven. A third of the homeless population in Metro Vancouver is Indigenous despite making up only 2% of the total population. The number of Indigenous people on the streets is also rising faster than than any other group in Vancouver.
Among households living in core need in the City of Vancouver, over 48% have an immigrant head of the household. According to a 2011 Metropolis BC report, new refugees and immigrants are disproportionately suffering from inadequate and overcrowded housing conditions.
The column marched up Main Street to the Olympic Village, which was originally planned to include one-third welfare-rate social housing, one-third affordable housing, and one-third market housing. But the NPA reduced the entire affordable housing component to 20%, then Vision cut that in half to less than 10%. Vision bailed-out the real estate corporation, Millennium, instead.
The only department to receive spending increases under Vision Vancouver has been the police, which receives $50 million more per year than it did in 2008. By 2011, the City of Vancouver had the third highest police budget in Canada, despite being the 8th largest municipality in Canada.
In 2008 Gregor Robertson ran a mayoral campaign built on the promise to end homelessness by 2015. Soon after being elected, Mayor Robertson altered the promise to ending “street homelessness.” Now he’s claiming that neither homelessness nor street homeless are within his jurisdiction.