Our Place, Our Home: Belvedere Tenants Fight to Remain in Mount Pleasant

end renovictions nowEditorial NoteWhat follows is a personal essay written by a long-term resident of Belvedere Court, Sean MacPherson. The Belvedere is a rental apartment in Vancouver that has recently been in the news following a wave of efforts to evict, intimidate, and coerce the residents into leaving their homes. In response, tenants have organized – with the support of the Vancouver Tenants Union – to protect their right to housing and preserve Vancouver’s vital affordable rental stock.

In this piece MacPherson features some of the long term tenants who have shaped the fabric of the Belvedere community. The building also dons a major Vancouver Mural Festival (VMF) commission, which has been a source of controversy and contestation. MacPherson gives a play-by-play of how the VMF and the building’s landlord worked to side-line tenants’ wishes for the building’s mural. The story indicts the festival as part of a larger process of market development currently ejecting low-income families and residents from Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant.

I. The History of the Belvedere

I’ve lived in The Belvedere, on the corner of Main and 10th Avenue in Mount Pleasant, Vancouver, for 15 years. I’m sure you would know it if you saw it. It is easily distinguishable as one of the oldest buildings on the block, and the striking portraits painted on its enormous façade have defined (and redefined) the neighborhood’s landscape. This three story walk-up was built in 1915 from those signature beige and yellow bricks shipped in by the truckload from Abbotsford. Evident in the apartment layouts, the building was designed for single occupants. Compact and functional spaces provided early twentieth century mill/brewery/dock workers a sleeping area, a large closet, a small kitchen and bath during Mount Pleasant’s formative years, as mills, slaughterhouses and breweries began to line the shores of False Creek and what would later become known as Brewery Creek. The building went through several incarnations since its early, working class beginnings. It has served as a college, a dormitory, and has housed a plethora of small businesses that floated in and out of the street level commercial space.

History is thick in the musty air of The Belvedere. Memories dance through the hallways and ghosts linger deep in its walls. These spirits drift along the oak banisters, the marble tiles, the weighted windows, the remains of the old speakeasy in the basement, the chandelier in the foyer and the old manual elevator. Many of these features have disappeared over the years, as chandeliers gave way to ceiling tile, folding elevator doors became stainless steel and the old boiler became a pile of rubble, smashed to pieces during recent renovations. Yet, even as the building changes, the weight of history remains, pressing down with a low rumble.

As the building aged and devalued through the 1980s to the present day, it became a productive haven for low income artists and local residents. Many of these early residents still inhabit the building. Most of the tenants have lived in their suites for two or three decades, an anomaly in a transient city. Since the eighties, The Belvedere has housed many of Vancouver’s artists: musical acts like Rich Hope, Bend Sinister, Alice Hamilton, Yukon Blonde, Gal Gracen; artists such as David Yonge, Julia Feyrer, Ivan Hrvatska, Shauna Keando, Adam Dodd, Derya Akay; crafters such as James Steidle and filmmakers like Nathaniel Geary plus many more – too many to list. The last thing this city needs is another New York moniker, but I’ll reluctantly include that I’ve heard many people refer to the building as the “Chelsea Hotel” of Vancouver.

Cultural currency aside, The Belvedere is the most affordable place to live in the neighborhood. Over the years, it has become an oasis of sorts in a neighborhood reeling from a disorienting decade of unrelenting development projects, emblematized by the Rize on Kingsway. It stands in stark contrast to the transformative vision that the City and their developer friends are in the midst of implementing; a stubborn bulwark against renovictions, greenwashing, re-development, re-zoning, and gentrification. Yet ever since a new landlord took over The Belvedere, this remaining bastion of affordable housing is now under threat. With the City’s permit department on their side, the landlord intends to renovict and redevelop this important aorta of the community.

This building matters to me. I’ve spent my twenties within these walls and over the years, a million memories have planted themselves in this place. I’ve shot films in the haunted basement, recorded albums in my closet, drank till the sun came up, went through late night heartbreaks and completed the most important projects of my life here. I’ve witnessed the great circle of being, I’ve seen people raise babies here and I’ve seen people die here. I’ve gotten to know this building and its resident community, creating a kind of hybrid family in the process. This is more than biographical anecdotes. It is the foundation of community, the enactment of place, the living, breathing, embodiment of home. The Belvedere has become an intrinsic part of who we are. Losing it would be like losing ourselves.

II. The Belvedere meets the Mural Fest

Last summer, hanging out at Belvedere Beach (the strip of cement in front of the Federal Building on Main and 10th), I noticed a group of people milling around the back of my building. They were a delegation from the Vancouver Mural Festival (VMF), scouting the building’s two north-facing walls as a prospective mural site. We got to chatting about the neighborhood and the various projects they were proposing as they shared their enthusiasm for the big name international artists that were going to take part. From their perspective, the VMF was going to be great for the neighborhood, the city, and the community. I was a little cynical and suspicious, questioning them about why nobody from the building was invited to do it; any one of the incredibly talented and successful artists that live here would do an outstanding job.

The committee from the VMF seemed attentive and receptive. They claimed that they wanted to be engaged with the community, and had contacted the Mount Pleasant Heritage Group (MPHG), of which I am member, as well as other community groups. They weren’t willing to relinquish complete creative control (they would still employ an artist from their team) but they said they would consult the residents of the building about what themes might best represent us.

At the time, this sounded like good news. It seemed as though The Belvedere would be respectfully included in the VMF. This was a great opportunity for us to say something about our building, our lives, the pressures of renovictions, and the changes in the neighborhood since the ascension of Rize’s Independent. In The Life and Death of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs wrote that, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” Who better to represent The Belvedere than the people who live here? We came up with a simple concept: two gigantic portraits of two long term Belvederians, Les and Jojo. Their portraits would be taken in Les’s garden and enlarged to take up two 30-ft walls on the exterior of the building. Les and Jo’s faces would watch over the neighborhood, visible from every angle on Main and Broadway. This was a chance for us to use the festival as a kind of megaphone, and shout loudly to the city, “This is who lives here!”

Jo and Les have both lived here for several decades. Jo lives directly across the hall from me. I’ve known her since the early 2000s. She has been an enthusiastic supporter of arts and culture in Vancouver, from the days of the Smilin’ Buddha to art crawls today, with boxes of photographs to prove it. She has a diverse wardrobe, a vibrant personality and often leaves curious knickknacks outside her door. I am a big fan of her rotating collection of hand drawn signage, my favorite being, “Do not disturb, we is sleeping!” I remember seven or eight years ago she used to sit outside in the hall, setting up her desk to work on her business plan in the hallway until the wee hours of the night. She transformed the hallways of The Belvedere into an extension of her living space. Instead of it being a nuisance, it served to create a welcoming and social atmosphere, installing a feeling of community in everyone down our hallway. Jo is has serious health issues and is currently on PWA (disability assistance). Any renovictions that occur in the building would affect her worst of anyone. She has been on the waitlist for BC Housing for close to ten years, and is legitimately scared of what might happen if she is forced out of The Belvedere. She is a total sweetheart and a valuable part of our community.

When I first met Les, he would scowl at me in the halls. Later I found out why: I kept putting my cigarette butts out on the window sill and sometimes they would blow into his garden below. It’s ironic to me now that we met at the intersection of gardening and cigarette butts, at a place that would become pivotal in the transformation of The Belvedere.

The most obvious quality about Les is his care for the community. He’s queer and Indigenous, a product of the Sixties Scoop, adopted by white parents that settled down in Grand Forks. He often told me his parents were loving and meant well, even if they plastered his room with wallpaper that featured an awkward mash-up of both tepees and totem poles, as if these unrelated symbols of Indigenous cultures might make him feel more at home. Even at a young age, Les was aware of these contradictions.

In recent years, Les’s good friend Steve died in the building. I was there that night, watching the paramedics knock the door down and carry Steve into the hallway, shocked and powerless to do anything about it. Les’s door remained open the following week, hosting family and friends who began to stop by the building to pay their respects. Les provided an important place to talk about what happened, a refuge to try and ground ourselves after witnessing those events. I like to think this is the kind of building we have: a community of open doors, a comforting place to come together when trouble strikes. People like Les are pillars of that community. Sadly, Les’s mother died earlier this year. His door was still open, but it was more private. Still, the spirit of the building was there, and though many of us were at a loss for words, we all stopped by frequently.

Les found solace in his garden. This wonder of urban horticulture was Les’s triumph, his monument to the city and to himself. For the past eleven years, Les has been busy growing the most amazing garden you’ve never seen on Main Street. In the unofficial courtyard of the Belvedere, nestled just above Kafka’s Coffee in an unused square of aging roof shingles, inaccessible unless entered through the windows on the first floor, thrived an urban jungle. Les took over this unused space, nurturing a diverse ecosystem that one might find at Queen Elizabeth Park. It was bursting with rhododendrons, magnolias, aspen, lemon grass and Japanese maple. Les was always in there. Any day I would look out my window, I would see him at work in his garden, carefully tending a small oasis in the middle of the city.

While it lasted, the garden provided a social space for many of us in the building. Any Thursday, Friday or Saturday, residents from the building would gather at Les’s, either in the garden or through the window into his apartment. We would talk politics, philosophy, and dance to David Bowie, Bluegrass, AC/DC or Caruso. These Belvedere socials created important intersections. This group of individuals from a variety of ethnicities, ages and backgrounds, who might not otherwise find ourselves in the same room together, would dance the hours away, sometimes until the sun came up. Perhaps our social binding was class – none of us made close to a middle class wage. Whatever the case, we accepted our differences, including our own eccentricities, rowdiness and tempers. At Les’s, we had built an important community hub.

 

Les’s garden was the perfect location to capture the VMF mural portraits. In July, not long after our initial consultation process, Les and Jo posed for the camera within Les’s garden. The VMF brought in a team including the artist and a professional photographer. On that day, I witnessed a respectful collaboration with a large city project and the community members of The Belvedere unfold, a project that seemed to celebrate the dignity and resiliency of the people that live here. After the shoot was finished, we all shook hands, feeling like we had accomplished something great. Jo was beaming ear to ear and Les couldn’t hide a smile of satisfaction. I heard from the artists a few days later and they sent me a mock-up of the final project. There were Les and Jo, lighting up the side of our building. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I felt like we had made a community-led collaboration that would contribute to our neighborhood and make the residents of The Belvedere proud. In these portraits Les and Jo were not just surviving, but celebrating their strength and resiliency. It made me proud to know these portraits would triumphantly watch over the neighbourhood for years to come.

A few days later, I phoned the VMF team to talk about a slogan. We discussed something simple, yet powerful, like “Our home, Our place” (instead of their pitch, “The Present is a Gift”). I felt that their statement reinforced notions of precarity for renters and forced gratitude – a kind of live- in-the-moment, “enjoy today cause you might be gone tomorrow” sentiment. I wanted a statement that suggested permanency, that articulated “We aren’t going anywhere.”

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Unfortunately, instead of jamming out some text ideas, I got bad news. The VMF team had taken the mock-up and proposal to the City, who had given it a green light. Landlord Eric Choo, however, stopped the project dead in its tracks. At the eleventh hour, Choo stepped in and refused to allow the images of his tenants on his walls. I felt like someone had spat in my face. I wanted to know his reasoning. The VMF provided no definitive statement, but there was the sense that the landlord thought it would be a future liability to feature the portraits of tenants on the side of building, especially if they were planning on having them evicted soon. It’s not rocket science – if a landlord was planning to displace the people living in The Belvedere, why would they want lingering evidence of their habitation? A faceless tenant is easier to deal with than one people can know and relate to. Instead of Les and Jo, the new plan (now painted on The Belvedere) was to substitute two other residents from the neighborhood while stubbornly retaining their slogan – a slogan that went against the wishes of community representatives. This was devastating news to Les, Jo, and the building as whole.

Even more devastating was that the landlord gave Les eleven days notice to clear his entire garden from them courtyard, almost immediately following Choo’s intervention. Any remaining plants, which Les had tended for years, would be tossed in the dumpster out back. As Les scrambled to save his life’s work, finding homes for several truckloads of plants, tourists came to the alley to gaze at the giant portraits on The Belvedere. In one short week, two deserving representatives of our community and a beautiful garden were displaced, then erased, from the neighbourhood’s visual landscape. Where Les’s garden once grew now sits a pile of broken 2×4’s and a dirty blue tarp.

The mural was a big hit, and I’ve often overheard people talking about it. It ended up featuring two long term residents of the neighborhood, an Indigenous woman and the old optometrist, important representations of the community and the unceded territory that the settlement of Vancouver occupies. What is dissonant with these portraits is the way in which they are abstractly utilized to side-step the stories of the people who currently live on this site. Folks like Les and Jo are important community members from marginalized groups that are currently experiencing the immediate pressures of displacement. What is dangerous about the present day mural is that it functions as culture-washing, obscuring the reality of those Belvedere residents currently being renovicted. Our homes and our lives are being destroyed, while at the same time the City, the VMF, and the landlord get to pat themselves on the back as supporters of local culture, perhaps even as Indigenous allies. They vaguely celebrate the aesthetics of diversity, while replacing the images and voices of those who are being immediately affected by the invasive forces of dispossession. The politics and aesthetics of dispossession, I fear, are the disorienting facets of the new class war.

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III. The Empty Husks of Main Street

Gentrification is a familiar word for me any Vancouverite. It a process that is present in our daily lives: construction cranes litter the horizon, rents are subject to exorbitant increases, and homelessness is a city-wide phenomenon. Yet we seem to be able to tune out, or grow accustomed to, its relentless presence. This happens through our senses – the visuals of concrete forms and glass, the sound of saws. It also emerges in our language. How often have we heard the words “density,” “revitalization,” “green building,” or “cultural landmark”? Or ideological sentiments that reproduce subjective opinions like “change is inevitable,” or the unrestrained rights of “private property”? Or platitudes like “the present is a gift”? These are sentiments that convert neighborhoods into brands, human beings into square footage, social forces that act to exonerate the forced removal of persons from their homes as the inevitable casualties of progress. These are ideologies that some subscribe to. They are also coping mechanisms that people employ to deal with living in the aggressive, vicious, and amoral wild west of real estate. The danger with the current state of affairs is that these relentless social forces threatens to acclimatize us to the changing cityscape – we become less shocked, less angry when another building comes down, another condo goes up and another person is forced out into the street.

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I left The Belvedere for a few months this past winter and returned to a strange kind of ghost town. Not to say that nobody was there; it was busier than ever. The twelve-lane intersection was backed up with traffic and the sidewalks were crowded with the usual artists, musicians, and old timers that make up daily life in Mount Pleasant. Locals were catching up outside the coffee shop, interrupted sporadically by packs of teenagers from Saint Patrick’s High School running down the street. The sun was shining and the neighborhood was alive. Yet, behind the puffs of cigarette smoke, the sipping of coffee and the occasional whizzing of rollerblades, lay an unsettling stillness. Mount Pleasant was bustling, but at the same time, it felt more empty than ever.

I was really excited to come back home. I had just spent a few months in Victoria, living on my friend’s boat and hacking away at a Master’s degree. It was a good experience, but I missed Mount Pleasant and my home, The Belvedere. As I walked up the hill, exhausted from the long semester and the infamous ferry commute, I was smacked with the loud colors of a large mural. I had almost forgotten about the VMF, but then I saw a thirty-foot tall plucky girl on her tricycle adorning the side of the Foundation, hanging out with her crew; standing like a young gatekeeper of the neighborhood. She almost leapt from the wall, brimming with attitude, optimism and rebellious vigor. I smiled as I read that long familiar slogan, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world…” I’ve had many days in which I’ve walked by and found the slogan overbearing, but that day, with the sun shining on that mural, it was a reassuring welcome home. As I walked closer, those warm currents of optimism that had washed over me quickly began to dissipate. Brown paper and green tape plastered the windows of the building. I knew that many places in the neighborhood were shutting their doors, but I couldn’t believe this. The Foundation, a staple restaurant of the neighborhood and long time East Van cultural hub, was closing down for good. I continued down the street, amidst the crowds and the drone of chop-saws from the army of new condos invading the streetscape. More of the same. Three empty storefronts right at the intersection of Main and Broadway. It seemed like half the damn neighborhood was shutting down.

Over the years, I have watched those places that made Mount Pleasant what it is disappear – places like Athens, Reno’s, the Rumpus Room, Our Town and the most recent closure, Sunny Spot. Some of these places were important community hubs – not least because they were affordable. At Reno’s you could get a breakfast for two dollars. It provided a valuable service and space for the community’s low income residents, factors that defenders of the new establishment (“Fable”) may choose to ignore. As I looked around and watched crowds of people walking by the taped up windows, I was overwhelmed by the places we’ve lost and the patrons that have disappeared with them. Why couldn’t any of these popular businesses stay open? Reno’s was busy and the Foundation was packed every night. Other than the string of suspicious fires, I had a hard time processing why these places had to close.

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What we are left with now is a landscape of empty husks: vacant buildings that once housed bustling restaurants are now empty, diners that served as meeting places gone forever, buildings emptied of the people that lived there for decades. Meanwhile, their exteriors are plastered with vibrant contemporary art. What we are beginning to see is a neighbourhood of canvases rather than a community. It has become a movie set, a “hipturesque” facade that frames the perfect scene of a cool and desirable neighborhood. Homes, lives, memories, history, culture, people have all been aesthetically packaged as marketing opportunities. In this lies the inherent contradiction of Mount Pleasant’s transformation – the mass exodus of a neighborhood occurring at the same time City Council, real-estate developers and “community” events like the VMF celebrate its vibrancy. Rize sold the Independent’s suites by “re-branding” Mount Pleasant as the new “Center of the City,” while municipally-funded events like the VMF utilized the neighbourhood as a site to “highlight local culture” and contribute to the “city’s cultural legacy.” Yet both of those projects knowingly or unwittingly represent the displacement of a neighborhood.

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The City plays a big part in this process. Mayor Gregor Robertson happily talks to Vice magazine about the housing crisis while being portrayed as the “cool” mayor both at home and on the national stage. Yet the Vision Vancouver team has been partly responsible for the growing housing crisis around the city. They were a decisive player in rezoning Mount Pleasant. In 2010, the City met with various neighborhood groups to discuss upcoming projects (including the Independent), but also to draft the Mount Pleasant Community Plan. This community plan, which City Council is obliged to make with every neighborhood in the city, called for “preserving, replacing, and expanding Mount Pleasant’s stock of rental housing” and providing “affordable housing which respects neighborhood character.” They added further that the neighborhood should be supported in “building on its own resources, with resiliency to prevent and/or address problems in the future including supporting vulnerable people and promoting a safe community.” These specific aspects of the neighborhood plan were reflected the interests of Mount Pleasant residents.

But if Vision is good at anything, it is pure talk. While the City sits down for neighborhood consultations, they have no problem rezoning a site like the Independent – an action which disregarded the community’s stated objectives of constructing a landmark building, destroyed a heritage building (the old Jansen swimsuit factory). The project increased height/density in the neighborhood and spiked the FSR (Floor Space Ratio) rates from 3.5 to 5 overnight, increasing land value and property taxes that in turn put the squeeze small businesses and renters. This affected the entire neighborhood. There are obviously other factors at work in increasing rents, but this is one of them, a kind of trickle-down decrease in affordability, one that the city directly contributes to when it rezones part of a neighborhood. Just a month ago Vision did it again, rezoning the north-west quadrant of Mount Pleasant, along Quebec Street. The decision expanded the definition of light industrial and gave the green light for the tech hordes to move in, meanwhile the housing crisis deepens.

IV. Renovictions and Resistance

Our new landlord has attempted to transform The Belvedere from a place rich with community and history into another empty husk. This process began on the first day that new management took over the building in late 2015. The new landlord distanced himself from us immediately. Gone were the days of being able to phone our old landlord, Sam, to fix a clogged sink or a broken fridge; this new owner didn’t give out his personal information. He wouldn’t even come to collect the rent, forcing everyone to pay through a slot on the second floor – an obvious problem for those who had previously paid in cash. Those who were a day late with their rent, even if they tried to make arrangements, received immediate eviction notices. The building quickly became a construction site, as crews began to work on the roof, the hallways, and the basement. Some of the new temporary workers began to perform multiple duties, doubling as unofficial building managers, collecting rent and issuing notices. What was once a pleasant garden courtyard has become a garbage heap of discarded studs. A dirty blue tarp has covered the windows of two tenants’ suites for almost a year.

Early this spring, renovictions came in earnest. The landlord hired a third party (a landlord-advocate agency called DJ MAC Consulting) to try and take care of us pesky tenants. Signs went up around the building, stating a new zero tolerance policy for subletting. Implementing an intensive and manipulative program of intimidation and harassment, they began to corner residents alone in their suites on the pretext of an inspection. Once alone, they would offer a payout ($2,000) to each tenant to vacate in the near future. They set up a table in the entranceway, trying to force tenants to sign fixed-term leases. They changed the locks and refused to replace the new keys unless tenants would sign those new leases. They conducted themselves with little respect for the community of residents that have built homes here. They hardly respected our rights as legal tenants. Instead, they treated us like criminals. They didn’t want to work with us, they wanted us out. When we challenged DJ MAC, he would try to manipulate the conversation, once saying to me that he hoped us younger tenants weren’t influencing older tenants in the building to turn down the payouts. That, he claimed, would put them in a precarious position. I offered a simple solution: if he cared so much about their well-being, why didn’t he just stop trying to kick them out? He laughed. This new breed of landlord advocate is charming, manipulative and deceiving. Undoubtedly thousands of tenants have accepted unfair terms under pressure from tactics of similar displacement professionals.

The payouts were a joke. Two thousand dollars might get you a damage deposit and one month’s rent, but this would only be an option for those of us who have the means to survive in the inflated monstrosity of a “market rate,” zero-vacancy rental market. Many of the people who live here – people like Jo, Les and Peter, our building Elder – live at or close to the poverty line. Several of them are on income assistance or disability assistance. There is simply no alternative for them in this city. Some will wait over ten years to find social housing. If they don’t, they end up in unsafe SROs, or homeless. As for the community they will lose, it is irreplaceable. This place is a refuge and a vibrant support network. We look out for each other. There is no amount of money that can replace the wellbeing and security provided by this community.

Our landlord, like many others in the city, cares about profits, not people. Eviction notices were handed out last month to several tenants who were then given the choice: an eviction notice with or without the payout. Not really much of a choice at all.

But The Belvedere is fighting back. A group from the building reached out to the Vancouver Tenants Union, and we became one of the first branch locals in the city. We had representatives from the building at the launch of the Tenants Union, and have gotten national press as a result of our involvement. We also teamed up with George Heyman and the NDP before the election, who vowed to help us in any way they could. We hope that the new NDP government will fulfill their promises to end geographic rent increases and to make the Residential Tenancy Branch more effective for tenants. We even took part in Main Street’s Car Free Day with the VTU, flying a banner from the building stating “end renovictions now.” Our most active members are branching across the city and connecting with other buildings.

As well as press opportunities, we have had legal victories. The landlord and DJ MAC know the system well and have tried to manipulate it to their advantage. In a recent case, they attempted to clear out an entire column of suites in the building, from the 2nd to the 3rd floor. Their pretense for doing so? A structural beam that needed to be replaced in the basement. Rather than attempting to relocate the tenants to any of the empty suites in the building, they delivered eviction notices.

One of these tenants fought back. Dustin Cole – a musician, poet and transportation historian living at The Belvedere – filed for arbitration several months ago. He was faced with a difficult decision, as he had just completed his BA at SFU and like most graduates was broke and looking for work. He had little choice but to accept the money. But he could see that this was about a lot more than two thousand dollars, it was about being forced out from his home. As he has said to me in many a conversation: there is only one thing wrong with this city, “people are greedy.” Demonstrating true “Belvedere Spirit,” everyone in the building banded together to support him and with the help of the VTU and a legal advocate, Dustin took his case to arbitration. The landlord’s representatives showed up with no evidence, probably unaccustomed to being challenged through the RTB. They were used to rolling over people without resistance. They were in for a surprise, as Dustin won his hearing and his eviction notice was terminated.

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We had a small victory celebration a week later. Residents of The Belvedere brought out tables, chairs, and baked a cake. The victory was bittersweet, as some of the other tenants that were issued eviction notices took the payout and are now searching for accommodation. Nevertheless, this was an important victory. Dustin proved that you can fight and win. It is not just a natural progression; improvement doesn’t have to displace people. Landlords do not have the final say on your security, your wellbeing, or your community.

While the City has ignored its commitments to the neighborhood and the VMF helps to pretend that everything is okay, displacement is still happening in Mount Pleasant and elsewhere in the city. Every day, tenants are forced out of their homes and communities are destroyed. This neighborhood is always another step closer to becoming that landscape of empty husks. Things never had to be this way. Vision could try to honour its commitments to the neighbourhoods of this city instead of hobnobbing with developers, and the VMF could improve its community consultation process. Landlords could also be reigned in, prevented from being hustlers trying to max out their profits at the expense of people’s security.

Until that day, it’s time to say enough is enough. We are reaching out to other people, buildings, and tenants, maybe yourself, to let you know that you are not alone, that we are all affected by gentrification in this city. Most importantly, we are saying that it doesn’t need to be this way. Together, we can win. Get in touch with the Vancouver Tenants Union on Facebook, sign up with the Tenants Union, write your MLA, hold a rally. Vocalise your discontent, be loud, fight back. Our homes are worth fighting for and we don’t want to see our communities destroyed. We have a right to affordability, well-being and security. Let’s send a message to real estate developers, bad landlords and City Hall. These buildings are our homes. And home is everything. The city might be changing, but we won’t leave our homes. We are here to stay.