CCAP Report
CCAP 2013 Hotel Survey and Housing Report. Alexander Court is a gentrified hotel that is in the process of renovating and charging higher rents that people on welfare can’t afford.

The Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) has completed its yearly update on affordable housing in the Downtown Eastside. The sixth annual report, No Place To Go: Losing Affordable Housing & Community, written by Rory Sutherland, Jean Swanson and Tamara Herman, was released this week.

The study paints a bleak picture, pointing out that in addition to the hundreds left homeless in the Downtown Eastside (DTES), another 5,000 are on the brink of homelessness, living in cramped Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotel rooms. If the conditions weren’t bad enough – “no private kitchen or bathroom, and often poor management, mice, rats, cockroaches and bedbugs,” notes the report – its residents are increasingly at risk of being displaced.

Owners of these hotels are in the process of renovicting residents, looking to raise rents and profit from gentrification which is “driving up property values and property taxes” in the neighborhood. Increasingly too expensive for those on welfare, disability and basic pension, these buildings are gradually geared towards “students and workers, advertise online only, and have intensive screening processes designed to filter out low-income individuals.” Some owners have even begun asking for potential tenants’ LinkedIn profiles – one clear effort, among many, to weed out certain potential tenants.

One company, called Living Balance, has played a role in this process of making SRO’s primarily available for a different group of people. “Living Balance buys hotels, gets rid of tenants on welfare, upgrades slightly, then rents the rooms for higher rents,” says the report. “In fact, the Pivot Legal Society reported that a Living Balance Building manager used bribes and intimidation to force low-income residents out of their building. This allows the company to then raise the rents as much as it wants between occupancies.”

Trayvon

It’s Sunday early evening and we’re at Victory Square, a park in Vancouver, holding a Vigil for Trayvon Martin. We’re here to mourn Martin’s murder and express our outrage with the system that made it happen.

Martin, 17 years old, was simply walking home one day when George Zimmerman spotted him, called 911, assumed he was “up to no good,” confronted him, and eventually shot him dead. In the aftermath, Martin’s character was analyzed and condemned. Many believed Zimmerman’s story that Martin attacked him. Many accepted that Martin was a menace. Many clung to “damning” reports that he had marijuana in his system, that he’d been suspended from school, and that he, like so many young kids, had a habit of macho posturing in photos.

Few of them lingered on the fact that Zimmerman has a history of violence and paranoia. He was once arrested for fighting an officer, his former fiance filed a restraining order for domestic abuse, and he’d made 46 separate 911 and nonemergency calls between August 2004 and the day he murdered Martin. One relative even accused him of sexual assault.

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migrantworkers

Over the past decade, the Canadian economy has become increasingly dependent upon exploited temporary foreign workers, in large part through the Canadian government’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), an arm of the government’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program. A new book, titled Tomorrow We’re All Going to the Harvest: Temporary Foreign Worker Programs and Neoliberal Political Economy, explores with scholarly attention and detail many of the problems inherent in this program.

Written by Leigh Binford, professor of Sociology at the City University of New York, this timely book weaves together compelling evidence from the past ten years to show how the SAWP scheme has created an economy based on oppression — providing Canadian employers with a steady stream of cheap labourers who are themselves silenced by the constant possibility of capricious deportation.

In addition to being denied labour and political rights, temporary workers are forced to endure unsafe conditions. Binford points out that SAWP participants “are sometimes poorly housed, frequently overworked, occasionally maltreated, exposed to dangerous chemicals without adequate training and/or protective gear, socially excluded from active participation in community life, and told to “aguantar” (endure) by the very officials charged with defending their rights.”