For five years, Vision councillors have argued that the City of Vancouver can’t use its own powers to build and protect affordable housing. Councillor Geoff Meggs has reiterated to The Tyee this week that threats to affordable rental housing are “beyond city hall’s control.” Despite their refusal to publicly criticize the provincial government, Vision has maintained that social housing and rent control are each the sole jurisdictions of senior governments.
Critics have often cited municipal housing authorities and rent control boards in cities like Toronto, New York and Vienna. It has often been pointed out that Vancouver too has a housing authority – something few people know about because city council has allowed it to remain dormant since being elected in 2008.
In response to these criticisms, Vision councillors have played the “jurisdictional” card, passing the buck to other levels of government. According to Vision, “the city gets blamed for the problem when the powers to fix it lie with the provincial government.” Yet the Mayor has been supportive of the BC Liberal government since being elected in 2008. Not once has Robertson or council publicly called on the Province to increase funding for housing or change the Residential Tenancy Act. At the end of the day, the main financial backers of Vision also control BC Housing and are the main BC Liberals donors.
This morning, supporters gathered at the Little Mountain housing project to hear tenants speak out about their upcoming eviction hearing at the Residential Tenancy Branch. On July 27th, BC Housing issued a 2-month eviction notice to the tenants, requiring that they leave their homes by October 1st.
In 2009 eviction notices were given to all of the roughly 700 tenants living at Little Mountain. Four families refused to leave and are still living in the last remaining row house on the property at Main and 36th Avenue. The four families — including the blind senior couple Sammy and Joan — refused eviction, arguing that vacating the site was unnecessary and premature. Since then the site has sat empty for three years, with former tenants scattered in sub-standard housing throughout the Lower Mainland.
At today’s press conference neighbors and advocates from around the city stood with the four families in their call for a fair hearing at the Residential Tenancy Branch. The tenants demanded that the hearing be held in person rather than by phone. The main demand of the rally was that the tenants be allowed to “stay on site until a redevelopment plan is in place and the new housing is built.”
Long-time resident Ingrid Steenhuisen stated, “There’s nothing wrong with the building. We were told that this latest eviction was served because of the time frame of starting construction early next year. As we know from being active in the meetings, there’s a minimum ten to twelve months before the rezoning, and a minimum six months for the enactment.”