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WEST VANCOUVER, UNCEDED COAST SALISH TERRITORIES: On Wednesday August 6th, Downtown Eastside residents evicted from gentrified hotels, Oppenheimer homeless campers, and housing advocates held a news conference in front of the multi-million dollar mansion of Vancouver’s most notorious gentrifying landlord, Steven Lippman.

Social Housing Alliance organizer Natalie Knight opened the news conference saying: “This year the BC Liberal government made two announcements about housing: first, that they will no longer build social housing. And second, that they will increase their private rent supplement programs.” Gesturing at the mass of concrete construction for the $4.5million mansion nestled in the hills of the British Properties, she said, “Weak rent controls that allow landlords like Steven Lippman to do mass evictions and double rents combined with private rent subsidies for those same landlords means the BC government is funneling money to the wallets of rich landlords to build mega mansions like the one Steven Lippman is building here for himself.”

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Editors’ Note | Tomorrow, Sunday morning at 7am, the Mayor’s Encampment Committee is going to try to evict the tent city at Oppenheimer park. Homelessness is increasing because rents are too high, wages and welfare are too low, and the city/developers are gentrifying the Eastside. Highlighting the colonial expansionist aspect of this ongoing process, here is a statement from the residents of the park, Salish peoples and community supporters.

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On May 31st, 2014, another Single Room Occupancy (SRO) Hotel in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side (DTES) was sold to an undisclosed private investor for $989,000.00. The St. Ehlmo hotel is located in the East Hastings Corridor at 425 Campbell St. It is a 3-story building with 18 single occupancy rooms which cost approximately $400 per month. For that money, the residents have the “luxury” of sharing two toilets and one shower per floor. The listing for St. Ehlmo hotel on the Colliers International website claims the appeal of the St. Ehlmo hotel is that it “represents a fantastic opportunity to add value and capitalize on the power of revitalization.”

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Last week, four Downtown Eastside residents went to court to challenge a Vancouver bylaw that effectively prohibits subsistence street vending in the city. The street vending bylaw penalizes a survival strategy for low-income people who struggle to make ends meet. More than 95% of all street-vending tickets issued in Vancouver were for bylaw infractions in the DTES. The neighborhood is also the location of the city’s highest rates of ticketing for jaywalking.

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As an urban geographer, my research focuses on how certain cities around the world become models of best policy practice. Vancouver can rightly call itself a global model. Many around the world recognize this Council and its predecessors for addressing the challenges of climate change. Indeed, at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit, Mayor Robertson showed national and global leadership by arguing for a better Canadian approach to carbon emissions. He also chairs the FCM’s Big City Mayors Caucus.

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Chelsea Inn under threat

Residents of the Chelsea Inn, a Single Room Occupancy (SRO) in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) staged a demonstration outside of the building to generate awareness that Steven Lippman had been in contact with the owner. Lippman, who is the founder of Living Balance, has gained a reputation for buying up buildings in the DTES and evicting tenants. Lippman publicly denied interest and the owner, Yahya Nickpour, now claims to have stepped away from the decision to sell. However, this potential threat to the hotel is part of a larger trend of renovictions in the neighbourhood, which has resulted in an overall decrease in affordability, as documented by the Carnegie Community Action Project’s annual Hotel report.

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$25,000 lunch saga continues

This week the provincial legislature debated whether to place limits on campaign contributions and spending in Vancouver civic elections, but it looks like it’s not going to happen this election cycle. In 2011, both Vision Vancouver and the NPA raised over $1million each from the real estate industry. No wonder there’s no action on real affordable housing.

Meanwhile, both of those parties are aggressively courting real estate interests. Last month, realtor Bob Rennie organized a $25,000 lunch for developers to meet with Vision. The NPA has scheduled a gala hoping to get up to $50,000 for dinner, but time will tell whether all the developers have joined Bob Rennie, Peter Wall, and Ian Gillespie in leaving the NPA for Vision.