This Sunday an unusual Affordable Housing Rally will be held at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The stated goal of the rally is to attract Vancouver’s middle class residents, “young professionals,” and “well educated people” who #DontHave1Million. In the words of the organizers, the rally seeks to amplify the voices of those “increasingly incensed population of Vancouverites who by comparison live pretty privileged lives.” In a city with deepening poverty and a long history of working class housing movements, the event has been interpreted as a bold shift towards highlighting the housing aspirations of Vancouver’s relatively affluent.
When they are pressed to comment on social housing and homelessness, most civic politicians pass the buck. It’s a Federal and Provincial responsibility, they say. Cities have the smallest tax base of all governments,they complain. The fact is: there is a lot that cities can do to fight the housing crisis in British Columbia even within their current jurisdictions, legal powers and budgets. If they are willing to face up to the depth and severity of the housing crisis in BC and to take appropriately drastic actions, challenging these limits, they can do even more.
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.
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.
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.
$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.