In 2008, Gregor Robertson built his successful mayoral campaign around the tragic death of Darrel Mikasko, a homeless man who burned to death trying to keep warm after being turned away from a Kitsilano shelter. But while Gregor was campaigning on a soon-broken promise, low income people in the Downtown Eastside were actively fighting against a new threat of displacement posed by Concord Pacific – this time on a property down the street from Woodward’s. The address was 58 W Hastings, evicted and demolished (“demovicted”) by Concord Pacific that same year.
In their annual Housing and Homelessness Report Card, the City of Vancouver reports that 1,683 units of new social housing are in development or have been built since 2012. Yet based on research by the authors, under 6% of the new social housing is guaranteed for people on welfare. The vast majority of Vancouver’s “social housing”, therefore, will be unavailable for the 1,847 people reported as homeless in Vancouver this year, the highest number since counts began.
The main thing I would like to do today is to concentrate on the question of where the history of racial scapegoating in Vancouver originated. To do that it’s important to begin from the beginning. One thing that I find helpful in these conversations is to think about the question, “Who belongs here?” – “here” meaning where we are in Vancouver, but also in Canada in general. Many of you have probably heard that Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States are settler colonies that were built around white supremacy as a way determining who does and does not belong.
On Tuesday November 24th, protesters from the “Stop Demo-victions Burnaby” campaign brought their message to Burnaby City Hall. Chanting and singing, they marched into council chambers during the proceedings of a public hearing for the demolition rezoning of four more affordable rental housing apartment buildings in the Metrotown area. Despite public pressure, Burnaby City Council rubber-stamped the rezoning application, continuing its policy of displacement and fueling the speculative environment in the city.
In the lead-up to tomorrow’s City-Wide Housing March, Nathan Crompton reveals that landlords and developers are organized to swing the 2015 federal election again in their favor. The federal parties are poised to deliver on their main demand – more developer tax cuts.
The housing crisis has never been worse in Vancouver, across the Lower Mainland, and throughout the unceded Coast Salish Territories of British Columbia. The number of people displaced, living on the streets and in shelters has never been higher. Literally. On the eve of the federal elections let’s assemble to demand a national housing strategy that addresses the root causes of the housing crisis.
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.