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.
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.”
“The Bird Sanctuary” is the name tenants have for the third floor room of the Clifton Hotel where an unsealed window opens the way to roosting pigeons.
This is just one of the many maintenance issues left unchecked at the Granville Street building.
Now, all forty tenants of the Clifton hotel have received eviction notices from the landlord, requesting vacant possession of the units for renovations. The tenants are fighting the notice with a joint dispute resolution application to the Residential Tenancy Branch.
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.
DTES Local Area Plan, Friday, March 14th
I have represented Gallery Gachet on the LAP Committee. We are an artist-run centre, specifically a centre for artists living with a mental illness. I live with a mental illness. I would not have been able to serve on the LAP as I have save for two things. First, I have stable housing and I no longer struggle to survive each day. I can see beyond my day’s needs. As a result, I’m able to participate in the life of my community as I do today and as I have these past years.