Week in Review: $25kLunches, homeless seniors, and a new DERA


$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.

This weekend, the winners of Melissa Fong’s $25kLunch meme contest are gathering for a $25 dollar lunch to discuss the problem of corporate corruption at city hall. The winners include Mainlander editors Maria Wallstam and Tristan Markle, but it’s no big deal.

New DTES residents association

The Downtown Eastside community is organizing a new residents’ association to fight gentrification. This past weekend, over 70 people attended a founding meeting at the Dodson Hall on Hastings near Carrall St. The working name of the organization is “Downtown Eastside United,” but the group will be drafting a new name and constitution in the coming weeks. Suggested names from participants included “The New DERA.”

There was a broad discussion about what issues the community can unite around. Common themes included building real affordable housing, stopping renovictions, and organizing to impact upcoming elections.

DTES United organizer Wendy Pedersen told the audience that, before the meeting, she had visited long-time DTES activist Bud Osborn in ICU at the hospital, who told her: “This is the last fight for the community because the developers are knocking at the door.”

More loss of affordable housing

The formation of the new residents organization comes only weeks after the city’s approval of Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan. Next Tuesday morning, the city will also be voting on proposed bylaw changes in the DTES Local Area Plan, including a cynical proposal to change the definition of social housing to include market housing – rendering the term “social housing” paradoxical and meaningless.

On the same day next week there will be a hearing regarding the proposed demolition and redevelopment of Heather Place. Heather Place currently provides 86 units of affordable housing, but the city is proposing to convert the units, and rent a majority of them at ‘competitive market rates.’ The tenants have been struggling against this large-scale renoviction since at least February 2012.

Another hotel that’s home to low-income residents in the Downtown Eastside is under threat. The manager of the Chelsea Hotel has apparently been approached by “a prospective buyer with a reputation for acquiring single-room-occupancy hotels, renovating them, and pricing tenants out with rate hikes,” according to the Georgia Straight.

Kinder Morgan Pipeline: injunctions and processions

It was recently revealed that the Province is preparing an injunction against the Unis’tot’en camp in northern BC. The camp has been blockading the proposed path of both the Northern Gateway pipeline and the Pacific Trails pipeline. Last weekend there was a three-day conference held in Vancouver to organize against pipelines, and this coming Sunday April 13th there will be a rally and procession along the Kinder Morgan pipeline route in Burnaby.

Seniors: “fastest growing homeless group in the Lower Mainland”

The number of homeless seniors in Vancouver is growing, including both individuals who have been on the street for a long time, and those who’ve been recently displaced. Earlier this week, United Way announced the end of temporary seniors housing program, which was intended to give stability to seniors while they look for a permanent home. This news comes after last December’s rushed eviction of a group of low-income seniors from their homes at 439 Powell St, after the city condemned the building. The city later backtracked on the demolition, instead simply ordering repairs.

More cuts to Vancouver schools

The Vancouver School Board is facing another round of cuts, after a funding shortfall from the Province. The VSB is funded on a per-student basis, but has seen years of declining enrollment as families are forced out of Vancouver due to the high cost of living. The projected outcome is the loss of around 70 full-time positions, including elimination of education alternatives for at-need students, including alternative programs, multicultural liaisons, and other support staff.