Heather Place is a non-profit housing complex built in 1982 by the Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation (MVHC). Today it includes 86 homes, two thirds of which rent to tenants at non-market rates while the remaining third of tenants are subsidized on a rent-geared-to-income basis.[1]

In 2010 it was publicly announced that Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation was contemplating either the demolition or repair of Heather Place. In a letter from September 29th, 2010, MVHC Manager Don Littleford explained to tenants that the difference between Heather Place and other housing complexes that have been repaired is that at Heather Place, “the land under the buildings is very valuable.” In February of 2012, Terra Housing Consultants advised Littleford that redevelopment plans “would generate approximately $7,000,000 in additional value.”

Littleford is pitching the planned densification of the site as a contribution to the city’s affordable housing stock. Yet in his own words, “market rents for new suites will be substantially higher.” In a letter to MVHC, City of Vancouver Rezoning Planner Karen Hoese informed Littleford that, “City-wide policy supports consideration of new affordable housing and other public benefits such as child care” but that Littleford’s Heather Place proposal “does not provide a directly identifiable public benefit.”

Significantly, the planner decided that replacing 26 of the 86 non-market units cannot be considered a public benefit of rezoning given that the current zoning requires these units.[2] The public benefit of non-profit housing would be lost if 60 non-market units were replaced with housing at “substantially higher” rates. Nonetheless, Littleford and Vancouver’s politicians have thrown their support behind the redevelopment plan.

In 2008 a financial crash in the United States was quickly followed by the most severe global economic contraction since the Great Depression. Despite an eventual recovery from what local real-estate executives termed the “recession for sissies,” Vancouver was deeply effected by the crash. By late 2008, condo sales and construction — a signpost of economic health in Vancouver’s real-estate dominated economy — stooped to record lows. The purpose of this article is to show that although the local economy experienced a brief recovery in the years straddling the Olympic Games (2009-2011), it is is far from certain that the city can continue to withstand the ongoing effects of the global recession. The article anticipates the need for a struggle against austerity measures and budget cuts in the potential wake of new rounds of developer bailouts and financial crisis. Continued real-estate speculation, stagnant wages and relentless upward pressures on housing affordability show that the lessons of this century’s “Great Financial Crisis” have yet to be learned in Vancouver.