with Jackie Wong, Henry Yu and Pablo Mendez
The Foreign Investment Myth:
Understanding the Housing Crisis & Confronting Racism in Vancouver
7PM, Monday, June 10th, 2013
SFU Harbour Centre (Room TBA)
Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territory
There has been a growing consensus that the lack of affordability in our city is caused by foreign investment from Asia. Since the 1980s, this narrative has relied on Vancouver’s historic penchant for racial scapegoating while downplaying the actual causes of the current housing crisis. In lieu of basic questions about land-use and housing policy, affordability has been reframed around vague racist imperatives. As a result, the reality of the housing crisis has been obscured.
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This is a response to a recent letter written by Geoff Meggs addressed to The Mainlander and the Vancouver Renters’ Union, in which he accused The Mainlander of “libel” among other things. The letter can be found here.
Readers of The Mainlander know that we write about the ideology of neoliberalism and the urban politics of class, tied to a host of related issues that affect Vancouver: the privatization of housing, inequality, evictions, gentrification, speculation, land exploitation, rent gouging, displacement, and especially, a developer-backed city hall.
For two years we’ve written about these topics without stoking the personal rivalries that pre-date our involvement in politics and our birth as a publication (The Mainlander’s first article was on December 5, 2010). Then, as now, we have no interest in getting into a battle of personalities. Whether it’s Nathan Allen debating Charlie Demers, the cheap rhetoric of City Caucus, or Robertson himself calling community members “fucking NPA hacks,” Vancouver has been plagued by ad hominem politics. Since the split between Larry Campbell (“Cope Lite”/Vision) and Tim Louis (“Cope Classic”), the demonization and vilification of political opponents has been a mainstay.
The slinging of mud is ultimately a shortcut for those who want to avoid political debate. The opposite of mud-slinging, however, is not what Am Johal properly calls the “epidemic of politeness,” but rather the recognition that there is more to Vancouver’s 125 years of politics and economy than “key players” and talking heads. In fact, to understand Vancouver’s unique developer-industrial complex it helps to transplant a phrase from Geoff Meggs’ own letter: “It makes the decisions, not me.” Precisely. Our analysis is directed at the developer-backed system as a whole, held together by the pillars of the private developer monopoly, colonial land inheritance, and the role of the municipal state. As many readers know, both supporters and opponents, this is the framework that guides what we write.