Public Event
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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Photo credit: DM GILLIS

After ten steady weeks of nightly protests by anti-poverty activists in front of the PiDGiN restaurant in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, police have stated that they plan to arrest picketers. In a press conference delivered yesterday, Vancouver Police Department spokesperson Brian Montague stated that his department is “anticipating an arrest soon.”

A letter issued yesterday by the VPD states that PiDGiN picketers can now be arrested for “shouting, screaming, or swearing.” The statement cites section 430(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada, which means that the VDP is seeking to label the protest a criminal action. An associated VPD release states that the police are issuing the arrest order to prevent Vancouverites from being “denied the lawful use and enjoyment of property.”

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Raise the Rates

On Wednesday, March 27, residents across the city joined together to walk 14.5km across Vancouver for Welfare Justice. The walk was organized by the Raise the Rates coalition to highlight the need for a significant increase in welfare rates as well as a comprehensive anti-poverty plan in the lead-up to the provincial election this May. The walk commenced at Christy Clark’s office on West 4th Ave in Kitsilano and ended almost 8 hours later outside Adrian Dix’s office at the Joyce Street skytrain station.

Homeless Dave joined the walk for Welfare Justice on the sixth day of his hunger strike against displacement and gentrification. Welfare and housing are intimately connected and as Vancouver’s low-income housing stock erodes, people on income assistance are being hit the hardest. In 2012 alone, 426 SRO units in the DTES became unaffordable for people on welfare. A recent article by Seth Klein shows that despite government press releases, the actual increase in the social housing stock in BC has been negligible since 2006.


At noon on Friday March, 22nd, Homeless Dave began a hunger strike in support of housing rights and social justice in the Downtown Eastside. The strike was announced in front of the controversial Sequel 138 development site at Main and Hastings, where a developer is planning to build unaffordable market condos using a financial subsidy from the BC Liberal government.

Homeless Dave, who is now housed and goes by the name “the artist formerly known as Homeless Dave,” has put three demands at the front of the indefinite hunger strike: that the city decline the development permit for Sequel 138; that the former Main Street police station be used for social housing; and that the Downtown Eastside be declared a “social justice zone.” “We’re not about smashing windows,” stated Dave, “we’re about smashing the old broken paradigms and building new paradigms that are more just and equal.”

This morning, anti-poverty activists protested inside NDP leader Adrian Dix’s office in the Joyce-Collingwood neighbourhood of Vancouver. They say that the NDP has yet to make a commitment to decreasing poverty in British Columbia. Recent research has shown that British Columbia is among the most unequal provinces in the country.

Today is the one year anniversary of NDP MLA Jagrup Brar’s completion of the “Welfare Challenge.” For the month of January in 2012, Brar lived off the $610, the amount allocated to single welfare recipients in BC. During his challenge, the MLA lost 26 pounds.

His challenge was an emulation of a similar challenge taken by former NDP MLA Emery Barnes in 1986. Since Barnes’ campaign, welfare increases have lagged behind increases in the cost of living.

One of the organizers Bill Hopwood said: “A year ago today, Jagrup Brar finished his welfare challenge. He couldn’t afford to live on $610. He got in debt, had to borrow money, and lost 26 pounds. Nobody can afford to live on that.”

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Tues Dec 11, 2012 — Today at 2pm, the Downtown Eastside not for Developers coalition (DNFD) is holding a demonstration against the government bailout of the Pantages condo project on the 100-block of East Hastings. News was recently leaked to the Province newspaper that BC Housing has bailed-out condo developer Marc Williams/Worthington Properties with $23 million in sub-prime loans. BC Housing said that it has a mandate to fund “revitalization.”

The Province reported: “Dan Maxwell, vice-president, corporate services, and CFO of B.C. Housing, said Williams’ application to the province’s community partnership program was accepted because the development will revitalize the block.”

The organizers of today’s demonstration are “calling on Marc Williams to sell the Pantages parcel to the City at the 2010 assessed value and for the City to buy the site and work with BC Housing to develop it as 100% resident controlled social housing with low-income community space on the ground floor.”

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This past Saturday British Columbians took to the streets to build public support for social housing and rent control in the lead-up to next spring’s provincial election. At twelve intersections across the City of Vancouver, campaigners held banners and signs, wore red-scarves, and circulated literature describing BC’s affordability crisis and the urgent need for pro-active solutions.

As of yet, there have been no promises made by the major provincial political parties regarding affordable housing construction or rent-control.

Saturday’s action, organized by the BC Social Housing Coalition, continues the tradition of “stands for social housing” which were a common sight at intersections across B.C. before the 2009 election.

The campaign is shining a spotlight on the need for new social housing. Before 2001, there was an average of 2,000 units of social housing built in the province each year. But since that time the has number dropped precipitously, creating a sizeable social housing deficit and ballooning wait lists. The coalition is calling for a strong social housing program that can close this deficit, while prioritizing the most vulnerable populations.

The coalition is also issuing a warning about the danger facing existing affordable housing stock. Tens of thousands of non-profit and co-op units are in danger as federal subsidies expire in the coming years. The coalition is proposing a plan to deal with this looming disaster.

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