Vancouver’s housing crisis has never been worse. That’s not just a turn of phrase – 2014 marks the largest homeless population ever recorded in the city’s history.
The latest homeless count recorded 2,770 street homeless in Metro Vancouver. A total of 1,798 people were recorded homeless in the City of Vancouver alone, a 249% increase since the last regional count in 2011. And while the number is high, it likely underestimates the real homelessness numbers. For the past couple of years, the annual homelessness count has been conducted a week or two before the closure of the annual winter shelters, which means that the count misses the actual number of people who live on the streets for the large majority of the year.
Editors’ Note | Tomorrow, Sunday morning at 7am, the Mayor’s Encampment Committee is going to try to evict the tent city at Oppenheimer park. Homelessness is increasing because rents are too high, wages and welfare are too low, and the city/developers are gentrifying the Eastside. Highlighting the colonial expansionist aspect of this ongoing process, here is a statement from the residents of the park, Salish peoples and community supporters.
Mag sumite sa Mainlander Filipino edisyon
Sa nakalipas na ilang taon ang Mainlander ay nabuo bilang isa sa mga tagapagtaguyod ng progresibong pagsusuri ng mga munisipal na pulitika sa Vancouver. Isa sa mga orihinal na layunin ng Mainlander ay “isalin ang mahirap unawain na wika at madalas na nakaliligaw na mga dokumento at mga patakaran ng local na munisipyo sa wika na maaaring maunawaan ng tao.”
Labour market management: Controlling the ‘surplus population’
Managing the labour market is a major function of bourgeois governments in a capitalist economy. This means maximizing the rate of exploitation of the working class while mitigating resistance, rebellion or disruption to capitalist accumulation.
In a monopoly capitalist economy, high rates of unemployment and underemployment are considered normal and desirable. Unemployment has an active function, operating as a downward pressure on wages and a fetter on the rate of inflation. The rich want inflation kept low because when it rises it erodes their accumulated wealth. Moreover, monopoly capitalism as a system tends not to reinvest the surplus (profit) extracted from the working class in job generating activity, instead sinking a high proportion of the surplus into socially harmful activities like advertising, speculative financial activities, real-estate and the war economy. Monopoly capitalism therefore generates high rates of unemployment and, particularly in its neoliberal form, fewer and fewer stable, ‘well-paid’ jobs.
Is it better for the province to give rent supplements to low income people than to build more social housing? This is an important question for BC residents to ask. Metro Vancouver counted 2770 homeless people in March this year, more than have ever been counted.
In addition, “We know the count underestimates the number of people who are actually homeless,” says the Metro Vancouver report. When you add in the hidden homelessness and people at risk of homelessness you get at least 116,000 people in BC who need decent housing they can afford.
Despite the growing crisis, BC’s Housing Minister, Rich Coleman, seems to have given up on building new social housing: “We don’t build social housing anymore,” he told the Vancouver Sun in February. Instead, Coleman said the government will only be giving rent vouchers for market housing.