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“People without homes; homes without people”
February 12, 2011; Vancouver, Coast Salish Territory: A feisty housing rally and snake march through Vancouver’s downtown eastside attracted more than 150 people today, despite the drenching rain. The housing march was called in solidarity with the “Ten Sites Campaign” and in support of the upcoming olympic village tent city. The action coincided with on the first anniversary of the opening of the Vancouver olympic games, which accelerated gentrification and homelessness in the city.
The action, organized by VAN ACT (http://vanact.wordpress.com/) and endorsed by the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council (http://dnchome.wordpress.com/) and Streams of Justice (www.streamsofjustice.org/), started with a rally at 58 West Hastings, the former site of the February 2010 tent city. 58 West Hastings is owned by Concord Properties, a company that originally planned to build condos on the site. Concord Pacific is now attempting to broker a deal with the City to trade 58 West Hastings in exchange for getting out of its social housing commitments in other areas of the city.
58 West Hastings is also one of the sites targeted for social housing by the 10 sites campaign. According to Harold Lavender, from the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council (DNC), “The DNC is fighting for 100% social housing at 58 West Hastings and 9 other sites. We don’t want any more condos in the downtown eastside until the tenure of low-income residents is secured and the assets of the low income community have been protected.”
The ten sites campaign is a campaign organized by the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood council and calls for the City of Vancouver to buy ten specific sites in the Downtown Eastside for social housing, before the 2011 election.
The march also stopped at 2 other sites on the ten sites campaign list: the Pantages Theatre, at 114 East Hastings and 334 Carrall St. In 2008, low-income residents were evicted from 334 Carrall St., and the building still stands vacant while nearby people sleep in the streets.
60 West Cordova, a collaboration between Westbank, Portland Hotel Society, VanCity, and Habitat for Humanity was another stop on the route. 60 West Cordova, an affordable” housing project, offers 96 condo units starting at $219, 000 and 12 units at “subsidized rates.” The project is marketed as affordable, and is supposed to provide housing to people with incomes in the $26, 000 – 36, 000 range, even though the majority of downtown eastside residents would find this cost unaffordable. The construction of more new condos will have negative ripple effects by raising land values and creating upward pressure on rents in SROs - the housing option of last resort in the neighbourhood.
We marched along Main St., and nearby the location of proposed 15-story condo developments that residents are worried will increase gentrification and harassment of low-income residents by police and private security guards, and erode the sense of community.
The march ended at the Southeast False Creek Community Centre, where a sparsely attended Olympic anniversary celebration was taking place. Marchers flooded into the centre’s gym where a very few flag-waving spectators watched a replay of olympic hockey and a volunteers half-heartedly handed out olympic memorabilia. Housing activists took centre stage with a speak out to highlight how the olympics have increased homelessness, the effects of colonization, and gentrification.
Southeast False Creek Community Centre is beside the Olympic Village – a poster child infamous for construction cost overruns and breaking social housing promises.
“The feisty march visited a lot of sites that are central to housing issues in the downtown eastside and beyond. People braved the rain, and are committed to the issues, and are not going to go away,” said Harold Lavender. “As long as the housing crisis continues, theses issues are going to remain on the front burner and people are going to continue to fight gentrification and for social housing, and homes for all.”
The olympic village tent city is planned for Saturday February 26, 2011. Stay tuned for further details.