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Two housing rallies planned for Sunday

Groups disagree on causes and solutions for Vancouver crisis
real estate
Two different groups are staging rallies protest the lack of affordability in Vancouver. Photo Dan Toulgoet

Christina Gower’s situation is far from unique in today’s housing market.

She rents a home in Port Coquitlam but it’s more than doubled in value over the past six years. Gower said the possibility of being evicted is “terrifying,” especially since she has two dogs, which makes finding affordable housing even more difficult.

“I sit scared every day I’m going to lose my home and I have two dogs… I’m a nurse so I make really good money but I graduated late, have debt and, frankly, no hope of owning a home,” she said.

Gower is a member of a new group called Affordability Action Hub, which is staging a housing rally at Jack Poole Plaza from 2 to 5 p.m. Feb. 18 in anticipation of next week’s provincial budget.

Members met through the Vancouver Is Falling Facebook page, which has followed the housing crisis for about 18 months.

Affordability Action Hub (AAH), according to Gower, aims to connect the many groups fighting to find housing solutions.

“We wanted to bring everybody together under one umbrella and try and get a stronger voice, a united voice,” she said, adding the hub is working on behalf of all British Columbians. “We know what the problems in Vancouver are and they have spread.”

Groups backing Sunday’s rally include the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, Pets OK B.C. and HALT (Housing Action for Local Taxpayers).

Gower said the goal of the rally is to appeal to the government to make “positive changes.”

She describes AAH as “pro purpose-built housing” but members feel there is an over-supply.

“There’s arguably 65,000 vacant homes in the Lower Mainland and what a waste that is,” she said.

The group would like to see a speculation tax implemented and rules allowing all municipalities throughout the province to collect a vacant homes tax. Vancouver has its own charter, which enables it to do so.

Gower said the group is also calling for legislation around a legal definition of affordable housing, some legislation regarding pets and a moratorium on renovictions.

“We do really want to be heard by Premier John Horgan, Carole James [and] David Eby. We do have a lot of solutions in mind. We want to get a few of them out there to the general public, too, so people can understand that there’s a lot we can do and to put some pressure on the government,” Gower said.

She expects a high attendance at the rally and hopes participants walk away with ideas, as well as share their ideas with organizers. More events will be planned in the future.

When asked if she believes rallies have much influence on provincial or municipal government decisions, she said: “That’s one of the reasons we formed a hub. It’s to join forces and we’re going to continue to build on that. Once we unite and show that to our government, we’re going to have more affect.”

Counter protest

Not everyone supports the Affordability Action Hub, however.

Alliance Against Displacement is planning a counter demonstration at the same place and same time.

Spokesperson Listen Chen said its goal is to debunk the “foreign investment narrative” as the cause of the current housing crisis. Chen’s group is calling for a “radical critique” of capitalism and colonialism, which it blames for the housing crisis.

“We feel the [foreign investment] story is based on settler nativism or nationalism, basically fixating on national borders as a way to distract from the roots of the housing crisis, which are in the dispossession of Indigenous land and territory,” Chen said. “As well, we feel the fixation on Chinese capital as the source of the housing crisis ignores the fact that capitalism is global and all capital is global.”

Chen feels groups such as AAH don’t do much but amplify the foreign investment narrative. Alliance Against Displacement’s counter rally aims to pressure the NDP government and the public to reject what it considers a “racist, settler, nationalist explanation for a housing crisis that has actually been going on for 400 years for Indigenous people.”

“Our greater concern is that the NDP government is now buying into the foreign investment story making it mainstream. We think it’s a diversion from the crisis that is causing mass eviction and homelessness,” Chen said. “So we’re less concerned with the fact that the middle class can no longer afford what they feel that they’ve been entitled to and we’re more concerned with the people who are most affected by the crisis. We feel the foreign investment myth proposes solutions that won’t actually help those people.”