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Downtown Eastsiders mock viral TikTok video promoting tiny suite for $2k per month

Trey Helten: “It’s frustrating to see gentrification just slowly creep in from all corners.”

A newly created video that discusses the harsh realities of the Downtown Eastside — drug use, violence, poorly maintained single-room-occupancy housing — is making the rounds on social media.

The video, posted to Facebook Wednesday night, is a direct response to a viral TikTok video released last week by reAngle Consulting Inc. that promoted a 200-square-foot suite in the Lotus Hotel at 455 Abbott St. for $2,000 per month.

The marketing video was taken down not long after it was posted, with the Lotus’ owners telling Glacier Media in an email that it was unauthorized. A representative from reAngle named Kristin agreed in an email last week to discuss the video but never followed up.

“Nobody really got the intention of my reel,” she said in the email.

Since then, a group of Downtown Eastsiders led by Overdose Prevention Society (OPS) manager Trey Helten produced a spoof of the marketing video. Helten narrates the video, which includes scenes of an alley behind the OPS on East Hastings Street and the inside of a squalid hotel.

The one-minute video is accompanied by a lighthearted instrumental soundtrack, along with a delivery by Helten that mocks the young woman who narrated the marketing video. Bedbugs, bear spray and a burned-out building are featured in the script.

“This is bear spray,” says Helten, holding a can of bear deterrent. “Get used to breathing it in because it's frequently used as a weapon around here.”

He then holds up a naloxone kit.

“This is a naloxone kit,” he says. “Learn how to use one because you're going to be dealing with a lot of death and overdoses.”

He then points to a building damaged by fire before walking into a “fabulous” 200-square-foot apartment, which includes a bedbug-infested mattress. Graffiti artist Jamie Hardy, better known as Smokey Devil, makes an appearance in the apartment.

The next and final scenes feature a dirty washroom and a kitchen, where the stove is missing some of its burners. There is urine on the floor.

“This is your shared washroom accommodation for the entire building,” Helten says. “This is the shared kitchen accommodations. And soon, developers will buy this building and turn these units into $3,500 rentals.”

The video ends with a message: “Gentrification means displacement. We need more social housing. Not luxury condos. Create vacancy control now.”

The video was shot and edited by Nathaniel Canuel and includes an appearance by Edgar Allan Rossetti, another Downtown Eastside artist. Canuel has since posted the video to his TikTok site.

In Helten’s Facebook post Wednesday, he said the marketing firm didn’t show “the reality of everyday life in the video, carefully shooting it trying to make it look hip and trendy and not showing what life is really like in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.”

East Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside. Photo Dan Toulgoet

'Protect my friends'

In an interview Thursday, Helten said while the video focuses on the social issues in the Downtown Eastside, viewers should not conclude the neighbourhood isn’t without a strong community and culture.

“I am trying to protect my friends,” he said. “And I am trying to make sure that they have housing and spaces, and it's frustrating to see gentrification just slowly creep in from all corners.”

Helten noted a good friend — the artist known as BOY — died in October 2022 in the Lotus. He was someone who struggled with mental illness and had other health issues, Helten said.

“It's really hard for someone like that to find housing,” he said.

Added Helten: “If I was going to say anything about what I was hoping the video would do, it would be that if people are thinking of moving to the Downtown Eastside, or buying condo units in the Downtown Eastside, don’t believe developers, don't believe rental marketing companies. Do some investigation on your own. Just don’t buy into this neighbourhood sight unseen and then come here and start complaining about the community.”  

The Lotus Hotel at 455 Abbott St. has some suites advertised for $1,995 per month. Photo Mike Howell


The marketing firm’s video appeared on TikTok two weeks after Glacier Media reported that some low-income tenants of the Lotus were being repeatedly asked by the owners and a property management company if they were interested in moving out of their suites in return for payments between $15,000 to $25,000.

Three tenants interviewed for the story said they were paying less than $650 per month and did not want to leave, knowing how much it would cost to find another place in Vancouver’s expensive housing market., a website that lists rental housing across the country, recently posted a report showing that one-bedroom apartments in Vancouver were being advertised for an average of $3,037 per month in July.

As Glacier Media reported, three renovated furnished “studio apartments” in the 1913-era Lotus Hotel, which range in size from 145 to 172 square feet, ­were advertised in early August on the property management’s website for $1,995 per month.

Another 10 “micro-suites,” ranging in size from 159 to 201 square feet, were advertised for $1,700 and $1,800 per month, with all but three unfurnished.

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