Gentrification, affordable housing and homelessness in Vancouver's DTES

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Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Vancouver viaducts and learning from history

Decades ago, city planners worked to build a massive real-estate development, known then as Project 200, on top of what is now the Downtown Eastside. A freeway system, designed with the real-estate project in mind, would have paved over much of Chinatown. The Strathcona Property Owners and Tenants’ Association spearheaded a grassroots movement which stopped the “revitalization” project and the freeways, leaving the viaducts a mere vestige of a development cul-de-sac.

In 1972, Hogan’s Alley, then the city’s African-Canadian neighbourhood, was bulldozed to build the current overpass, but SPOTA and other groups managed to halt a massive highway system through the city and a dystopian real-estate development on top of the DTES.

Now, Vision opportunistically co-opts this tradition of resistance to cover its current project with a social and activist veneer, claiming that it too wants to reconnect Strathcona to the rest of the city and therefore must tear down the viaducts. The mayor and majority of council are piggybacking on the grassroots movement of Strathcona residents who fought the construction of the viaducts and the demolition and displacement in Chinatown in the late 1960s. But really they’re using the same booster rhetoric of “revitalization” and “redevelopment” that the NPA used back in 1968 to justify Project 200.

The city staff report for the viaduct removal project argues that “[i]n every city’s evolution there are opportunities to correct a past planning wrong”. The entire Project 200 plan, with the freeway and expensive office towers branded as “revitalization”, would have displaced thousands of residents. Now the city is making the same mistake.


Just saw a note on FB that the Prophouse Cafe at Venables and Commercial has been evicted.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Heh. Yeah, I just came here to post that, Winston. Laughing/crying

Prophouse Cafe needs your help

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

wow. Their landlord just "doesn't support them anymore" aka wants $$$ Money mouth

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Round 2: Super Barrio vs Cuchillo in the battle against gentrification (with pics)

DOWNTOWN EASTSIDE - After months of protests at the Pidgin Restaurant, Super Barrio led DTES anti-gentrification activists to a new picket location today outside the Cuchillo restaurant at Powell and Gore.

The new high-end "Latin American" eatery is on the ground floor of the notorious York Rooms SRO owned by slum landlord Steven Lippman. Picket organizers called Cuchillo a  “knife in the heart of the community” and pointed to the $14 tacos on the menu as proof of its unaffordability for most DTES residents.

Downtown Eastside residents vowed to continue the picket until the restaurant closes as well as continuing protests against the nearby Pidgin Restaurant. 

Pidgin co-owner Brandon Grossutti lurked across the street from today's protest, and anti-DTES campaigner Andy Patton was caught skulking out of the Cuchillo - only to be confronted by  picketers before beating a hasty retreat.

“Cuchillo” Restaurant: Another knife in the heart of the Downtown Eastside | Part I

“Cuchillo” Restaurant: Another knife in the heart of the Downtown Eastside | Part II

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Resistence on the DTES is Alive and Well







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“Emerging Directions” in the DTES: A Recipe for Displacement


If you’ve been in the DTES over the past few days, you might have seen posters for the Local Area Plan (LAP), “Emerging Directions” and the city’s open houses.

The LAP for the DTES is a development plan whose purpose is “to ensure that the future of the DTES improves the lives of those who currently live in the area, particularly the low-income people and those who are most vulnerable.” For over a year, low-income residents have been working City Planners to draw up the Local Area (the LAP) for the neighbourhood. These meetings led to the creation of an alternative plan for the DTES, called the “Social Justice Zone.” In just two weeks, over 3,000 residents signed a petition calling for a “Social Justice Zone.”

Last week, the City released its “Emerging Directions” report, which sets the path of the development plan.  There was one section missing – the Housing Section. CCAP took the “Emerging Directions” (without the housing section) to our Town Hall meeting on July 16th. We talked it over, but it’s pretty hard to know what to think about a development plan for the DTES that doesn’t have a housing chapter. As CCAP volunteer Harold Lavender said, “the devil is in the detail, but the detail isn’t here.”

The committee saw the full version of “Emerging Directions”, with the Housing Section, for the first time on Wednesday, July 17th. The first city-hosted open house is on Thursday, July 18th.

Does that sound like enough notice to you? It sure didn’t to CCAP. With only two days to analyze the document, here are some initial thoughts. You can read the Housing Section for yourself here [link]. And – most importantly – you can give your thoughts by going to the open houses this week or writing to the city....

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

my most interesting moment to date’s no secret that i do pickets at pidgin and chuchillo’s on the dtes. the very 1st picket at chuchillo’s we had a media event and it was a success..we got the message out. i mean as much as we possibly can. media came. and we made it clear to the restaurant that this is what it could expect from now on.

..when this ended and for those of us that were left..we decide to walk over and picket the pidgin. it is only a few blocks away. we have our signs so some decided to use the street. a cop gets out of his squad car and tells us we haave to get back on the sidewalk. without a word being said we refuse. instead we keep moving into and down the street. the cop then tries spreading his arms out as if to stop us and we step around him.

..we take the whole of the road and the cop gets help. we cede half the road and pick up an escort. some of the young’ins, in their fearless way, begin a chant that ends in “fuck the cops”. as natural as all can be. this makes me laugh out loud. and in an experimental way i chime in when it comes round to “fuck the cops”. how liberating this feels. i laugh some more.

..eventually we get to pidgin feeling good about ourselves. we laugh and talk. always something of interest goes on. it was a good day for the pickets.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Direct Repression The Policing of Gentrification Pickets


Whenever direct action strikes up a catchy tune, it won't be long before the flip side starts trying to drown it out. The siren of direct repression always begins its contrary wail.

Post-Olympics Vancouver in 2013 has endured a cacophony of vituperation against anti-gentrification picketers.

Extensive mainstream media coverage has weighed in heavily on the side of start-up business owners in the Downtown Eastside, "revitalization" developers, and politician-planner takeout initiatives. A flood of guff destroys its own credibility as anything more than a shrill shill chorus to accompany gentrification stomping.

The only counterexample story that comes to mind is Globe and Mail coverage of Mike Harcourt's mild refusal to condemn the picketing [1].


It's hard to guess how many tens of thousands of dollars the City of Vancouver has spent on policing in the past six months — policing designed to intimidate picketing and to back up profiteer gentrifiers.....

Pidgin Owner Cosy with Cops

Pidgin Owner Cosy with Cops

Francesca Allan

I haven't read this entire thread so pardon me if this has already been mentioned. I saw a wonderful film last week called Here At Home which dealt with various cities across Canada but focussed on Vancouver's DTES. The film documented kind of a project where some house-less people were provided with apartments while others were left on the street and then the results of the two groups were compared. Two of the people in the film were at the screening to answer specific questions and then there was a lengthy general discussion afterwards.

The feeling of the participants (both from the project and in the audience) was that rather than focussing the public on getting people off the streets on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, we should focus on the money. There's no question there's a huge saving in doing the right thing. I've been house-less myself (when I was severely mentally ill and evicted for being psychotic) and I was kept in the hospital longer because they didn't want me living under a bridge. Well, that's just moronic. I needed a couple of hundred dollars per MONTH for sheltered housing. Instead, I got a grim hospital bed costing the taxpayers $1,000 per DAY and taking up space from someone who really needed it.

Anyway, back to the discussion after the film, one of the stars was asked why our wealthy society lets people live on the streets and this man said something like "Because it's morality. If you live in the DTES, then you're bad. And if you're bad, then bad things should happen to you." I think that pretty much sums it up.


i agree FA with the comment "because its morality" too. it's also racism! and maybe every other ism too.

i like what my mom says 'everyone has turned into the drug lord mentality of the 70's where "people" in general are now considered to be "dixie cups" to be used then crumpled up and thrown away'.

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A three-point plan for ending overdose deaths

In Canada, far too many people are dying from opioid drug overdose.  Opioid overdose is when a person consumes more drug than his or her body can process. When this occurs, certain essential life functions, such as breathing, are impaired, and the person loses consciousness.  If the quantity of drug in the body is sufficient, heart rate and breathing may decrease to the point of death. Overdose deaths are the leading cause of death among people who use drugs in Canada, and many - if not all - overdose deaths are preventable with relatively simple measures....

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Community plan processes – Prepare for fireworks! Chief planner’s report to Council for Sept 25

(Updated, note date corrections. Note also at bottom the analysis by Joseph Jones of Eye on Norquay of what may be the City’s nasty game plan — divide and conquer.) A critical staff report on four community planning processes goes to City Council at 9:30 am, Wednesday, September 25. This topic is one of the most critical ones of the year — community planning processes in four neighbourhoods (Downtown Eastside, Grandview-Woodland, Marpole, and the West End). Implications for the outcomes in the coming days will affect all neighbourhoods of Vancouver — for decades. City Hall is treating each neighbourhood very differently, apparently depending on their ability to organize. This is, in effect, a divide and conquer strategy. Below is the status, a quick analysis, possible actions for citizens who wish to take action, and media coverage. We urge people to communicate directly with Council with their concerns....

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Major citywide rally at City Hall set for Sept 24, eve of community plan report to Council – Neighbourhoods uniting in rebellion

A citywide rally is planned at the steps of City Hall on Tuesday, September 24, starting at 5:45pm.
Residents from all across Vancouver are coming to join forces in a strong show of solidarity.

The rally will be held on the eve of Director of Planning Brian Jackson’s report back to City Council on whether to extend the timelines and make changes to four planning processes currently underway in the Downtown Eastside, the Marpole, Grandview-Woodland, and the West End. Grassroots neighbourhood groups have held large gatherings over the last few months, and residents all over the city have expressed significant misgivings about the draft plans. Many speakers are expected to speak to Council on Jackson’s report on September 25 (unless City chooses to reject requests to speak).

Residents from Marpole and other neighbourhoods will start gathering at Broadway and Cambie between 5 and 5:15pm on September 24th. After direct action on the street, the crowd plans to march to City Hall.

The rally will start with speeches at 5:45 pm on the south side of City Hall (facing 12th Avenue). The speeches will end around 6:30 pm. During and after the rally residents plan to ‘make some noise’. Mayor and Council will be present at City Hall for a Public Hearing for 5 rezonings, which starts at 6 pm. This evening will be an opportunity for both politicians and City staff to witness the rally and gauge the temperature of neighbourhood sentiments....


The Tyee as usual has done a good job on rental housing comparing Vancouver to San Fran - this is their most recent and last article of the series

Generation Rent: The Secret to a Great Rental Home

A visit to San Fran and my new place revealed it. Last in a series.


Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) – Vancouver communities unite to fix planning mess. Residents’ associations seek meaningful involvement

CityHallWatch is passing on this media release from the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods. Related news coverage:

Vancouver Communities Unite to Fix Planning Mess - Residents’ Associations Seek Meaningful Involvement

Eighteen community residents’ associations, covering almost the entire City of Vancouver, have now joined together in a Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods with the specific purpose of demanding a more respectful relationship between the City and the communities. “The Coalition is working on creating a new development/planning paradigm that will stress community involvement and local influence over land use and zoning decisions,” said spokesperson Jak King.

This coming together follows the summer of our discontent. Virtually every neighbourhood in Vancouver has suffered through the disaster that is development and “community engagement” under the present planning process.

Whether it is the failed Community Plans in Marpole, Grandview-Woodland, the West End and Downtown Eastside, or specific developments around False Creek, the Pearson lands in South Vancouver, the Rize and other projects in Mount Pleasant, the “downtownification” of Oakridge, and the overriding of community opinion in Norquay, the outrage expressed by the affected communities has been the same.....


About the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods comprises eighteen community residents’ associations who share a common interest in collaborating with the City of Vancouver.

  • Arbutus Ridge Community Association
  • Crosstown Residents Association
  • Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council
  • Downtown South/Yaletown
  • Dunbar Residents Association
  • False Creek Residents Association
  • Grandview Woodland Area Council
  • Citygate Intertower Group
  • Marpole Residents Coalition
  • Norquay Residents
  • NW Point Grey Home Owners Association
  • Oakridge Langara Area Residents
  • Residents Association Mount Pleasant
  • Riley Park/South Cambie Visions
  • Strathcona Residents Association
  • West End Neighbours
  • West Kitsilano Residents Association
  • West Point Grey Residents Association

We encourage residents to join and become involved with their local associations, and we invite all such associations to join us in this Coalition.

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Vancouver is the most unaffordable city in North America. In the 1970s, tenants fought and won significant gains such as rent control, and the requirement that landlords provide a reason for evictions. But years of governments influenced by landlords and big businesses have meant that many of the gains made in the past have been seriously weakened. Now, rents in Vancouver are unaffordable for many, and high rents are forcing many to leave their homes or even the city.

 In our work to develop bold, working solutions to the housing crisis, COPE is developing a plan to control rents, and strengthen existing city by-laws to stop displacement and ensure that renters in Vancouver have the affordability and secure tenure they need to live comfortably in the city.

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Densification Wars! A public conversation with Dr. Wendy Sarkissian, Ned Jacobs, You! (Jan 19) Community Planning in New South Wales and Vancouver

Densification Wars!
Community Planning in New South Wales and Vancouver:
A public conversation with Dr. Wendy Sarkissian, Ned Jacobs, and You!

 Sunday, January 19th, 2014. 3:45 – 5:45 pm
Location: 1 Kingsway (Mount Pleasant Community Centre, Multipurpose Room 2)
Just show up, or register online on EventBrite here. Inquiries:

............. is a sampling of what to expect.

Better Planning Network Forum - Wendy Sarkissian on community engagement in planning

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Policing the Crisis in Vancouver | PART I: The Portland Model

EDITORIAL INTRODUCTION | It’s been five years since Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver were elected on a platform to end homelessness. Since then homelessness has increased, rents have climbed, and Vancouver has witnessed a continued loss of low-income and affordable housing. The title of this three-part series is “Policing the Crisis,” the name of a landmark book on the policing of marginalized communities in 1970’s Britain by Stuart Hall et al. At the dawn of the neoliberal dismantling of the British welfare state, and in a context of entrenched urban inequality, Hall and his co-writers traced the emergence of police power as a tool in the state’s management of the disintegrating social order.

The present series jumps several decades forward, to a different continent, in order to investigate the effects of police-led government in the City of Vancouver. The sole municipal department to receive additional funding in the period 2008-2013 has been the Police, among core services. At a time when the housing crisis continues to deteriorate, the police response has continued to escalate despite the fact that the crime rate has significantly dropped. The purpose of this series is to analyze, contextualize and criticize the role of the police under neoliberal market deregulation, five years after the election of Vision Vancouver in 2008.....

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CityPlan and Vancouver: A story of hope and betrayal and hope


But under regimes controlled by developer-funded NPA and now Vision Vancouver, respect for communities began to fall apart. By 2013 our city was supposed to be well into implementation of CityPlan, but already with former mayor Sam Sullivan, funding and support for neighbourhood based planning was being dramatically cut. And despite getting elected in 2008 on promises to support CityPlan and oppose EcoDensity, Vision Vancouver and current Mayor Gregor Robertson have accelerated the dismantling of CityPlan and the promotion of the EcoDensity doctrine (rebranded as part of the Greenest City concept). This is the betrayal. We believe the mechanism of betrayal is embedded in our civic system (click for graphic image), which will be one of CityHallWatch’s main themes this year as we deconstruct the role of each player in the game. Vancouver now seems to be at the far swing of the pendulum. In response, communities are organizing, and this is an election year. Perhaps this gives everyone hope that citizens can restore balance and respect for neighbourhoods in Vancouver....

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Ming Sun Benevolent Society Group Photo at 439 Powell. Residents unite to save heritage building

Supporters of the Ming Sun Benevolent Society gathered on Sunday February 2nd, 2014 for a group photo in front of the heritage building at 439 Powell. In addition to taking a photo of the Ming Sun Benevolent Society elders and family members, the broader community was invited to participate in a very large group photo (pictured above). The photo event helped raise awareness of the threat of demolition that looms over the Society’s heritage building. The City of Vancouver almost demolished the building that dates from 1890 in December of 2013  (see our previous post: City boards up 439 Powell Street. Is the building still under threat of demolition?).

The Ming Sun Benevolent Society hopes to complete repairs and reopen the building. The Society is seeking financial support to help with their restoration work; more details and a petition are featured on the friends of 439 website. This building once provided housing for low-income residents, it included affordable artist space and it had educational and social services....

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Evictions across the street from City Hall

Today Pivot Legal and the Social Housing Alliance and low-income tenants condemned the City of Vancouver for failing to prevent the mass eviction currently underway down the street from City hall, at Cambie and West 7th avenue. “Vision was elected on a promise to end homelessness,” said Herb Varley of the Social Housing Alliance. “Despite this the City turns a blind eye to the continued haemorrhaging of the low-income housing stock.”

The century-old building at 506 W. 7th has provided affordable rental housing for low-income tenants for decades. Rents ranged from $345 to $385 until this past December, when all 18 tenants received eviction notices with the claim that the building was soon to be demolished....

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Downtown Eastside Endgame


A slide titled Towards the 30-Year Vision (reproduced as image with this story) bar-graphs an intention to rejig Downtown Eastside housing unit numbers over a period of 30 years:

Eliminate 2/3 of existing SRO

Almost double social housing

Octuple ownership / market rental

Never heard of octuple? That means multiply by eight.

Source the next and corollary item to two almost instantaneous tweets by corporate media darling Frances Bula, who got the ugly picture real fast:

City's commitment to providing housing for 10,000 low-income residents IN the DTES remains same; # of units projected to 12,000 in 30 yrs

Of the 10,000 residents in DTES now homeless, at risk, city plan is to find/build low-cost housing for them OUTSIDE the area

How does this math add up? First, the City of Vancouver aims to freeze the low-income Downtown Eastside population component at around current levels.

Second, the policy going forward amounts to saying: "No new low-income residents wanted in DTES. It's time to export them to … somewhere else."

The City of Vancouver wants everything to grow grow grow. Well, maybe not the low-income-resident population. Just everything else.

If the corporatocracy can pull this one off, they’ll use the growth in higher-income residents to dilute, and then to swamp, and eventually to disappear the low-income ingredient from their notorious social mix recipe. Whatever line they spout, the deal-makers are aiming to toss that constituent right out of their gentrification mixing bowl as fast as they can....


[url= Books is on the move...[/url]

With sadness, anger, and a sense of loss, we find ourselves forced out of our current location at 684 E Hastings in the DTES, the neighbourhood in which we have resided since 1973. The Heatley Block, where Spartacus is currently housed, is being renovated and ‘refashioned’ to host businesses of a different character, at significantly higher commercial rents – in our specific case, yet another cafe.

Spartacus Books, as an institution, has faced its share of adversity. Gutted by fire at our long-time Victory Square location in 2004, we rebuilt adjacent to the old location only to be moved along by rising rental costs. Today we find ourselves again moved along by the forceful advance of gentrification, pushing east from the Woodward’s redevelopment all the way down Hastings Street through East Vancouver. The adversity we have faced is but a small part of a larger scenario; for many, the broader processes at work here have implications at the level of subsistence and survival.

Vancouver is built on colonial violence and dispossession: the displacement of First Nations communities has impacted generation upon generation, and the displacement of poor folks (including a disproportionate number of indigenous people and people of colour) by gentrification continues at a rapid pace. What little space of relative affordability remains in this city is being squeezed hard.

On the one hand are arrayed powerful structural forces (the ongoing workings of colonialism and capitalism that are the basis of successive waves of displacement and the imposition of a way of life increasingly beholden to commodity markets and state systems of control); on the other hand there are those, in an endless variety of ways, who seek to challenge and resist gentrification and other forms of oppression and exploitation. The DTES has for decades appeared as an epicentre of struggle, and Spartacus Books, which has called the neighbourhood home for 40 years, has always sought to situate itself in solidarity with those who resist.

Spartacus Books has endeavored to be a space for all: not just radicals, activists or academics. By way of example, the “Peoples’ Phone” stands as an act of solidarity and not of charity, a very literal form of connection in a neighbourhood that, like so many others nowadays, is lacking public pay phones. We have endeavoured to be not only a space for radical politics, but a safe space useful and open to local communities; the neighbourhood has been essential to our identity, and we can only hope that our presence has been a welcome one. While circumstances have dictated our departure, the DTES is forever in our hearts, our collective memory, and our history.

We will continue to support the fight against gentrification in the DTES and beyond, and against all forms of oppression and exploitation, from our new location in Cedar Cottage/Commercial Drive, East Vancouver.

Spartacus itself is a project that has persisted through the decades on the basis of energy and time freely given by members of the collective (over 1000 volunteers over the years) and by our various community members intent on realizing forms of value other than those that can be calculated by the real estate speculators: the value that comes from putting our space, our time, and our collective energy to use in the name of sociability, cooperation, mutual aid, solidarity, learning, reflection, analysis, and confronting mutual challenges. We hope to foster these alternative forms of value by making Spartacus a hub for activism in our new location.

The personal and institutional connections that Spartacus built in its former locale took time. We look forward to learning more about the Cedar Cottage / Drive / Grandview-Woodlands neighbourhood, which is itself experiencing a process of gentrification, and to forging connections with residents, workers, and others who make this area a part of their lives. Several collective members already call this neighbourhood home - and we encourage folks who want to be part of this project to get involved.

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Designer babies, the Woodward’s Effect, and community outside capitalism

An interview with Karen Ward on gentrification in the Downtown Eastside

This is the first in a series of conversations with Vancouver-based anti-gentrification activists. These conversations will culminate in an article with an in-depth look into the effects of gentrification on Vancouver communities and the strategies being proposed to resist and ultimately stop gentrification.

Karen Ward is a DTES resident at the Woodward’s building. She works with multiple Downtown Eastside (DTES) community groups including Gallery Gachet, the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP), and the low-income caucus of the Local Area Planning Process. In this interview, she speaks on how gentrification is destroying the community of the DTES, and why affordable housing is the first step to stopping it.....

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City-Wide Housing March
Saturday July 26th
Meet 138 E Hastings, 1PM

End the evictions, empower the people.
Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish territories

The housing crisis has never been worse in Vancouver – the year 2014 marks the largest homeless population ever recorded in the our city’s history.

The number of Indigenous people and seniors on the streets is rising and the crisis is city-wide. Landlord greed continues to go unchecked, leading to unprecedented evictions and renovictions across the city. Developer land-grabs are the norm, with real-estate profits now off the charts. Indigenous communities, Metis, people of colour, poor and working people, women, LGBT* communities, and low-income families, are the worst affected by this housing crisis.

For years developer-backed housing policies in Vancouver have caused the continuous loss of affordable housing across the city. We need to join together to say no more. The City has the power to regulate demolition permits, withhold renovation permits and to stop gentrification through zoning decisions. We need action now.


  • Adequate and healthy living conditions for all
  • Stop Gentrification in its tracks: protect all affordable neighborhoods in Vancouver
  • Yes to Municipal Rent Control, No to Renovictions: withhold construction and renovation permits for landlords who renovict
  • Build at least 1,000 units of social housing per year in Vancouver, at least equal to the 1980s. We also demand a real definition of social housing at rates low-income people can afford. We demand resident-controlled social housing instead of policed, institutionalized supportive housing
  • End Housing Racism and all forms of tenancy discrimination, including discrimination based on mental health, addictions, citizen status, gender identity and other forms of landlord discrimination
  • Homes not Jails: Funding for housing, not for prison expansion
  • Address the root causes of poverty: low wages, low welfare rates, and housing exploitation


[url= homeless camp: First Nations members issue eviction notice to Vancouver[/url]

Audrey Siegl, of the Musqueam Nation, says her people couldn't stand by and do nothing while the homeless campers, many of whom are native, were kicked out.

"They were going to load up their few possessions that they have and take it to the dump and, the people would be forced out of here or arrested," she told CBC News.

So volunteers moved in, erecting a protest camp alongside the homeless camp that includes a tipi and a longhouse made of evergreen branches.

"Before this was the City of Vancouver, this was​ Musqueam land. It still is," Siegl said.

Siegl says as long as the land's title remains unceded, the homeless and the First Nations protesters have a right to occupy it and the city needs to treat them with respect.

"They're not welcome here with the way that they're doing their business right now," Siegl said.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

It is hilarious how City Hall did the "progressive" thing and officially acknowledged that the City of Vancouver is on unceded Coast Salish land -- and now actual real live Indians are saying, "great! So can we keep this park we've been using for ten thousand years then?"

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..also a reminder of the demo on sat. 26th 1pm meet at 138 E Hastings

Protesters at Oppenheimer Park vow to stay and fight for low-income housing

A group of some 40 people camping at Oppenheimer Park in the Downtown Eastside headed to City Council on Tuesday to negotiate their housing conditions. 

“This is not a camping trip,” said Lawrence Houle, one of the campers, who has been living at the park since last fall. "We need a permanent home, that’s what we are fighting for."

At 9:00 a.m. they arrived at City Hall. As soon as the Council meeting started, they circulated a motion with their demands. Mayor Gregor Robertson responded by saying that it is the provincial government’s duty to provide solutions for housing problems. Robertson also requested the protesters to move to a private meeting with Councillor Kerry Jang and City Manager Penny Ballem.

Before they moved to another room, Audrey Siegl, former resident of the Downtown Eastside and member of the Musqueam Indian Band, repeatedly asked: “Can you stop the eviction notices?” 

“There’s no eviction notice. It is public land, and obviously we need to make sure that the whole community is able to use that land, and that’s our primary concern. Anyone who is on the land right now has access to housing, anyone who needs that help and support can get that,” the Mayor responded.

The discussion heated up, with both parties maintaining their positions.

A couple of hours later, when the meeting with Jang and Ballem was over...


The City of Vancouver had already issued a notice on Saturday. It said that all campers had to remove their tents from the park by early Sunday. That notice was immediately countered by another eviction notice issued by the protesters themselves, some of whom were of Haida and Musqueam descent. They asked the City to remember that they hold the Aboriginal Title for the whole area where the City is based, and that local officials should “cease any attempts to remove people or their belongings” from the park.


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I had been wondering how the Powell Street Festival organizers would handle the tent city in Oppenheimer Park, and they didn't disappoint.

"The Powell Street Festival exists to celebrate Japanese Canadian art and culture, in the historic Japanese Canadian neighbourhood in which Oppenheimer Park is central. The Powell Street Festival organizers wish to assure all that the festival this year will continue on August 1 – 3, 2014 and be a great celebration. However, we acknowledge and respect the concerns of the homeless and community residents in the Oppenheimer Park area, located on unceded Coast Salish territory. For this reason, the Powell Street Festival Society will not use the area of Oppenheimer Park where the protest is taking place and does not support the removal order or the threat of removal of residents in the park in any way.

The Japanese Canadian community has significant ties to Oppenheimer Park – once home to the legendary Asahi baseball team and the centre of a vibrant pre-WWII Japanese Canadian community. During WWII the community experienced the confiscation of their homes and businesses, detention, relocation and internment. As such the Powell Street Festival Society has empathy for the current situation. While we had hoped to find a compromise that respects all park users, this does not appear to be achievable in the time available. We understand that while we have celebrated the Japanese Canadian community in the historically significant location of Oppenheimer Park for the last 37 years, there are many other issues at stake that create challenges for a timely resolution."

I wish I was able to get out to the festival this year. It's a great festival. Great organizers. Great community.

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Tent Village Grows as Eviction Standoff Continues


Catchfire Catchfire's picture

The city has decided to close all facilities in the park which appears to be a move to turn local residents against the occupation.

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..reminder of the demo today sat 26, 1pm meet at 138 E Hastings

COPE calls on Vision to refrain from imminent eviction of Oppenheimer Park homeless tenters


In the wake of the Idle No More movement and the Year of Reconciliation, COPE believes that the city can’t stop at symbolic gestures.

“Recognizing this is indigenous land is not a symbolic act. It must change the way the City treats the land and indigenous people. Park Rangers walking into this tent city, with its important message about inequality and indigenous sovereignty, threatening to use force to arrest people, steal their belongings, and dismantle the longhouse they have built, is totally unacceptable. Recognition without action is hypocrisy,” said COPE Co-Chair Heather Gies.

Twice Vision Vancouver has created new anti-structures bylaws they have used to fine homeless people for sleeping outdoors, and protest camps by groups like the Falun Gong. In 2013, the Vision-led council attempted to increase the fine for homelessness up to $10,000, which was challenged by Pivot Legal Society.

Some of the campers are recent evictees from the York Hotel, and many say they are safer in the camp than in SROs, where bed bugs, overcrowding, and unlivable conditions are the norm. The City of Vancouver says they are trying to find shelter spots, but that provides no long-term stability or security for people without housing, Shelters are not homes, and are not an acceptable replacement for actual affordable and social housing.

The Adams v. Victoria BC Supreme Court decision established that it is unconstitutional to punish people for sleeping outside when there is no adequate housing. Right now in Vancouver, homelessness is at its highest rate in recorded history. There are fewer emergency shelters this year than in past years, and all the winter shelters have been closed. Meanwhile, renovictions are increasing as landlords upscale their buildings in the context of Vision’s gentrification plans for DTES, Grandview-Woodlands and other neighbourhoods.

Rosanne Gervais, COPE’s Aboriginal Caucus Representative said: “The City of Vancouver has not taken steps to protect SRO’s from renoviction and has stepped back its plans to build social housing that is affordable for low-income people. Now they are trying to hide the city-wide homelessness that is a direct result. Until the City of Vancouver takes real actions towards ending homelessness and finds solutions to the problems it has created, it has no business using force to try to hide the problem it refuses to solve.”


The Rise of Philanthro-capitalism: What passes for progressive city politics today[/url]

Ivan Drury wrote:
Urban radicals might take a lesson from the failures of the B.C. NDP who rejected a pipeline but offered no alternative to its economic “common sense.” What, after all, is our alternative to the perpetual real estate development, gentrification, and resource extraction of neoliberalism? If the death of social democracy opens up space for more radical alternatives, then to realize them we need a new historic bloc capable of forming its own common sense, its own common vision of practicable economies, social relations, and individual and collective health. Such a bloc would have to establish its basis not only among the most vulnerable and oppressed, nor only at the left fringes of organized labour or student life, but in a broad assemblage of social groups which are excluded from the neoliberal city. In forming a counter-hegemonic bloc, we must begin from where we find ourselves: with a working class that includes those women, migrants, volunteers, non-capitalist producers, and unwaged workers who produce our social wealth. And we must begin by taking on a living legacy of colonialism that will not be corrected by official acknowledgement or recognition but instead by reparations, sovereignty, and autonomy for Indigenous nations rising.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Thanks for posting this here, Unionist. It's a great article.

It is so often repeated that it may be the tag line of Vancouver: developers own city hall. And if it is with campaign donations that urban capitalists have bought city hall, then it is only logical that campaign finance reforms would divest them of the city. But, what if we think of campaign donations not as buy offs but as expressions of the economic power that animates political parties? A party’s campaign coffers are the political expression of a social bloc composed of different groups. With this view, election campaign donor lists might tell us which social, cultural, and ideological forces crystallize in a political party and also who is excluded from its hegemonic bloc. The problem is not located at the point of transaction between the party and its base but in the political and economic reality they orchestrate. The popular lefty Vancouver slogan “Developers Out of City Hall” points in the right direction but doesn’t account for an urban economy that rests heavily on real estate and the service jobs finance capital supports. It also tends to present city hall as the boss of the urban economy rather than the managerial branch. The solution, then, must go deeper than campaign finance reform. It must develop a politics based on human need rather than the constant growth demands of capital, and that means taking on the business class as a whole and not just its politicians.

A brilliant articulation of what we're up against.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Eviction notices for Oppenheimer won’t solve anything

Last week, the City of Vancouver announced another eviction date for the 250 homeless camper at the Oppenheimer tent city. This is the third official effort by the city and parks board to evict the homeless from Oppenheimer since July. But this time they are seeking a court order, which means that anyone who stays on site goes straight to jail. Fortunately the campers and supporters won a legal deferral of the injunction last week, and this week Pivot Legal Society is in court again to stand up against the the city’s attempt to criminalize homelessness.

Instead of addressing the housing crisis, the city wants to sweep it under the rug. The eviction of Oppenheimer won’t solve anything, because to fight a fire you need water, not more kindling. You can’t fight homelessness with developer subsidies and renovictions.

The city is saying that the park needs to be shut down because it’s unsafe for women. The park, like the society we live in, was unsafe for women long before the tent city became a political issue. Whether it’s in the Downtown Eastside, or elsewhere in Vancouver, or anywhere in North America, nowhere is it safe to be a brown woman or an Indigenous woman.

Evicting Oppenheimer park is not not about safety and it’s not about finding homes for people—it’s about erasing visible homelessness before Vancouver goes to the polls in November. It’s about getting rid of one of the most glaring, political, and visible expressions of the housing crisis.

The thing that Vancouver politicians will never understand is that homelessness is about people’s lives. It’s not about electoral games and talking-points, and it’s not about who can make empty promises and flaunt their wealth for philanthropic causes. Vision Vancouver, the NPA, and the entire colonial political class, with their high wages and secure housing, will never understand the endless displacement that we face as Indigenous people.

As an Indigenous woman, and as someone who is fortunate enough to be part of the Downtown Eastside, I am a witness to the growing inequality of our city. I am aboriginal, I am a woman of colour, I’ve never made a lot of money—in short I join the ranks of what a lot of people would call poor. And now I am part of a generation that is coming to the realization that not only do the elite not represent me, they don’t care about me....

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Evictions are the problem, not the solution

The city’s approach to the tent city has been nothing short of appalling. Since August we’ve had more than 12 meetings with the city, involving parks board, Carnegie Centre, VPD, city manager reps, and mayor reps. These representatives, with all their university education and credentials, have proposed not a single solution. They have proposed no action. They have never come to the table with a single viable offer to us except to tell us that their priority is to get us out of the park as soon as possible, so that life can carry on as normal.

Each week, sometimes twice weekly, we went to the meetings in good faith with our concrete suggestions and our good intentions for finding safe, clean and affordable homes now. The city again and again did nothing. Now, after a period of so called “negotiations,” they’re back to their original behavior of serving us eviction notices.

I would like to address the pitiful offer now being put forward by the city. Renting charter buses and shipping people to shelters is not a solution. Today there are thousands of people who are homeless and living in slum conditions in Vancouver. Even if Vision was proposing temporary shelters for all of them—which they are not—the offer would not be acceptable. Temporary shelters are neither a short-term solution nor a long-term solution. As the campers have said repeatedly, “shelters ain’t the answer.”

In addition to this inadequate number of temporary shelters, the city is saying that they have found a temporary hotel. The building, the Quality Inn, was supposed to be demolished already, but the city will now stand the hotel up on wobbly legs for maybe another two years. A portion of those 120 units will go to the campers at Oppenheimer, and the remaining units will go to those on the years-long social housing wait list. In addition to having the highest homelessness rates in Vancouver’s history, we are also experiencing record waitlists for affordable and social housing. Before it was open, the new social housing building on Howe Street recently had 1,400 on the waitlist for less than 200 rooms....


"The solution, then, must go deeper than campaign finance reform. It must develop a politics based on human need rather than the constant growth demands of capital, and that means taking on the business class as a whole and not just its politicians."

The capitalist system has been in crisis for some time, with the continual collapses of the 90's to the dotcom collapse, 2001,  to the subprime mortgage collapse of 2008 to the possibly final and definitive collapse soon to come, where governments and the central banks have been printing money schemes to continually bail out the banker elites and their energy etc corporations.

This is the basis for the real estate skyrocketing prices and mortgage debts and derivative mortgage backed ponzi scams.

It has been the accelerating prices of real estate that has played so important a role to continue stimulating the gdp without any real economic production, and at the heart of the unaffordability of housing.

It is the finance capitalist system here that is at the core of the problem; the bankers the hedge fund managers, the stock market manipulators ad nauseum, paper pushers creating money and credit and financial assets totally divorced from the system of production which ultimately must be brought back under the control of social organization dedicated to human welfare and planetary sustainability. Reforming the system with the false ideologies of the liberals social democrats and greens is pure distraction from the task at hand! How to regain control of the forces of production, to humanize its technologies, to serve the needs of the people....I await discussions on this essential point!


epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Cops Blink on Tent City Takedown (pics)

Strong camper, supporter, legal observer and media presence at the Homeless Tent City kept Vancouver Police at bay last night. The City of Vancouver had a court order for the VPD to move in and dismantle the three-month-old Indigenous camp and arrest campers as of 10pm, but they held off.

Many of the more than 250 campers have already packed up, but many remain at the site - vowing to defy the eviction order. 

A brief attempt to enter the camp last night just after 10pm by two VPD officers and a fire marshall were met with calls for an immediate wall of supporters linking arms around the camp and the police quickly retreated to their idling  "VPD Mobile Command Unit."...


epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

New Strathcona library includes social housing, despite Vision’s plan

Today, the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Public Library broke ground on a new library in Strathcona. The new VPL branch includes 21 units of social housing for single mothers. Despite positive media coverage, the truth is that the social housing units were built despite Vision Vancouver’s plans for the project.

Each unit of housing is the result of a bitter fight between Vision Vancouver and local housing activists, contrary to Vision’s recent election claims about their willingness to build housing. From the beginning, activists argued that council should add low-cost housing to the project since the Strathcona site is city-owned. Throughout the summer and fall of 2010, activists lobbied for the housing, and included a submission of 1,500 signatures on a petition backing the demand.

Yet on October 7, 2010, Mayor Gregor Robertson and city council voted against the housing in favor of a “stand-alone” library, citing financial limitations and austerity. “We don’t have the money in the drawers,” argued Robertson. “We have nowhere near what we need for housing. We have real limitations and uncertainty in the economy and city books in terms of what we can do, we can’t make a commitment.”...


    Catchfire wrote:

    My theory is that the powers-that-be have been reading's own Tania Ehret, blogger and contributing editor, and using her articles as a radical space hitlst.

    The People's Co-Op Bookstore or the Purple Thistle are even money to be next.


    [url=]Refusing to Jump the Shark, OR: the Thistle was never meant to be an institution.[/url]

    What a beautiful, bittersweet statement. Much love and respect for the folks at Purple Thistle.

    Left Turn Left Turn's picture

    According to one of my friends on Facebook, the Empress Hotel at 235 East Hastings Street has sold for $7.7 Million.

    epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

    Vancouver police and city staff crack down on vendors and homeless in Downtown Eastside

    Vancouver’s Main and Hastings intersection, where two important streets meet in one of Canada’s most impoverished districts, is a hub for residents. This is where the busiest community centre in the city is found, and many social services are located nearby. Usually throngs of people can be seen outside, gathered or passing through.

    But on a recent early Monday morning, the area was noticeably subdued, with only a few residents and shop owners out for a smoke, and construction workers involved in multiple condo developments trying to make their way to work.

    The difference was that it was the second day of a "clean-up" of people in the Downtown Eastside, which is comprised of Chinatown, Railtown, and Gastown. According to the City of Vancouver, the crackdown carried out by the Vancouver Police Department only targets street vendors, and strives to have the least amount of impact on those "survival vendors.”

    Sequel 138, a condo development at Main and Hastings with nine out of 97 units being offered at welfare rate, will be opening soon. It has been speculated that the police’s push to clear people out, which grew stronger in November, is backed by the developers. The sweep has affected more than just those selling wares; it’s also pushing out the homeless, who have nowhere else to stay but under storefronts or in back alleys....

    epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

    Here are Canada’s Top 10 bed bug infested cities

    1. Toronto
    2. Winnipeg
    3. Vancouver
    4. Ottawa
    5. St. John’s
    6. Edmonton
    7. Halifax
    8. Sudbury
    9. Scarborough, Ont.
    10. Calgary