Gentrification in Metro Vancouver

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[url= NDP ignores Metrotown demovictions: Greens[/url]


BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver said the BC NDP are “essentially in dereliction of duty” as the province’s official opposition by failing to speak out on the issue of demovictions in Burnaby’s Metrotown neighbourhood.

“They’re not actually standing up for the citizens they’re supposed to represent,” Weaver said of the NDP, “and, I would argue, for purely political reasons.”

The Metrotown Residents’ Association invited the leader of each provincial party to tour the area on Thursday of last week to get a first-hand look at how hundreds of residents have been forced out of their rental apartments to make way for new high-rise developments approved by Burnaby City Hall, and more are facing the same threat of losing their homes.

Weaver was the only one to accept the offer, and said he has concerns about the speed at which homes are being demolished.

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

hmm. If you share bourgeois notions of property ownership and white picket fence suburban bliss, then why not stay quiet and hope the fuss by the plebs will blow over?

But aren't the Greens - even in BC - also hopelessly infected by this virus?

Basement Dweller

Corrigan is saying he lived in a Metrotown apartment in the 70s and that the building was old then. How does he define old? Most of those buildings were built in the 60s IIRC.

Also, someone is doing damage by pretending to represent the NDP in the comments section.


Interestingly we now have the coalition of Liberals, Greens and the Xian homophobic Burnaby Parents’ Voice called the Burnaby First Coalition trying to ride this issue into office. They however don't seem to understand that Official Community Plans are not binding.  Trying to use the Office of the Ombudsman tells me the opposition to the BCA is still inept. The bolded part below speaks volumes about there level of sophistication. They can't afford to bring a real complaint forward so they instead will waste limited Ombudsman Office resources on a case with no legal merit. 

As for the real housing crisis, I trust the new party to deliver affordable housing as much as I trust Trudeau to overhaul the NEB.


The Burnaby First Coalition says council dramatically changed the overall plan for the city when it put through a zoning amendment in 2010 that would allow the heightened density in its four town centres: Brentwood, Lougheed, Metrotown and Edmonds.

“Consultation should have happened before the increases in density,” said Helen Ward, the chair for the coalition, which did not win any seats on council in the last election. The group has, since then, joined forces with resident and rental-advocacy groups to protest against the loss of the Metrotown apartments, with more than 300 demolished in the three years after 2012.

Ms. Ward said the coalition has chosen to get the ombudsperson’s office involved rather than filing a lawsuit as resident groups with similar complaints elsewhere have done in the past, because “I couldn’t find anyone to cough up any money.”

Ms. Ward said the demolitions around Metrotown are “the most egregious effect” of the zoning amendment, but that other negative effects are coming when all the new development begins.

Her official complaint to the ombudsperson’s office, initiated in May, said Burnaby is approving rezoning applications that do not conform to the official community plan.



Since the 1980s, our governments, along with the developer and real estate sectors, have colluded in the rise in Metro Vancouver prices to levels out of the reach of most of its residents. 

In June 1980, I returned to Vancouver. Not having a job at the time, I looked for shared accomodation. One of the people who interviewed me about sharing his apartment had recently interviewed Jack Poole, the city's largest developer at the time, for research on a play about the Vancouver housing crisis at the time. Although he picked someone else as a roommate, he told me that Poole said the developers' goal was to create an executive city, where only the wealthiest could afford to live. Workers would have to commute from the suburbs. Today that goal has been accomplished, thanks, in part to assistance from government. 

In two articles in the Vancouver Sun, Douglas Todd describes how this has come about. Here are excerpts from the first article.



Canada’s public guardians have failed to protect Metro Vancouver residents from forms of rule-bending and law-breaking that have been significant contributors to city housing becoming gravely unaffordable.

Two of the government departments that have let down city dwellers, basically by not doing their jobs, are Immigration Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency. Although other government departments have also sat on their hands while Metro Vancouver prices have skyrocketed, I’ll focus here on the ways Canada’s immigration and taxation departments have not fulfilled their mandates. And doubts remain they’ll do so in the future. ...

This is not just my contention. It’s the view of many scholars, including Andy Yan, David Ley, Josh Gordon, Elizabeth Murphy and Tom Davidoff; immigration lawyers such as Samuel Hyman and Richard Kurland; housing activists like Justin Fung and Evelina Xia and some opposition politicians and some journalists. These observers have recognized, one way or another, that those responsible for immigration and taxation have been encouraging their staff to look the other way while subterfuge has contributed to housing prices becoming ridiculous.

Such failures happen when politicians insist too strongly on de-regulation and “cutting red tape” and when they are more committed to making it easier for outside wealth to enter the city’s housing market than they are to protecting constituents. For the past three decades, politicians in Ottawa and Victoria have been devoted to economic globalization, relentlessly wooing foreign investment, particularly from Asia. And it’s worked, to the detriment of those hoping to own a home in Vancouver. National Bank of Canada economists estimate almost $13 billion was spent by Chinese investors on Metro Vancouver real estate in 2015 alone. That represents roughly a third of all home sales by volume. It helped cause price surges.

The critics, in various ways, charge that Canada’s immigration and tax officials have failed to catch many abusers of their systems because of underfunding, understaffing and, sometimes, simply fear. How did these two departments let down the residents of Metro? ...

The main dereliction of duty by Immigration Canada has been its refusal, until it was too late, to properly assess the Business Immigrant Program (BIP). Started in the mid-1980s, the BIP has arguably been the most crucial factor driving up Metro housing prices. UBC geographer David Ley estimates it has brought more than 400,000 well-off immigrants to Metro. The first problem with the BIP, say Ley and others, is that it had extremely low standards. It began by requiring an immigrant entrepreneur to invest only $150,000 in a business and hire one Canadian. The U.S., at the same time, was demanding business immigrants invest at least four times more money and hire at least 10 Americans. ... Justin Fung, with HALT (Housing Action for Local Taxpayers), concurs: “We’re practically giving away passports for free, and little benefit.”

In the meantime, Immigration Canada officials have not properly monitored the BIP. Their lax approach went on for decades as wealthy trans-nationals avoided being tested for compliance with even the BIP’s low standards. It turned out BIP migrants as a group paid the lowest levels of taxes in Canada. A forensic auditor for the World Bank ended up called Canada’s BIP “a massive sham. ... [Although the Conservatives ended BIP in 2014,] the federal Liberals are considering reviving a pilot program similar to the BIP. ...

It gets worse. While Canadian passports were being sold at bargain-basement prices, the Canada Revenue Agency has been ignoring another red flag — that many BIP newcomers and other owners of Metro mansions have been reporting strangely low incomes. ... Officials have not wanted to admit to the widespread phenomenon of “astronaut” fathers who leave wives and student children in expensive homes in Metro to return to their homelands to do business — without declaring their offshore assets to Canadian tax officials. ...

And even when a national foreign-assets disclosure tax law was finally brought into effect, it has often gone unenforced. ... In the midst of Vancouver’s escalating housing crisis, in 2014, former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper chopped 262 experienced tax auditors.

One of the first people to publicly expose ongoing tax avoidance by the trans-national elite was former Richmond Mayor Greg Halsey-Brandt. In 2015 Halsey-Brandt directed Postmedia to data showing residents of one of Richmond’s most expensive neighbourhoods, where most of the population is foreign-born, were reporting poverty-level incomes — and thus putting themselves in position to pay virtually no taxes. Another revelation came in the fall of 2015 when statistician Jens von Bergmann and UBC geographer Dan Hiebert independently unveiled census statistics showing high portions of mansion owners in ritzy Vancouver neighbourhoods were declaring almost no income. The figures from von Bergmann and Hiebert showed several neighbourhoods, in which houses were selling in the $5-million to $7-million range, that were generally populated by immigrants, particularly ethnic Chinese. ...

CRA officials had admitted, in internal documents, they were not willing to devote auditors to catching these “highly sophisticated” tax-avoiding schemes by Metro Vancouver mansion owners and others. ‘They were scared,” the source said, “of being labelled racist.’”

In addition, a common real-estate scam has gone largely undetected as a direct result of the failure of Canada’s tax and immigration departments to share their information. Because of the absence of cooperation, many Metro house owners have been avoiding paying capital gains taxes. They have been falsely claiming they are residents of Canada for tax and immigration purposes when they are actually mostly living outside the country and not disclosing their foreign income.



Here are excerpts from the second of Douglas Todd's articles on the Metro Vancouver housing crisis.


Metro Vancouver homes have become unaffordable in part because regulatory loopholes and lax oversight have made it easy for wealthy individuals to manipulate Canada’s legal systems to buy and sell city homes as commodities. ...

Canada’s anti-money-laundering arm, Fintrac, has been largely ineffective, and the B.C. government has for years been sluggish about protecting constituents. Even though B.C.’s real estate industry has been flying high on foreign capital, most Metro residents have been devastated. They cannot deal with how this city’s real estate market has become one of the top three havens, according to the Hurun Report, for the trillions of dollars now being generated in China, to name the largest source.

Such property speculation in Metro has taken place while Canada’s federal, provincial and municipal politicians have, since the 1980s, been heading off on splashy trade missions to solicit foreign investment. As a result, many have had a vested interest in denying the dark side of the globalized forces they have unleashed. ...

Long before the Panama Papers were released in April, federal and provincial authorities were warned Vancouver was a hub for money laundering. The Panama Papers, which revealed how the elite avoided taxes through offshore shelters, reinforced that Metro Vancouver has far more than its share of multimillionaires hiding their global assets. Postmedia reporter Sam Cooper recently reported that the Financial Action Task Force, based in Paris, found Canada has been “non-compliant” with the watchdog’s basic expectations for cracking down on money laundering. ... Canada’s “law enforcement results are not commensurate with the money-laundering risk. And asset recovery is low,” said the Paris-based agency. Vancouver’s “real estate business is exposed to high-risk clients, including politically exposed persons, notably from Asia, and foreign investors.” ...

What’s worse, when Fintrac tries to enforce it’s own rules, lawyers like Christine Duhaime have revealed how it has been hamstrung by the lack of information provided by bankers and realtors. Many have been waving through suspiciously large transactions. Internal reports showed Fintrac reviewed 800 real-estate firms in Canada and found 60 per cent were deficient in their monitoring of potential money-laundering. Almost none of the realtors were fined.

It all brings UBC geographer David Ley, author of Millionaire Migrants, to the disturbing conclusion that Fintrac, as well as the country’s immigration and tax departments, are “silent sentinels, reluctant public gatekeepers of the housing market.” ... “There would seem to be a systematic malaise in institutions whose actions impact the housing market, which extends beyond the silences of the provincial and federal governments. Under-resourced, overly forgiving, unwilling to take on tough tasks: They have all contributed to higher housing prices.” ...

Even with federal politicians’ many displays of passivity, it’s arguable the B.C. government has been more negligent. That includes its long-standing unwillingness to provide data on how much foreign money has been streaming into Metro Vancouver. While virtually ever other country makes data on foreign ownership readily available, the B.C. Liberals and the real-estate industry stubbornly refused to admit offshore speculation even existed, labelling concerned citizens as xenophobic.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong, Housing Minister Rich Coleman and Premier Christy Clark, who have been most responsible for the intransigence, stated last year they had little intention of intervening in what they deem a laissez-faire market. When the B.C. government finally began this summer to release snippets of information about foreign ownership, it wanted voters to believe it had just started collecting the data. But experts said it was there all along. “Foreign money coming in clearly benefits the property developers and realtors who are major contributors to the B.C. Liberal Party,” says Justin Fung, of Housing Action for Local Taxpayers, or HALT.

The B.C. Liberals’ have been painfully slow to act, in part, Fung suggests, because they have taken in more than $12 million in party donations from the real estate sector — including from offshore. ... Last year B.C.’s Rich Coleman, minister responsible for housing, joined Finance Minister Mike De Jong and Premier Christy Clark in saying he had no intention of intervening in what they consider a laissez-faire real-estate market. ...  In fact, unenforced laws are worse than none at all. They give voters the illusion of protection, when there is none. Overlooking regulations is the modus operandi of banana republics, or fake democracies, which are highly dependent on foreign capital.


ETA: The provincial government and its close ally, the real estate industry, have been denying there is a foreign investment problem contributing to making Vancouver one of the most expensive cities to live in the world for more than a decade. 


The B.C. Liberals’ decision, which took effect Aug. 2, to cool Metro’s market by levying a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers amounted to a startling about-face.

It was announced just one year after B.C. Housing Minister Rich Coleman claimed his government “does not have any policy” on foreign buyers. Coleman had argued Metro prices “were pretty reasonable compared to other cities like London, Singapore, Tokyo.”

The tax was also introduced well after Cameron Muir, chief economist for the B.C. Real Estate Association, routinely dismissed polls showing Metro residents believing there was too much foreign ownership.

“The mythology,” Muir said in 2014, “is that there are hordes of investors coming in Vancouver and driving up prices.” ...

In the face of resistance from the development industry, which in recent years has donated $12 million to the B.C. Liberals and frequently dismissed critics as “xenophobic,” how did Metro get to a tax on foreign buyers?

UBC geographer David Ley,  ... who has long tracked house prices in Metro and other “gateway” cities, feels the B.C. government finally felt political pressure to react to the “collateral damage” it has been instrumental in creating by relentlessly wooing Asian-Pacific investors after Vancouver’s Expo 86 world’s fair.  ...

The Angus Reid Institute found nine of 10 city dwellers applaud it. After announcing the tax, Premier Christy Clark’s dismal approval rating jumped seven percentage points, to 34 per cent. Vancouver’s tax on foreign buyers is also catching on in Greater Toronto, where Angus Reid found three of four in that city of six million want it. ...

Why did B.C. finally feel the pressure to follow Hong Kong and Singapore, which have long had regulations to soften the deluge of East Asian capital?

The short answer is that runaway house prices have caused devastation and voter outrage.

Here is Ley’s partial list of the social costs:

“Out-migration of young, difficulty in retaining key employees, overcrowding, homelessness and couch surfing, heavy debt loads, long commutes and traffic congestion, the necessary rise of illegal suites in detached homes, and young adults remaining in the family home into their late twenties. Family reproduction is also affected as the necessity of two wage earners in a family delays or prohibits child-raising.”

At a recent SFU symposium, Mapping the Hedge City: Vancouver and Global Capital, Ley explained it was basically a handful of investigative journalists in Metro who forced the B.C. government, and Ottawa, to finally act. ...

One of the strongest protest movements that has arisen is HALT (Housing Action for Local Taxpayers), which includes many Chinese-Canadians and is led by Justin Fung, whose parents came from East Asia. Fung, along with activist Fenella Sung, attack the self-serving “race-baiting” of real estate developers and politicians who try to silence critics by claiming it’s xenophobic to link housing prices to foreign money. “The vast majority of Canadians who want a fair shot at an affordable roof over their heads simply don’t have a racist bone in their bodies,” Fung said. “It’s never been about the Chinese people as a race, but the fact that money is flowing out of China and finding its way into Vancouver real estate.” ...

And an early factor behind the rising flood of money into Metro has been the way the B.C. government sold off the Expo 86 lands. Bypassing an offer from local buyers, Ley said Social Credit politicians sold the prime waterfront property to Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing. It was a signal for more Asian speculators to follow. Prices would take off dramatically with the arrival of Hong Kong residents fearful of China’s gaining sovereignty over their region in 1997. Left-wing community organizers responded by protesting the razing of houses and trees and increased prices caused by the influx of money from people from Hong Kong (and Taiwan), many of whom continued to work in Asia.

The rapid sell-off of Metro real estate in the past three decades has been exacerbated, Ley says, by scores of taxpayer-funded trade missions that federal and provincial politicians have proudly led to Asia

Their marketing efforts came to a head last fall, when Premier Clark included three real estate firms in what turned out to be a controversial mission to China, with Vancouver NDP MLA and housing critic David Eby describing the move as “mind-boggling.” ...

Household income ratio graphicDuring all this time, however, the most crucial factor driving up Metro housing prices has arguably been Ottawa’s Business Immigration Program (BIP), which was initiated in the mid-1980s.

Ley estimates the BIP has brought more than 400,000 well-off immigrants to Metro

BIP has helped make Metro one of the most sought-after markets in the world for the $52 billion Cdn each year that Chinese buyers now spend on overseas property, Ley said. ...

National Bank of Canada economists estimate “almost $13 billion Cdn was spent by Chinese investors in Vancouver in 2015 alone. This represents roughly one-third of all home sales volume in that year.”



Bill Tieleman comments on the housing crisis: 


Liberals’ Housing Moves Way Too Little, Too Late to Improve AffordabilityYears of inaction mean only the rich can hope to own a home in Vancouver.

Metro Vancouver’s “prime properties” have seen a 36 per cent price increase in the last year, the highest in the world according to Knight Frank’s Prime Global Cities Index. The report, which looks at prices for the top five per cent of properties, found increases here outpaced real estate hotspots like Shanghai, Toyko, Miami, San Francisco or Zurich. ...

And another report from shows that in the past 15 years housing prices here rose 172 per cent, adjusted for inflation, while household income went up by a paltry 10.8 per cent. ...


Most experts recommend spending three to four times your annual income on a home, the report notes. “Turns out you would need a family income of $318,275, a whopping 322 per cent rise over today’s income.” ...

Median detached housing prices would have to be cut in half from their current $1.58 million to even begin to be affordable, using the term almost jokingly – for some upper-middle to higher income families. Everyone else is out of luck.

And if the market did collapse and prices fell 50 per cent, we would be in a complete economic crisis and no one would be buying houses anyway – they would be hoarding canned goods and water.






“The new tax is nothing but the ruling party of British Columbia soliciting votes for the election held next spring. It won’t cool down the enthusiasm of foreign buyers.” — Ou Lyu, in Global Times Chinese newspaper, July 2016 ...

You only need to know two things about Metro Vancouver housing: China’s shadow still looms large, and Premier Christy Clark’s new foreign buyers property tax would take 29.8 years to cut prices to where they were just one year ago.

While the BC Liberal Party surprised all by moving to completely reverse its position and impose a 15-per-cent tax on foreign buyers purchasing Metro Vancouver residential property, little has changed.

First, comparing July sales to August — when the tax started — shows that with a tiny 0.1 per cent drop in the benchmark price for detached houses last month, it would take an unbelievable 29.8 years just to get back to the prices of 12 months ago! ...

That’s because prices jumped 35.8 per cent in the previous year — going to an outrageously expensive $1.58 million. While sales have slowed down since the tax, prices remain high. ...

And the volume of houses changing hands this August after the BC Liberal intervention was still only 3.5 per cent below the 10-year average for that month, though sales were down 26 per cent from August 2015. The situation is so bad, even a major banker is deeply troubled. “This city, this province is experiencing a full-scale affordability crisis. This housing market in Vancouver is simply exhausted. Affordability is a major issue,” CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal said this month.

Second, thinking the tax has stopped the enormous impact of foreign buyers on Metro Vancouver housing prices is to live in a fool’s paradise. After Clark’s tax announcement, China’s largest international property portal — — saw an 8.3 per cent increase of inquiries for Vancouver homes under $1 million. helped generate $14.9 billion in sales leads for homes in Canada in 2015 by partnering with Canadian developers and agents. ...

The reasons why Chinese buyers are flocking here is obvious, says president Matthew Moore. “Canada is seen as safe, stable, tolerant and sophisticated. Canada draws buyers in with its good schools and universities, stable and diverse economy, strong rule of law, outright ownership of real estate, and lack of restrictions on foreign ownership,” Moore told online publication in July.




epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Mayor’s office sit-in nets Demovictions movement its first partial victory against the City of Burnaby: By Zoe Luba

On Thursday March 9th, myself and a group of activists with the Stop Demovictions Burnaby campaign occupied the Mayor of Burnaby’s office. This was not what we had originally set out to do. All we wanted was for the City of Burnaby to enforce the “Burnaby Tenant Assistance Policy” – a policy it had passed in May 2015. Our request was reasonable, and we hoped for an equally reasonable response. But this was not what we got. Instead the City of Burnaby called the police on us and we had to wait hours, occupying the Mayor’s office for leverage, to even talk face to face with councillor Colleen Jordan.

The Burnaby Tenant Assistance Policy, passed in May 2015, states that when a developer applies to demovict a building with six or more rental units, “applicants must submit a tenant assistance plan” including “a minimum of the equivalent of three months rental payment compensation payable to each tenant.” The tenants living in the 105 apartment units at 6380 and 6420 Silver Avenue will not receive three months of rent compensation, despite the City-approved impending demolition of their buildings. We have spoken to these tenants and have heard their stories. Not compensating the tenants at these buildings might first appear like a simple mistake by the city, but it is something that we have to come to suspect is much more sinister. Above all, the city is catering to big development corporations over its own residents.....

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Out of Control: SRO hotel survey finds that market real estate development and low-welfare rates are to blame for record homelessness in the Downtown Eastside

Homelessness in the DTES is a humanitarian crisis. For the first time in recorded history, the number of homeless people in the community escalated to over 1000 in 2016. This means 1 person out of every 18 in the Downtown Eastside is homeless. A major reason for this crisis is the ongoing loss of SRO hotel rooms from the stock of rentals available to people on welfare disability, and pension. Not coincidentally, alongside homeless number, rents in privately owned SRO hotels are also at a record high.


CCAP’s Hotel Report is conducted each year to monitor rent and gentrification in the DTES. In 2016, CCAP surveyed 84 privately owned and operated single SRO hotels. Rent information was gathered from 68 of these hotels with 3,170 rooms or 95% of the rooms in all the privately owned and operated hotels.

The 2016 report found that the average lowest rent has increased to $548, leaving people on welfare with $62 or approximately $2 a day for necessities after rent is paid. CCAP also found 10 SRO hotels with rents above $1,000, with one hotel, the Georgia Manor, renting rooms for  $1,600 / month.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..update on #61 post

Demovicted tenants need City defence, not assistance: Metrotown demoviction delegation shut out of Burnaby policy meeting

On Tuesday, March 28th, Stop Demovictions Burnaby organizers attended the city of Burnaby’s “Planning and Development” Committee Meeting, ready to share their People’s Tenant Defence Policy. Weeks earlier, organizers had occupied the Mayor’s office which led to a meeting with Councillor Colleen Jordan, chair of the Planning and Development Committee, who assured them that the City of Burnaby would review the current Tenant Assistance Policy at the upcoming committee meeting. When asked if organizers and residents could come to that meeting and speak about the problems with the current policy, Jordan replied, “the meetings are public.” But when Stop Demovictions Organizers took Councillor Jordan up on this proposition, and came together to draft a People’s Tenant Defence Policy to present to committee members, Councillors shut them down and turned them away....

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

UN report lays bare the waste of treating homes as commodities

The UN special rapporteur for housing, Leilani Farha, will highlight the devastating human rights impact of society’s tendency to view houses as financial commodities rather than homes for people, in her report to the UN this week.

Farha, who has been UN special rapporteur for housing and human rights since May 2014, has published a hard-hitting report [pdf], which she presents to the UN in Geneva on 1 March. It details the shift in recent years that has seen massive amounts of global capital invested in housing as a commodity, particularly as security for financial instruments that are traded on global markets and as a means of accumulating wealth. As a result, she says, homes are often left empty – even in areas where housing is scarce.

“Shops are closing, restaurants are closing,” Farha has told the Guardian, in an exclusive interview. “You see immediately a loss of vibrancy.”

Farha wants governments around the world to act. She is calling for them to redefine their relationship with private investors and international financial institutions, and reform the governance of financial markets, in order to reclaim housing as a social good, “and thus ensure the human right to a place to live in security and dignity”. Here are some of the report’s key findings.....

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..what a great idea!!!!

Power to the renter: Vancouver Tenants Union hopes to put rep in every building

Organization signs up members for $1 a year to advocate for renters across the city

The Vancouver Tenants Union says its ready to represent renters across the city, and hopes to sign up thousands of members to be a collective voice for residents facing eviction and unfair rent increases.

He, along with other members, formally launched the group at a public event on Saturday at a church in Mount Pleasant, and wore baby-blue t-shirts with an emblem of a fist raised and the words, 'tenant power,' on the back of them....


epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

10 years later: new homeless camp, same site, same problem

Homeless activists set up a new encampment in Downtown Vancouver today. The camp is on the same site where a homeless camp was held exactly 10 years ago. And despite City promises that homelessness would be over by now, it's worse than ever.

The camp is located on a vacant City of Vancouver lot by the American Hotel in the 900 block of Main Street.

Camp supporter Maria Wallstam said the camp is a reaction to the growing number of homeless people in the city and the skyrocketing death toll on the streets. More than 3,600 people were noted in the most recent homelessness count....


The article below explains how the City of Vancouver government has redefined "social housing" in 2014 to mislead the public as to how much low income housing was built. When 30% of the housing is for low-income, 100% of the housing is defined as "social housing". The financial burden for parks, infrastructure and child-care facilities is also being shifted from developers to the city's taxpayers for this "social housing".

In 2014, council changed the definition of “social housing” to mean rental housing where 30 per cent of the units are affordable to households with incomes below Housing Income Limits (HIL). According to B.C. Housing, HIL “represents the income required to pay the average market rent for an appropriately sized unit in the private market.” The 2016 HIL in Vancouver are $38,500 for bachelors, $42,500 for one-bedrooms and $52,000 for two-bedrooms.

Where 30 per cent of the rental units are affordable to people with incomes below the HIL, the City of Vancouver considers 100 per cent of units to be “social housing.” In other words, social housing in Vancouver, by definition, now includes market rentals. Although the 91-page staff report doesn’t include proposed rents for the 25 units, the city’s report does state that “at least 30 per cent (eight) units will be geared to households within incomes below housing-income limits.” There is, however, no guarantee that rents for the remaining 17 social-housing units will have any measure of affordability. In fact, they could be expensive luxury rentals and still fall within the city’s definition of “social housing.”

In addition to not creating true social housing, the city is also shifting onto taxpayers a financial burden that should be borne by developers. This is because the Vancouver Charter and the city’s bylaws exempt developers from paying Development Cost Levies (DCLs) when the land will be used for social housing, as it’s defined by the city. DCLs are an important source of revenue and help pay for things like parks, infrastructure and child-care facilities. On this particular project the developer will be exempted from paying about $155, 570 in DCLs for providing market rentals. However, these various capital projects are still necessary to service the development. Where does the funding come from if not from the developer? You guessed it — taxpayers’ pockets.   

And the fact that the staff report says that these 25 units will ultimately be bought by B.C. Housing, a Crown corporation with the mandate of providing government-subsidized housing for residents of B.C., raises other important questions. The staff report contains no details of this planned purchase. What are the terms of the agreement? How much has B.C. Housing agreed to pay? And why is the developer being exempted from paying DCLs for market rental units that will ultimately be purchased by the provincial government?




The Supreme Court of BC has denied the City of Vancouver an injunction to remove a homeless camp from Main Street city-owned lot that has been vacant for 20 years because it does not meet the requirement for an injunction that the City of Vancouver would suffer irreprable harm if no injunction was granted. The homeless were successful in arguing that their safety would be jepardized if they were forced to leave the lot. 

The city argued that it needed the lot to build social housing - the "social housing" in which developers get increased market price densification in return for adding 30% low-income housing that then is   designated "100% social housing"  (described in the previous post), as well as elimination of developers' responsibility to pay for nearby parks, childcare facilities, etc. instead of the average taxpayer. 

The obvious urgency of developing this "social housing" by the City's developer friends and thus remove the homeless camp is so clear when the City has left the lot vacant for 20 years!

The province’s top court has slapped down an attempt by the city of Vancouver to remove the people living in a tent city at 950 Main Street. Located on a city-owned lot just a few blocks away from Science World, the so-called “Ten Year Tent City” (the name commemorates the ten years since a previous tent city was located at this site) has been home to a few dozen homeless since late April. The city argues that the camp is preventing development of a 26-unit affordable housing complex planned for that very site. ...

But the BC Supreme Court found the city failed to prove that “irreparable harm” would occur if the injunction was not granted.

Caitlin Shane with the Pivot Legal Society supported the camp’s residents and says she’s surprised and encouraged by the court’s decision. “It was really, really encouraging to see the BC Supreme Court directly asking to hear from people who live at the site to hear their stories. The judge was compassionate, and she was willing to listen, and that seems to have made all the difference,” she says. Shane expects the city of Vancouver to file another injunction against the camp, next time bolstered by stronger evidence.

“In the meantime, people will continue to be homeless, people will continue to rely on tent cities for health and safety, and people on the ground will continue to do their best to support them,” she adds.

Back in October, the top court granted the city an injunction against a similar camp at 58 East Hastings. Shane says many of the people removed from that site are now living at 950 Main Street.

“This is not a long-term solution, it’s more of a matter of harm reduction. This is a situation that people have indicated works best for them now.” The city says it is “concerned by the implications of the Court’s decision”, and is reviewing its options.


A multiplicity of factors have contributed to the astronomical rise in housing  and homeless, but much of it began with the federal Liberal policies of the 1990s and continues today withe the current federal Liberal government. For more than two decades under the Liberals and Conservatives, Canada was the only developed country without a national housing policy.  

Every developed country except Canada knows that safe, affordable housing is a critical key to social, physical and emotional well-being.  The list of poor outcomes associated with poor and unaffordable housing is long, and gets longer with every study.  Higher rates of poor health, especially connected to respiratory illnesses and stress-related illnesses, poor school attainment, higher rates of family violence all are directly related to poor housing.  Unaffordable housing forces individuals and families to choose between food and shelter, not filling medical prescriptions, not being able to participate in normal community activities such as children’s sports. ...

Until the end of 1993, Canada did pretty well balancing these three legs of housing provision.  We even won a United Nations commendation for our housing policies.

However, on December 31, 1993, the federal government ended all new social housing programs.  No more Co-ops or public RGI housing, and no federal support for any affordable housing.  Like a slow-moving train-wreck, our housing sector got more and more out of balance, as real shortages of affordable rental housing developed across the country.  This growing imbalance in the rental market was made much worse by changes in the federal tax code which had a very costly impact on rental housing construction.  By the end of the 1990s, only 5,000 rental units were built in the whole nation.  Housing for our lowest income citizens was aging, and some units were lost.  

Making matters worse, thousands of apartment complexes were converted to condos, which were much more lucrative for builders.  Older apartments fell off the market, because rents were too low to maintain the buildings, and age was taking its toll.  In Winnipeg, we welcomed over 100,000 new citizens between 1992 and 2014, but had a net loss of 5,200 apartment units.  Fewer units on the market meant higher rents, which escalated above the rate of inflation.

The loss of affordable market rental units, coupled with the increased costs of new rental construction meant that more and more families sought public RGI housing, or suffered the consequences of not having money for both food and rent.  Food banks proliferated and continue to grow. While Canada and Manitoba tried to keep welcoming refugees, finding housing for newcomers became virtually impossible.  Arriving First Nations people faced the same dilemma.  They came to Winnipeg seeking a good life for their families, but often foundered in the face of poor and unaffordable housing.

It’s time to begin to repair the damage, and the money is there to do so.



The 2017 federal Liberals budget's housing funding plan will only deal with a small fraction of the housing problem that has been building across Canada, and especially in Vancouver and Toronto, for the last two decades under Liberal and Conservative governments. 

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau made housing “the largest single commitment in Budget 2017,” making a start on an 11-year, $11.2-billion spending plan for “a variety of initiatives designed to build, renew and repair Canada's stock of affordable housing, and help ensure that Canadians have affordable housing that meets their needs.” ...

The budget proposes to spend $2.1 billion over the next 11 years “to expand and extend funding for the Homeless Partnering Strategy beyond 2018-19,” with the highest single year’s spending planned for 2021-22 (likely after the next election) at $237 million. Another $202 million over the same 11 years is budgeted to cover the cost of making more federal properties available to affordable housing providers “at low or no cost.” 

Homeless commitment a fraction of need

But the spending pales in comparison to what cities and homelessness advocates across Canada have called on Ottawa to spend. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities had urged Morneau to commit $350 million annually to the government’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy, not the $54 million it got in its first year.

For its part, the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, a non-profit, non-partisan research institute, has estimated that a National Housing Strategy would need something closer to $43.7 billion to put an end to homelessness in Canada — about four times Morneau’s commitment.


Mr. Magoo

The 2017 federal Liberals budget's housing funding plan will only deal with a small fraction of the housing problem that has been building across Canada, and especially in Vancouver and Toronto, for the last two decades under Liberal and Conservative governments.

At this point, Vancouver and Toronto are the "Tag Heuer" and "Rolex" of Canadian cities, housing-wise.

If you need to know the time, a Timex watch will tell you.  If you need a roof over your head, a roof somewhere other than Vancouver or Toronto will keep you dry.

I'm not discounting the idea that housing costs in those two cities have relevance, but given that they're only two cities out of lots more, I think the best reason to include them in calculations is to push the average closer to "unaffordable".  They're what would be called in statistics "outliers".

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Mr. Magoo wrote:

The 2017 federal Liberals budget's housing funding plan will only deal with a small fraction of the housing problem that has been building across Canada, and especially in Vancouver and Toronto, for the last two decades under Liberal and Conservative governments.

At this point, Vancouver and Toronto are the "Tag Heuer" and "Rolex" of Canadian cities, housing-wise.

If you need to know the time, a Timex watch will tell you.  If you need a roof over your head, a roof somewhere other than Vancouver or Toronto will keep you dry.

I'm not discounting the idea that housing costs in those two cities have relevance, but given that they're only two cities out of lots more, I think the best reason to include them in calculations is to push the average closer to "unaffordable".  They're what would be called in statistics "outliers".

I'm sory you cannot simply dismiss the Canada-wide housing problem with a cavalier comment that Vancouver and Toronto are outliers.  Furthermore, with populations of 6.42 million (Toronto) and Vancouver (2.46 million), these cities represent 24.7% of Canada's 35.85 million residents, hardly insignificant.

The housing situation in Vancouver (and Toronto) is made worse by their astronomical housing costs. However, the situation across this wealthy country is dire, with the failure of successive federal Liberal and Conservative governments to deal with the problem in the last thirty years to deal with the problem being one of the most important contributing factors. Because the article is in the British Columbia section, I focused on what is happening in Vancouver. However, the article both you and I quoted contains a statement on the inadequacy of the Liberals housing investment with reference to Canada, not simply Vancouver, that you conveniently ignored, namely:

For its part, the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, a non-profit, non-partisan research institute, has estimated that a National Housing Strategy would need something closer to $43.7 billion to put an end to homelessness in Canada — about four times Morneau’s commitment.

Furthermore, my previous post (#69) refers to the dire situation of housing in Winnipeg, not Vancouver or Toronto, to illustrate the problem. Winnipeg's housing prices are certainly not high, unless your attitude is 'let them eat housing'.

The loss of affordable market rental units, coupled with the increased costs of new rental construction meant that more and more families sought public RGI housing, or suffered the consequences of not having money for both food and rent.  Food banks proliferated and continue to grow. While Canada and Manitoba tried to keep welcoming refugees, finding housing for newcomers became virtually impossible.  Arriving First Nations people faced the same dilemma.  They came to Winnipeg seeking a good life for their families, but often foundered in the face of poor and unaffordable housing.

It’s time to begin to repair the damage, and the money is there to do so.




The following article further illustrates that the housing situation across the country is severe and the lack of sufficient government funding for affordable housing is a major contributor to the problem. 

It was not until after the 1960s that, in Canada, "homeless" came to mean the "unhoused" versus those simply living in poor-quality housing. Previously, the "homeless" was a general term applied mostly to transient men with no family ties, such as the migrant workers who travelled by freight hopping during the Great Depression.

Homelessness remained a minor concern as long as extremely cheap accommodation was available in 'skid row' rooming houses or flophouses located in the poorest parts of most major cities. Even the most destitute could find some form of housing, even if its quality was abysmal.

At the end of the Second World War in 1946, the federal government created the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to make mortgages and home ownership more accessible to people and organizations. The surplus generated by the CMHC was used in the 1980s to fund non-profit, Aboriginal, and rent supplement housing.

However, following changes to Canada's National Housing Act housing act in 1996 to give the CMHC "more flexibility", it was able to directly fund social housing and its role in supporting new and existing affordable housing diminished. Today the CMHC still exists, and its annual surpluses ($7.6 billion in 2006) raises questions as to why some of this money cannot be spent on new housing initiatives.

About 20,000 social housing units were created every year following the 1973 amendments to the National Housing Act. Starting in the mid-1980s, the federal government initiated a series of cuts in funding for national housing programs. While accurate statistics on the homeless population are hard to gather, it is the general consensus that from the 1980s onwards the number of homeless increased considerably.

Despite Canada's economy this trend continued, and perhaps even accelerated in the 1990s. For example, in Toronto admissions to homeless shelters increased by 75% between 1988 and 1998. After 1993 the national affordable housing program initiated in 1973 was cut and Canada's focus in addressing homelessness in the 1990s was to create more homeless shelters and emergency services A decade later in 2003 the federal government resumed spending on housing investment at $2.03 billion, a 25% decline from 1993 levels of $1.98 billion when adjusted for inflation (Laird 2007:15).

On December 19, 2006 Prime Minister Harper announced social policies with $526 million of funding to tackle poverty and homelessness in Canada. The Homelessness Partnering Strategy received $270 million and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation received $246 million to refurbish and renovate affordable housing, as well as to improve access for homeless people to various services and supports such as health and substance abuse treatment programs. Activists protested at Human Resources and Social Services Minister Diane Finley's offices in Ottawa.

The first Canadian national report card on homelessness was compiled by the Canadian Homelessness Research Network (CHRN) and the National Alliance to End Homelessness in 2013.


Why people become homeless is a complex question and the answers are as unique as each individual's history. People become homeless by many different paths; however, the most common reasons are "inability to pay rent (63%), conflict or abuse (36%), alcohol or drug use problems(10%)". Other factors can include mental disorders, foster care exits, exiting from jail or hospitalization, immigration, rising housing costs and decreased rent controls, federal and provincial downloading of housing programs, and low social assistance rates.

While the causes are complex, the solutions to homelessness may be simple: "Homelessness may not be only a housing problem, but it is always a housing problem; housing is necessary, although sometimes not sufficient, to solve the problem of homelessness." Policy changes are often criticized for punishing the poor instead of trying to solve the underlying problem.

Lack of low-income housing

While in 1966 30,000 new low-income housing units had been built across Canada, this had fallen to 7,000 in 1999. In the city of Calgary, with one of the most acute housing shortages, only 16 new units of rental housing were built in 1996.


The 1950s and 1960s also saw an international movement towards deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, moving them out of asylums and other facilities, and releasing them into the community. Studies found that the vast majority of those who had been placed in asylums could be healthy and productive members of society if placed in the community and provided with the proper care and medication.

Thus over these decades the number of people confined to mental institutions fell dramatically from just under 70,000 to about 20,000. However, while great savings were made by shutting down empty institutions much of this money was absorbed by general government funds, and did not make it into community care.

No assurances were made that those discharged had access to and were taking the medication they needed. While some of those discharged did integrate with the community, a significant number, estimated at around 75%, did not. Many of these individuals became homeless. Today up to 40% of homeless have some sort of mental illness.

Justice system and homelessness

In a paper published in 2010, York University professor, Stephen Gaetz, argued that, "[p]risoners who are sentenced or who are awaiting trial often lose their jobs and housing, and without support, wind up in homeless shelters and drop-ins upon release . . . When prisoners become homeless, their chances of reoffending increase."

In 2005 Alberta initiated a three-year program offering an "alternative to sending people to jail or helping them when they are released." Alberta's Pathways to Housing program, which includes about $7 million in provincial money, has been helping homeless Calgarians who have been in and out of the corrections system due to unpaid tickets for petty crimes.

Poverty in Canada

Poverty remains prevalent with certain groups in Canada. The measurement of poverty has been a challenge as there is no official government measure. Some groups, like the Canadian Council on Social Development and the National Anti-Poverty Organization, believe the low-income cut off published by Statistics Canada is applicable as a poverty measure regardless of whether its intent or designation is to be one. They have argued, that as it stands, the LICO is the best measure available that accurately measures a relative poverty rate. The LICO fell to a near-record low of 9.5% in 2006, down from a recent high of 16.7% in 1994. 

In the 2005 census, 702,650 Canadians were considered to be at-risk for homelessness in that they spent more than 50 per cent of their household income on shelter. Lack of income security combined with the lack of affordable housing creates the problem of "hidden" homelessness. The "hidden homeless" may actually fall back and forth between homelessness and being housed, making the problem of homelessness much larger than that identified in street or shelter counts.

Cuts to Social Assistance (welfare)

In the late 1990s, under Finance Minister Paul Martin, large cuts were made to transfer payments to Canada's provinces. At the same time, Canada removed a long-standing requirement of each province and territory to provide a livable rate of social assistance to all those in need. This led to a series of cuts to welfare rates and tightened eligibility rules, with many provinces competing with each other to offer the lowest assistance so those in need would leave. Alberta even offered bus tickets for welfare recipients to leave the province. In 2002, B.C.'s newly elected Liberal government introduced welfare reforms which in the coming years removed tens of thousands from that province's welfare rolls. All of this has had the effect of leaving thousands of people without the means to pay for even the most modest accommodation, resulting in many Canadians having no home and thus relying on homeless shelters or else sleeping outside


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Low-income residents and community groups turned out in force to oppose 105 Keefer condo project, pressure Vancouver City Council to defer decision: By Chinatown Concern Group & Chinatown Action Group


In honour of this fight The Volcano is publishing a selection of speeches made at the 105 Keefer rezoning hearing. There were many many powerful, personal testimonies, and sharp anti-gentrification and anti-colonial speeches made at Vancouver City Hall over these three hearing dates. We think this selection captures the main ideas presented, reveals the importance of this moment in Chinatown history, and demonstrates the power of this community.

The unity of Chinese elders and youth, brought together from throughout Vancouver in defense of Chinatown as a cultural and historic centre to fight for, is a powerful grassroots political force. Perhaps the most significant part of the mobilization against 105 Keefer will prove to be the power of this united group as they fight against the combined forces of capitalism, colonialism, and white supremacy. Regardless of the outcome of this hearing, an intergenerational working-class Chinese resistance is mobilized and will change the future of Vancouver. – The Volcano.

The Speeches


In Maple Ridge, a temporary homeless shelter has been closed and shelter residents have been "hit with pipes, run off the roads with their bicycles. Smoke bombs thrown into the shelter to flush people out" with a vigilante group play a role in fostering this. The shelter manager fears for her safety. The Mayor went into hiding when informed of threats against her because of her support for the shelter. CBC's The Current podcast url below in addition to its written report below provides more information on this horrific situation.

The podcast at the url at the url at the bottom of the post mentions Ivan Drury, an activist from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, who has helped organize a tent city in response to the closing the shelter but also faces intimidation himself. The city has now started legal action to seek an injunction to remove the tent city. Drury notes that their are 70 tent cities across BC because of the housing crisis now. 

Why haven't the police arrested anyone when threats and physical intimidation against the shelter resident, the shelter manager and the mayor have become the new normal in Maple Ridge?

I think its time to start organizing and publicizing across the province and Canada against what is happening in Maple Ridge, because if the vigilante types get away with this, it will almost certainly spread elsewhere.


Last month, Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read went into hiding after the RCMP warned her there was a credible threat to her safety. They have not disclosed whether the threat is related to this issue, but the mayor has been the target of anger from Maple Ridge residents who take issue with her support of the homeless in her community. 

The closing of a temporary homeless shelter in Maple Ridge, B.C., has heated up a contentious debate over how to address homelessness and addiction in the community. 

The shelter was set up in an old mattress store as a stop-gap measure while the municipal and provincial governments tried to come up with a longer term solution.  The shelter manager says the conditions are not adequate.

'I don't know how people can turn their backs on the most vulnerable members of their own community.'- Ash, shelter manager

"You can see the walls don't go to the ceiling. There's not really anywhere to have deep conversation. There's nowhere to call your dad. Or to cry. Let your guard down," says Ash, the shelter's manager.

"Every day. It's awful. I wouldn't do it, I couldn't do it. It's terrible." 

Ash — whose last name we have agreed to withhold because he fears for his safety — says that residents of the shelter have been attacked.

"Cars have been keyed. People hit with pipes, run off the roads with their bicycles. Smoke bombs thrown into the shelter to flush people out," he says.

"I think it's been disgusting. I don't know how people can turn their backs on the most vulnerable members of their own community."  

But other residents of Maple Ridge say they are fed up with the drug use they associate with shelters like these. 

'Every day we are cleaning up needles, drug packets.'- Maple Ridge resident Ramona Stimpfl

Ramona Stimpfl's condominium is located between the homeless shelter and a tent city that sprang up last month in a nearby city park. 

"Every day we are cleaning up needles, drug packets," she points out. 

Maple Ridge is a community of more than 75,000 people about an hour's drive east of Vancouver. The numbers of homeless is increasing across Metro Vancouver. A recent count showed a 30 per cent increase over the numbers in 2014. 

The problem is complicated by the high cost of housing, lack of addiction treatment spaces and treatment for the mentally ill, not to mention the opioid crisis that has gripped the region.

Eva Bardonnex is one of the people living in a tent city. 

She first found herself homeless in January 2015. When the house she was living in was sold, she had nowhere to go and ended up living at the river.  She found housing after living at another tent city camp in Maple Ridge, but was kicked out two months ago after being accused of having too many visitors and not going to counselling. 

Bardonnex is homeless once again, but she says the tent city is better than living at the river. 

"At the end of the day we don't go to the community and ask if we locate a cancer facility in their backyard. They need housing and health-care supports," says Read. 

"As a human being, I've never backed away from these issues — may not be politically expedient. At the end of the day, I have to put my head on the pillow instead of being concerned about being re-elected." 

"At the end of the day we don't go to the community and ask if we locate a cancer facility in their backyard. They need housing and health-care supports," says the Mayor Nicole Read. 

"As a human being, I've never backed away from these issues — may not be politically expedient. At the end of the day, I have to put my head on the pillow instead of being concerned about being re-elected."

Basement Dweller

I just read on Twitter about an apparent mass renoviction in the Brow of the Hill neighbourhood in New Westminster. The building is called The West Court and has 54 units. I don't know any of the people involved so I don't know anything else. They are very near me, though. Look under #newwest for more details, if you wish.

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Vancouver Housing Crisis ‘Worse on Virtually Every Level,’ Says Former UN Investigator

It’s been 10 years since Miloon Kothari, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, visited Vancouver. He was back in town last week to receive an honourary Doctorate of Laws from Simon Fraser University.

While in town, Kothari attended a rally in support of residents of the Balmoral Hotel. Residents of the single-residence occupancy hotel were recently ordered to leave after the City of Vancouver found it a risk of collapse. He also stopped by the tent city at 950 Main St.

Having helped coordinate Kothari’s site visits back in 2007, I was pleased to interview him during this trip and hear his reflections on the housing situation in Vancouver today. Below are edited excerpts from that conversation.....