Excess of luxury housing is suffocating Vancouver: An open letter to Donald Trump

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Dear Mr. Trump,

It has come to my attention that you were in Vancouver this week to announce your new high-end hotel / condo tower in Coal Harbour, near where I work. My fellow citizens and I decided not to picket your event. Instead, I opt for polite correspondence, to respectfully inform you that we are sufficiently supplied with luxury condominiums at present and require no further units. We'll call if we're running low.

Plus, there is a lien on the place. Just ask the original inhabitants.

As you surveyed our city, a national report on the State of Homelessness was released that found every year some 200,000 Canadians find themselves without an address. Others are driven into debt and poverty by astronomical rents and high property prices.

You must know the urban market into which you are investing is bounded by the Pacific, a wall of mountains and an international border. Every square foot is finite and commodified. Every human inhabitant is held fast by the forces of gravity and capital.

We are fish. This is our barrel. Put down the gun and walk away.

The more you house the transnational très riche, the more you un-house Vancouver's poor and working class residents. History is replete with the political consequences of ignored masses.

An excess of luxury housing is suffocating my city.

You are also evicting culture. My band practices at 1396 Richards, a rehearsal space with dozens of other musicians, some of whom have been there since the 1980s. It is slated for demolition to make way for 42 story condo tower -- not yours, but one like it.

The Commercial Drive area is the traditional home of the left, indigenous people from across Turtle Island and communities from around the world. It is to be bookended on its north and south by yet more monoliths of glass and steel. The gentrifying tendrils of high-end boutiques are already creeping down the Drive, strangling local businesses.

The Downtown Eastside is surrounded. Armies of speculative investors are massing at the gates. The DTES is a bastion, where the under rug swept, marginalized and addicted have banded together to make a last stand for their rights as human beings. Defiant social demands are forged in the crucible of its streets -- the InSite safe injection site was born there. But the forces of gentrification have established beachheads on all sides. A noose of upwardly mobile urban living tightens a few blocks each year, threatening to squeeze out the residents. An up-scale bistro provides the genteel diner with a front row seat to the spectacle-behind-glass of an entire postal code served with a notice of eviction.

Perhaps you have taken your repast there.

"But these are not my buildings!" you will protest. Indeed, many are trumpeted by a noted local gadabout and patron of the arts, who we would thank you to consider taking with you permanently back to New York, as your next apprentice.

I write you this, Mr. Trump, because you have cultivated yourself as a brand. You are a symbol of the social cleansing that is ravaging cities across North America. The silhouette of your ill-haircut foreshadows the cultural wasteland that will be left behind -- an airless moonscape of Louis Vutton and khaki. You have appointed yourself celebrity spokesmodel for a bourgeoisie succumbed to sociopathy.

Be still your wrecking balls.

Perhaps a few may appreciate your planned obelisk to the ascendance of market forces. But the rest see it for what it is -- the construction of one more giant head on our doomed Easter Island by the Salish Sea.

Your brand is an ill fit for the threatened Vancouver I love.

You're fired!

Sincerely, Garth Mullins.  


Garth Mullins is a writer, long time social justice activist and three-chord propagandist living in East Vancouver. You can follow him @garthmullins on Twitter. Read his other recent commentaries on rabble.ca here.

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