Mount Pleasant property owners fight to defeat social housing at Broadway and Fraser

June 23, 2010

Vancouver city council will hear from the public this Thursday before deciding on the final approval of social housing at the intersection of Broadway and Fraser. The 11-storey project involves 103 units of social housing and 24 market rental units, to be operated by the Vancouver Native Housing Society. The project was formed under the previous NPA council of Sam Sullivan as part of the 12 sites to be built by the province, promised in an agreement between the city and the province in 2007.

Last month, after years of broken promises (construction on the sites was supposed to start no later than 2008), the provincial government announced that funding would be made available for the 12 sites, plus two additional sites. However, rather than putting forward dedicated funding for the sites as promised, the provincial government will now be using the money gained from the destruction and sale of social housing at Little Mountain, even while the case for demolishing hundreds of positive units at Little Mountain hinged on the guarantee of a one-for-one construction of new sites elsewhere in the city, not sites already promised in years past.

Now, one of the fourteen sites is in danger of either elimination or downsizing, even as Vancouver experiences a major housing crisis.* The project at Broadway and Fraser is being met with resistance from property owners in the Mount Pleasant area. Residents have formed a group called Mount Pleasant Neighbors, unified on the principle that “utilization of the 12 sites to the best advantage of their surrounding communities, would in fact involve a significant reduction in the number of units, not an increase.”

Last night (June 22), Mount Pleasant Neighbors sent a group to speak at City Hall. While some of the group’s members argued directly against the presence of poor people in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, citing negative impacts on property values and allegedly “unmanageable” increases in crime, some members alluded instead to the well-being of the future residents themselves. One member of Mount Pleasant Neighbors, Megan Rider, argued that the project would “stigmatize” low-income residents, although the concern about stigmatization quickly become a threat to stigmatize: “forget it, there’s no way we’re going to support supportive housing, because council is not listening to what’s important for the neighborhood.”

Mount Pleasant Neighbors hope to speak for the community as a whole by relying on the appearance of consensus around “what’s important for the neighborhood,” as implied in the generic title of the group itself. This framing overlooks that more than 70% of the future residents at Broadway and Fraser already identify as residents of Mount Pleasant, many of who currently use the Broadway Youth Resource Centre (BYRC will be housed on the first two floors of the new development). It also ignores that, in spite of increased gentrification, Mount Pleasant continues to be a progressive neighborhood of renters, low-income and working-class Vancouverites, not property owners with free time for conservative nimby politics. It is for this reason that Mount Pleasant will be part of the solution to the housing crisis, not part of the problem.

To voice your support for housing at Broadway and Fraser, please register to speak at City Council on Thursday, June 24th, 7:30pm. For registration, contact Terri Burke at 604 871 6399 or e-mail For city staff’s summary of the project proposal, see here:

*The Streetohome Foundation estimates a current low-income housing gap of almost 4,000 units in Vancouver proper. Metro Vancouver reports detail major housing shortages, calling for the immediate construction of 4,700 new affordable housing units per year.


Housing activists criticize provincial government housing announcement

May 26, 2010

|| Attention all News Editors, for immediate release ||


May 26 2009, Vancouver – In the coming weeks, activists are hoping to place emphasis on the government’s failure to provide solutions to the housing crisis in Vancouver. In a recent announcement to contribute $205 million to social housing in Vancouver, the provincial government is seeking to re-package its current broken promises as “new” housing commitments, according to Vancouver Action activist Nathan Crompton. “The promise for these specific sites was made in an agreement between the city and the province in 2007, and construction was supposed to start in 2008. How on earth are they framing this as a ‘new’ commitment?”

Dave Diewert, of Streams of Justice, stresses “3,200 units of social housing were promised for completion prior to the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games. When these 14 sites are finally constructed, the overall promises will still be broken because the Olympic Bid Book put our government on the line for 800 new units of social housing per year, which itself is meager in a city where there are up to 4,000 new condo units constructed per year.”

The completion of the promised buildings will be financed mostly by the sale and redevelopment of Little Mountain housing. Lauren Gill, of Community Advocates for Little Mountain (CALM), criticizes what she calls a “government shell game”. “The province’s needless destruction of Little Mountain last year caused the loss of hundreds of units of affordable housing, all destroyed for the benefit of private developer Holborn. It is absolutely scandalous that the money from the destruction of Little Mountain will now be retroactively funneled into a provincial housing initiative that was already promised years ago.”

Lauren Gill adds: “The current model is to sell off existing social housing units, like at Little Mountain and the Olympic Village, in order to construct some mostly-hypothetical units elsewhere. That is not a workable strategy. It’s not workable because of how fast low-income people across the city are being evicted for market up-scaling and rent increases. The strategy results in an overall loss of affordable options, giving the developers the keys to the city.”

In addition to the $205m from the provincial government, $20m will be provided for construction by private donors and developers. Tristan Markle, of Vancouver Action, says, “it’s offensive that the very same people causing the problem are being credited with providing the solution. Real-estate tycoons and property speculators are creating a citywide housing crisis by driving up existing property values and pushing people out the bottom. Yesterday these same millionaires donated a small fraction of their profits to distract from their culpability. But this inadequate response shows, above all, that the policy of relying on developers and their speculator networks to solve the housing crisis they created has come to an end. We need new, neighborhood-based leadership.”

Media Contacts:


Tristan Markle, Vancouver Action (Van.Act) 778-836-9877

Nathan Crompton, Vancouver Action (Van.Act) 778 628 6252

To coordinate interviews with DTES residents:

Harsh Walia, DTES Women’s Centre, 778-885-0040

download PDF of press release here: Housing Press Release MAY26


May 14, 2010


download PDF of pamphlet here: theflyer5-2

False Promises on False Creek

May 10, 2010

Mayor Gregor Robertson’s recent homeless count shows a 12% increase in homelessness since 2008, the year of his election to office. While Gregor ran on a platform to end homelessness, he and the Vision caucus have responded to this increase with the unaccompanied strategy of millions of dollars for increased policing. Now, as of April 20, the vast majority of the promised low-income units in the Olympic Village are being handed over to the police and other “essential” City workers.

During the 2008 election campaign, Gregor and Vision smeared their opponents for not hiring extra police officers and for being soft on crime [1]. This strategy included criticizing mayoral opponent Peter Ladner for having once voted against a Police Department budget increase earmarked for additional street cops under Vancouver’s Project Civil City.[2] Gregor’s rapprochement with Project Civil City was a forewarning, because since taking power his police department has been circulating Vancouver’s poor population through the jails daily, with endless charges for petty offenses introduced under the quota-enforced rules of Civil City – offenses like jaywalking, spitting, unlicensed pets, and street vending.

The VPD’s 2008 Annual Business Plan projected a 20% increase in charges falling under Project Civil City and the Safe Streets Act dealing with “street disorder.”[3] To meet the staffing demands of this new “results-based” approach, whereby results are pre-determined through the enforcement of ticketing quotas, Gregor has hired 100 extra cops, giving an extra $13 million to the VPD in 2009 alone.[4] Now, in order to house these new cops, Gregor has voted for a staff recommendation that eliminates all promised dedicated low-income social housing in the Olympic Village.[5]

Gregor has announced that his plans would “honour our commitment to affordable housing in the Olympic village.”[6] We can navigate past this lie by looking at the original plans themselves. Until 2006, the city’s Official Development Plan (ODP) for the Olympic Village was for roughly 400 units of low-income social housing. In other words, 33% of the total units at the village were for the homeless and those at risk of homelessness.[7] This ODP established a three-way breakdown for the overall project: 1/3 social housing (“deep core need”), 1/3 affordable housing (“shallow need”) and 1/3 market condos.[7]

Those commitments were then reduced under Mayor Sam Sullivan. In March of 2007, city council approved a reduction from the promised 66% non-market down to 20% non-market, represented by the 250 units now familiar to journalists and the public. Those 250 units were to be divided three ways: 40% “deep core” social housing, 40% “shallow need” affordable housing, 20% low-market housing. In other words, the original 33% for low-income social housing was reduced to 8%.[8]

With council’s recent reduction, half of the 250 will now rent for market rates. Most importantly, the 33%-cum-8% low-income element has been reduced to almost 0%. The staff recommended that zero units be dedicated low-income units (“deep core”), but due to a last-minute amendment forced through by housing advocates, there will be “some” deep core units mixed into to meager 126 non-market units, although zero parameters have been set for this token amount.

Gregor’s campaign promise was to End Homelessness. Without any clarification of a plan, or even a definition of what “End” means as a political terminology, what results is a deferral to the barbaric strategies of imprisonment and displacement that are already systematic in the city’s rapidly gentrifying downtown eastside. As his Olympic housing legacy, the mayor is eliminating social housing from the Olympic Village and handing those units over to those tasked with enforcing the gentrification laws themselves: the VPD and their legacy of Project Civil City. A partnership is at play, since while Gregor facilitates gentrification through zoning policies like the recent Height Review process,[9] the police act on the ground as the literal foot soldiers of gentrification, driving the poor into the institutions and prisons, or – though harassment and impoverishment – out of the city altogether. In each case the way is paved for the settlement of the property-owning classes who would rather suffer themselves than recognize equality as an active concept for our time.

A rally is planned for May 15 at the Grand Opening of the Olympic Village. “False Promises at False Creek”, see more here:

article by N. Crompton


[1] For an example, click “Crime” at Vision Vancouver’s 2008 campaign website:

[2] ‘Ladner vows to get tough on crime’, The Province, November 1, 2008

[3] VPD Business Plan 2008:

[4] ‘Budget 2009: Police big winners, arts and culture take back seat’, City Caucus blog, March 23, 2009

[5] The decision was based on the recommendations of the following city report:

[6] Frances Bula, ‘Olympic Village to cost city another $32-million’, The Globe and Mail, April 21, 2010

[7] ODP, approved Mar 1 2005, prior to NPA amendments, with accompanying Financial Strategy Report:

[8] ODP (2007 update) with NPA amendments, here:; see also the following report:

[9] ‘The new gentrification package for Vancouver’s downtown Eastside’, Rabble, January 20, 2010

False Promises on False Creek

May 5, 2010


April 23, 2010

After broad public pressure and a petition by shelter residents, as well as direct actions planned in the lead-up to Central Shelter’s April 20th closure, the provincial government has announced that it will provide funding to keep the Central Shelter open. Funding will also be extended to two other shelters (First United and New Fountain).

The remaining four shelters in Vancouver are scheduled for closure on separate dates between April 23rd and April 28th. As a result, about 200 people will be evicted from their only shelter. VanAct and members of the Citywide Housing Coalition are currently mobilizing shelter residents for a collective response to the government’s barbarous and humilitating agenda.

BC Housing has said it will house residents of the four remaining shelters, but not the hundred of street homeless turned away from those shelters due to lack of space*. However, much of the limited housing provided is extremely inadequate, consisting of bug-infested SROs (10 foot x 10 foot single-person rooms). Two dozen SRO buildings were recently purchased by the Province.  Of the numerous affordable housing promises recently broken, only one has until now stood intact: the promise to purchase and renovate these two dozen Vancouver SROs. However, in order to house residents of the four closing shelters, the government has had to break its last promise and halt planned SRO renovations.

The future of these decrepit unrenovated building is also at risk. Developer Bob Rennie, who meets regularly with Minister Coleman, has stated, ʺmy bet is that the province will maintain this housing in place until 2010 and post‐Winter Olympics and then start to decentralize this housing to other areas and sell off or rebuild the sites.” Newly available downtown properties would quickly be purchased by developers like Holborn and Concord to build unaffordable condos. The consequence would be not only the construction of unaffordable units, but the general increase in overall property values and thus the introduction of an even stronger impetus for existing slumlords to close their affordable buildings and convert to high-end units, such as has already happened to three privately owned SRO buildings surrounding Woodward’s at Hastings and Abbott.


*The recent Homeless Count shows a 12% rise in homelessness since 2008


April 14, 2010

Shelters that house more than 600 people throughout Vancouver are set to close in the coming weeks. Organizers, including shelter residents, are planning to organize a Tent City for those displaced as a result of the closures. A petition written by shelter residents of the Aboriginal Central Shelter (planned for closure on April 20) is currently circulating, with the demand that affordable housing be built immediately and that shelters remain open in the meantime. A recent article, published in the broadsheet of the Vancouver Media Co-op, quotes organizer and shelter resident Stuart Fraser: “The cost of decent housing is ridiculous. This is my home – it’s not the best home, but it’s home. We’re going to try to stay here – otherwise we’re going to the parks.” In the coming weeks, members of Vancouver Action will be helping in the effort to mobilize shelter residents.

Tent City at a Glance

February 23, 2010

This piece is a collection of thoughts, stories, meanings and critiques expressed by the supporters of Tent City. Keep in mind no one speaks on behalf of the entire community.

The money has been spent on the Olympics, now what?

“The government’s proven its ability to spend money and do things quickly when it feels the rush. So we’re asking why not view the issue of homelessness in the same way you view sports. They’re running a deficit but it doesn’t mean there’s no money they can find to build homes. The provincial government has $250 million set aside in a housing reserve that they’re not spending.”

– Maxim Winther of VanAct!

How does Tent City contrast the City of Vancouver?

“Here you’ve got privileged people working in the interest of oppressed peoples whereas outside of Tent City you’ve got privileged people working for themselves and ignoring the fact that oppression is happening.”

– Yifan Lee of Food not Bombs

How do processes enacted in Tent City counter the process of gentrification?

“Taking over public space that would normally be built into a condo and reclaiming that space is usually symbolic of processes that counteract the process of gentrification. We don’t often have control over what gets built. I think a lot of people don’t think about that. You do have control. This space here doesn’t have to be condos, it could be social housing. And look at how many people can live here on their own without the government saying we can be here. One of the ways this action will be effective is starting to bring in more social housing to the DTES.”

– Whitney Griswold of VanAct!

Some oppose an increase in welfare and minimum wage given the rationale that some may take advantage of government funds to fuel addictions, what is your response?

“Who says the government is not abusing the system? They give themselves a raise each year and they ain’t doing nothing new. Each year they line their own pockets. They ain’t doing nothing for this part of the city which is the poorest part of Vancouver. They’re only helping themselves, the rich community. They need to come down here and invest in us so that we can help ourselves and be a less burden on the taxpayers if we can look after ourselves and contribute to the debt that’s being brought by this 2010 Olympics because the tax payers are going to be paying through the nose for the next 20 or 30 years.

There’s a lot of people here they’re just waiting to at least have the opportunity to work. But if you don’t have no clothes, if you don’t have no toothbrush to brush your teeth, maybe your teeth are rotten, falling out how are you gonna go for an interview? Whose gonna hire you if you don’t look up to par? Nobody. So that requires more money. That requires the government getting their act together and saying yes. Those are somebody’s people, let’s take care of them.”

– Elaine Durochur of the Power to Women Group from the DTES Women’s Centre

Poverty is a relative term and homeless is major part of every urban centre, how does this one action fulfill the goal of ‘taking real action to end homelessness’?

“Ending homelessness is just as much of a process as ending gentrification, so it’s not going to happen with one action. You can’t have the defeatist perspective. You have to approach it from the perspective that you actually can. You have to realize that the people who live down here have been systematically marginalized and excluded for hundreds of years. There’s been at least a 100% increase in homelessness because of the Olympics and that’s not because people are making that choice. People have been pushed out of their homes. We can absolutely do something about that.”

– Whitney Griswold of VanAct!

What is the most interesting story to come out of Tent City?

“As a legal observer it is my position to be a legally neutral set of eyes on politically contentious situations. I volunteered my night because I am concerned that the truth is not always expressed in court when two sides of a conflict present contrasting stories. It was about 2am when I stood outside the front entrance of Tent City watching a potential assault situation unfold. The political success of Tent City was in jeopardy. A tall, built man walked up to the gate, clearly intoxicated. He quickly began to yell at the small crowd gathered outside upon being denied access to the City that is free to everyone. In this case, the City does not allow drinking or being drunk on premises. He was upset and gave the crowd a mouthful for awhile until a small woman had heard enough. “You little cocksucker, shut your fucking mouth before I kick it to the curb!” she exclaimed. A long list of profanities exploded into the street as the two jawed back and forth. Some stepped in between them. The woman decided that a boxing match was in order as she was a trained boxer. He was more than obliged as he stepped into boxing stance. At this point I stepped in and told the man that the cops would be here in minutes if he decided to strike the woman. He heard me but was clearly angry about the being called such nomenclatures by the woman. So he took of his belt and snapped it in the air. The woman did the same. Both were heated. She clearly loved every minute as far as I could tell by the smirk on her face. Just as it seemed the confrontation couldn’t continue any further without a violent situation unfolding, the words and bodies of the onlookers finally got through. The man backed down as the woman stepped off after holding her ground. A sign of relief went through the crowd. In the case, the group was not immobilized by the by-stander effect (where one person suffers a robbery while many people continue about their business). The woman who provoked the man made comments such as this is proof that women can stand up for themselves. Others thought she should have let the men dismiss him quietly with causing such a volatile situation. Either way, by the time I collected by my thoughts, I looked over to see the two supposed enemies standing next to each other joking, laughing, having a good time.”

– Ben Amundson of Legal Observers

How difficult is it to organize hundreds of autonomous individuals into uniting for one common pro-equity goal?

“Let’s do a tent city. The concept sounds great. Then you start thinking you know where are we gonna do it? How we gonna get there? Where are we gonna do it? How do the practicalities get set up? As you start working that out as a group and you have processes whereby you listen to people, their ideas, it takes a long time to filter that into some kind of coherent strategy. Not coherent in the sense that it’s restrictive but that it’s got a focus and it’s also flexible, you know you’re going to have to be dealing with factors you can’t predict. So how do you make sure you have the things in place that you can control and then set up structure loose enough to adjust to what you can’t control?

Well building towards a strategy that is flexible but open to contingency but as inclusive as possible in terms of welcoming participation in a variety of ways. “

– Dave Diewert of Streams of Justice

The protestors and creators of Tent City are not incapable of self-critique however:

How valid are the police brutality claims and supporting by-laws?

You have to have all the facts. The same people that complained about a man freezing on a street in Hastings where demanding to know why the police did not get the person in forcibly. It’s because they can’t. If you find a person on crystal meth on a frozen sidewalk and you phone the ambulance and it’s there ready to take him into the hospital and the person says no there’s nothing that can be done.

The Assistance to Shelter Act says that you can ask a person if they would like to go to a shelter. If they say yes, the police can drive them to a shelter. The people protested about that because it is impossible to know if people actually consent to that. But the alarm that I had was that a lot of us are old and senior citizens. We want to be assisted by the police. We could have a stroke and be out wandering in the middle of the street in the middle of the night wondering where we are because we’re all aging. My experience was that I had been assisted by the police to the hospital and they were quite kind to me. They did look at me like don’t go ballistic. They never mishandled me and said they would pray for me.

– Anonymous DTES apartment-renting resident

What’s the problem with relying on others to look after you?

“What were doing is taking food that would otherwise be wasted and cooking healthy hot meals for people that may not have access to a real healthy meal but the fact of the matter is there’s so much free food available on the DTES that people don’t necessarily have to provide for themselves. They can be completely dependent upon these free food handouts. I’m not so sure that’s a great thing. I think what we’re trying to do here is get homes built and end the necessity for those support structures and that dependency but at the same time by continuing this we may be perpetuating that dependency. I don’t know if that’s such a great thing.”

– Scott Gambrill of Food Not Bombs

How is this community created?

“So into the empty space we emerged and quickly set up some tents and tried to demarcate possible communal structures then came the fireplaces that offer sacred and communal gathering space around a fire so things emerged into more than 100 tents in this site and people coming and going but people gathering and food being brought in on a constant basis and taking in the contributions and what is being prepared and offering it to people in a crowd and evening times of poetry, singing and conversation and all this emerging out of individual initiates and coordinated actions, security being important to create a safe a space that is beneficial and the medics create a sense that there is multiplicity of elements at work that make it feel that you can relax…

So a guy told me his been staying in the shelters, he told me he hasn’t been sleeping that well. He comes here, he sleeps in a tent and he wakes up and it’s a beautiful morning. It recalls for him memories of his childhood that are really positive. This becomes a space where things emerge that are really beautiful.”

– Dave Diewert of Streams of Justice

What’s the point of creating Tent City?

“This direct action, it’s more than a political statement because there are people living here because they feel safe and because they like it and because it’s preferable to a shelter. We’ve created a home for people here. We’ve created a community for people that’s an example of how people can come together and work and create something beautiful.”

– Yifan Lee of Food Not Bombs

What point have we made here?

“The political aspect, in climate that is very concerned about image and making things look like everything is under control, is to have this eruption. An eruption that crosses lines of legality and illegality of who owns this space and who occupies this space, these kind of eruptions of those structures become opportunities to say something strong. The point is for this action to bright into a light in a powerful way, or in as powerful as we can together, the realities of homelessness, gentrification and criminalization of poverty…

It’s also an affirmation of a community. Not to sit around and wait for the state to give it opportunities to act or set the framework within which ways action can take place but for the community to say we can do this or to take the initiative. The development of a community both of local residents and of allies in a unified action that we can come together not just stand for a two-hour rally, or something like that, but to sustain it in way of living together, sharing a space together, I think those kinds of things deepen the possibilities of increased action…

…The question is where do we go from there, how do we take this there, that’s another challenge…”

– Dave Diewert of Streams of Justice

What’s the point?

“On one hand the Tent City is a means to an end, to demand specific things from the government and society. But it’s also it’s an end in and of itself. It’s a communal space where people share, they come together they share stories, their experiences. The rent here isn’t astronomical, there’s no one barking down your neck. There’s no police harassment here, it’s a safe spot to come together, to talk and be human and it’s got a lot of potential to grow.”

– Maxim Winther of VanAct!

Why are you here at Tent City?

“I can’t speak on behalf of everyone or for the community but only for myself now, remember. The big thing is to learn. For me a great sociology experiment, you I know just sit down right in the middle of it and just look around and do an observational study. It helps recharge me. To say, how do you treat people with respect? What are you trying to gain from this? What I’m trying to learn is how to get along. How do you bring this group of people together? What a great experiment! Social anarchy, ok? This is what Chomsky, McLuhan, UBC Prof Neil Guppy are talking about. All those people that I worked/studied under, tried to understand now I get to participate. How are we gonna get these guys to clean-up? So I said ok well what’s my part? One thing I can do is pick stuff up. I can keep the place lookin fairly clean out there so that we have a better public image. All sudden I had people sayin good job, looks nice so it felt good. It also gave me chance to be on the front line. To interact with people, so when people would come up to me and talk I would have to talk back, to respond and try to do it in way that brings ‘em in…

…Right now I feel like I’m sorta at the center of the center of the universe because I really believe all the eyes are on Vancouver right now 2010 this is a moment of history. We can make of it what we want. We get a chance to make it be something that people say o those people made a mess that’s all they did or we can say look what they did they built something beautiful. This is all possible and I see these people tryin to do something about it but coordinating all these people we got great energy but there’s also people with mental here, eh? How do we incorporate that? How do we find a room for them? Us, me with my mental illness and their mental illness and build this into a beautiful place? Social anarchy. What my part was, I saw something I could do, went and did it, so I felt good about that. So there’s a piece of the puzzle, I’m sure there’s lots more…”

– Anonymous DTES homeless resident

Olympic Tent Village

February 16, 2010

The Olympic Tent Village is now on the ground! For updates please visit here or visit us at 58 West Hastings.

No more empty talk, no more empty lots.

January 28, 2010

* RALLY: February 15th, NOON at Pigeon Park (Carrall and Hastings, Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories).

Rally with all our neighbours and supporters. Organized by DTES Women Centre Power of Women Group, with over 60 endorsing groups. Food will be served. For more information email, or call 778 885 0040

* SUPPORT the grassroots, autonomous “Olympic Tent Village”. Endorsed by Streams of Justice

Stay the evening, night, and/or morning after the rally to protect the Tent Village, especially the first 24-72 hours. For more information, email or call 604-253-1782

The upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics has escalated the homelessness crisis in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and the Greater Vancouver area. Since the Olympic bid, homelessness has nearly tripled in the GVRD, while real estate and condominium development in the Downtown Eastside is outpacing social housing by a rate of 3:1. Meanwhile, a heightened police presence has further criminalized those living in extreme material poverty in the poorest postal code in Canada.

With the eyes of the world on Vancouver, residents of the Downtown Eastside and our supporters will be taking the streets to affirm our call for justice and dignity. We want:
1. Real action to end homelessness now!
2. End condo development and displacement in the Downtown Eastside
3. End discriminatory ticketing, police harassment, and all forms of criminalization of poverty.

No more empty talk, no more empty lots.

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