Vision Vancouver's record when it comes to securing cash for social housing? See video
So exactly what has happened to Vancouver’s poverty and social housing advocates? During the last term of government with NPA’s Sam Sullivan at the helm, they were front and centre when it came to criticizing the civic government for a “lack of action” on the social housing file. Perched from my office at 12th & Cambie, I recall vividly when groups like the now discredited Anti-Poverty Committee (APC) used to occupy vacant buildings, and erect tent cities to protest the lack Sullivan’s lack of progress on securing new funding for social housing.
Critics from the left sneered when commitments for thousands of social and supportive housing units rolled in from Victoria under the NPA government. Yet now as the Vision administration struggles to get even one dollar from senior levels of government, you can hear a pin drop when it comes to those same critics.
Long gone are the days when the black-hooded, balaclava-wearing funsters from the APC roamed the streets, hanging councillors in effigy over the lack of social housing dollars (perhaps they should consider setting up camp in Burnaby instead?). Indeed, with systemic social change in full swing at City Hall, the protesters seem to have lost their zeal.
Take for example the recent anaemic protests at the Olympic Village we saw last Saturday. Most of the individuals involved were arrested and sent on their way after erecting a few tents on public property. Observers say that the protesters lost their nerve mainly because of the sudden blast of winter weather. The fact the “marquee” event also took place on the same day as BC Liberal party members chose a new Premier only helps to indicate the ineptitude of the current crew heading the PR campaign to promote more social housing.
If the Sullivan administration had called in the cops and arrested protesters as Robertson did last Saturday, it would have prompted a call from David Eby and the BC Civil Liberties Association to protect the rights and freedoms of the individuals involved. This time? No Eby. Perhaps too pre-occupied.
Protesters seem almost nervous about upsetting the Vision Vancouver machine. There were no news releases and no call to action.
Perhaps the question is this...were those protests from 2006-2008 all staged for partisan political theatre to damage the NPA's reputation? Perish the thought.
I base my suggestion on the fact that during the last administration the NPA administration was able to secure more funding from the Province of BC for social housing than several of the previous administrations combined.
In fact, Sullivan worked with Premier Gordon Campbell and Minister Rich Coleman to invest in over 2000+ new or converted units of social housing in Vancouver. Propelled by the 2010 Olympics, it was what Sullivan called a “renaissance” of investment in social housing. Under the NPA administration the Streetohome Foundation was given birth after the Dobell/Fairbairn report was commissioned as part of a suite of Project Civll City initiatives.
Today, Vision Vancouver – who howled in protest at any notion of private investment in social housing – happily embrace Streetohome as their own.
You'd think that those who perpetually protest about the lack of social housing commitments might applaud these successes. Don't hold your breath.
Contrast the Sullivan administration to that of Vision Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson which has yet to secure any significant funding for new social housing from the Province. He may have his faults, but nobody can dispute that Sullivan was able to deliver when it came to new funding for permanent, purpose-built social housing in Vancouver.
Admittedly, the current Mayor has been able to secure significant new funding for temporary shelters so he can point to the reduction in "street" homelessness, but he has yet to demonstrate the ability to attain significant new dollars for permanent social housing. In his victory speech in November 2008, Gregor Robertson remarked "the solution for homelessness is, and always be, a home."
Boy, how the times have changed with a Vision Vancouver government.
This weekend the group called VANACT! sent out the following media communiqué:
ATTN: IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sales Picket at the Olympic Village Sell-Off
12:00pm, Saturday March 5 2011
Venue: Olympic Village Sales Centre
Address: West 1st Ave at Manitoba Street
On Saturday, February 26, 2011, housing activists, low-income residents, homeless, and allies, attempted to establish a tent city at the site of Vancouver's largest social housing sell-off, the Olympic Village. The action was organized in order to pressure the City to deliver the affordable "Housing Legacy" promised to Vancouver in the lead-up to the 2010 Olympics. The rush on the part of the city and police to suppress our right to gather in public space is telling, given the seriousness of our demands: a return to the original promise of 66% (roughly 800 units) social and affordable housing at the Olympic Village, an end to the criminalization of poverty, and a concrete plan to purchase the 10 sites designated by the community for housing in the Downtown Eastside.
Throughout the day on February 26, public space was repeatedly declared off-limits. After being evicted twice — first from the public park in the Olympic Village plaza, secondly from the park directly south of the Olympic Village — tenters reclaimed the only space left: the interior of a vacant retail space once slated for the high-end Urban Fare. Police responded by arresting eleven people inside. Despite their show of force, police overreaction has only galvanized the community. The housing crisis is felt by all people in the city as living costs outpace our incomes and homelessness continues to grow. We demand that governments respond to the housing crisis not by escalating its police operations, but by taking actions that empower people through member-controlled, affordable housing.
TODAY | This Saturday, March 5, the community will return to the site of the social housing sell-off at the Olympic Village. We will establish a picket-line at the Olympic Village sales centre, asking that citizens of conscience refrain from purchasing the 'broken promise' units. We will also present a cheque for $400m, as requested by City Councilor Suzanne Anton, drawn from the City's $3b Property Endowment Fund. The money will help accomplish housing promises by immediately providing affordable housing to the poor and working class people who work for the rich day by day. The City has bailed out billionaire Millennium and has mismanaged the project by failing to reclaim their loan, either in cash or from Millennium's assets. It is not and never has been the taxpayers' responsibility to pay out-of-pocket for this whole project. In spite of the Mayor's rhetoric of "empty drawers," the City of Vancouver has sources of revenue for promised housing, including basic revenue lost from hosting a global tax haven. Vancouver has the lowest corporate taxes in the world. Enough is enough. Yesterday was too late — Reclaim Housing now!
Contact: 778 899 1324
This press release reveals that the activists of today are a mere shadow of those just a few years ago. In the past they would have ensured a way to keep their protest alive at the Olympic Village. Today, they appear happy with merely getting arrested and a few clips on the 6 o’clock news.
Why the kid gloves? Is there any possibility that this has to do with their current alignment with the Vision Vancouver administration? If you don’t believe me, check out this revealing video whereby Councillors Kerry Jang and Andrea Reimer held a meeting with the activists and applauded them for their hard work.
What do you think? Are poverty and social housing activists giving Vision Vancouver a free ride? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
- Post by Daniel. Follow Daniel on Twitter @CityCaucus. This post includes another one of our "videditorials" that combine facts with a little humour and political commentary (yes, we're aware of one typo in this one – we'll fix it later). We'll be posting them on more subjects in and outside of the City of Vancouver in the weeks ahead.