Have housing activists been neutered under Vision Vancouver?

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

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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!

Organizer: tentcity2011@gmail.com
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.

20 Comments

When you try and play the video atthe top of the story it says it`s private and won`t play.

Thanks, P101. It's fixed now.


What do you think? Are poverty and social housing activists giving Vision Vancouver a free ride? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Absolutely!!!

How many "NEW, UNION PAID POSITIONS" especially in Shelters, housing and outreach, have been created in the poverty pimp industry since Vision came to office?

I would be interested to hear the stats..which agencies have the highest increase in staffing?

Makes you wonder doesn't it?
Why is the poverty industry so important in this City?
Methinks it has something to do with the drug industry.
I also will state that I don't believe in legalization.
Can't see how anybody can quality control meth, etc.


As someone I know once said: When I was using crack I was damn poor, couldn't afford a SRO even and had no life other than scoring my next hit.
Came from a wealthy family originally.

He's now healthy, has loved ones around him again and is no longer considered 'poor'

???

I think you've been focused on the Olympics for far too long. Between 2008 and today there have been many demonstrations focused around housing issues. Where have you been?
There were 3 annual Poverty Olympics, there was a month long tent city in 2010 and the one just past was attended by 250 people who marched from Main & Hastings to the Olympic village in the sleeting snow.
I quote you - "most of the individuals were arrested." Eleven (11) people were arrested. How does 11 become "most" of 250? They erected over 25 tents - that's more than "a few." The demonstrators were legally advised to move when the police used an injunction from the property owner. (In 2010 the owner was advised against an injunction because of the Olympics.) That's when the 11 occupied an empty storefront and were arrested. I think it was brave of them and probably the only way to get "some" people to take notice.

You are in denial about what you're reporting or just careless - the fight hasn't stopped. It's only that the main-stream media has been lapping up the BC Liberal mess for a while now and failing to report on this. My question is - why do feel the need to belittle the hard work that is being done to help those who need it the most?

See these websites to become more informed - http://ccapvancouver.wordpress.com/
http://dnchome.wordpress.com/
https://sites.google.com/site/fightfor10sites/
http://www.streamsofjustice.org/
http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/newsrelease/6368
http://povertyolympics.ca/?page_id=6
http://www.redtents.org/
http://vanact.wordpress.com/

Thank you.

"Perhaps the question is this...were those protests from 2006-2008 all staged for partisan political theatre to damage the NPA's reputation?"

Let's assume that is the case. Then is this blog staged for the same partisan purposes and to propel Mr Klassen to a seat on city council?

@ tf:

I am guessing, perhaps wrongly, that you are invovled with the push for social housing.

So my question to you and the other housing advocates is this:

How do you rate Robertson's and Vision's performance. Are they living up to what you expected or, have they fallen short of what was promised?

After all, this is a Mayor and Council that rode in on the coat tails of ending homelessness.

Not the 2010 up-dated version of 'street homelessness', but homelessness.

"We will bring out brightest minds together and end homelessness in Vancouver,'' said Robertson, a 44-year-old businessman and former MLA, who won in a landslide.

http://www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20081116/BC_gregor_robertson_homeless_081116/20081116/?hub=BritishColumbiaHome

Good question.

As you can see by the current activities I mention, I don't think housing advocates are happy with what's happening - either municipally, provincially, or federally. Housing used to be a federal priority. It was abandoned and left to the province. Then the province abandoned the issue and left it to the city. So here we are, asking the City to help house the homeless.

Vision has fallen short on their promises, as it seems all governing bodies do when they sit in the chair. I don't think it's a partisan issue. They all make promises and then try to deliver. Think of Obama...At the very least housing is now on the City's agenda ~

I know it's not easy and I know action can be a long time coming. All that I can do as an active citizen is demand that our government work to fulfill their promises and hold myself to what I think is important.

Sort of an answer - ?

Perhaps Robertson and his Vision colleages from Cortes Island are better politicians than were Sam Sullivan and the NPA?

@tf:

All levels of government need to pitch in.

There are a lot of units still coming on-line that were in the hopper thanks to the partnership between the Province and the previous city council. They did work together, as did other municipalities. We see it in Maple Ridge, Prince George, Surrey etc.

But if you have a city council who is not willing to bring something to the table as Minister Coleman expects, and personally, I see nothing wrong with it and as a citizen of the city would also expect it, you see no new fronts, no new starts in this area.

Low income housing should not be concentrated solely in the DTES, it should be available throughout the city and where it can be supported by the proper amenities, ie: transit, schools, shopping, recreation etc.

Children should not have to see the day-to-day activities of the DTES. They should not have to grow up surrounded by that.

Right now we have a council that is more or less the same as Burnaby - pointing the finger at the Province and saying 'your problem' and more or less washing their hands of it. Unless you are a heavy drug user, then you have a shelter for 5 months of they year.

I am sorry, but he city has lost traction on the low income housing front over the last two years and this is something to keep in mind come November.

Perhaps Andrea Reimer can 'tweet' about it.

Hey meant "street" homeless John. :)

I am a member of both DERA and the APC and I assure you at the time DERA BCHousing took DERA's funding away and paying off Kim Kerr this occurred directly after Cameron Ward resigned from the case after he had received a $25,000 retainer the balance of which retainer $20,000 he never returned to DERA. If you do not have a lawyer in the Supreme Court DERA had no choice but to walk and sign a confidential agreement with BC Housing. Although I was a director at the time and in the courtroom room when the confidential agreement was signed, the Board refused to show me a copy. When DERA cut off giving any monies to APC (three years now) after Anna was fired by DERA and she came the spokesperson for the APC, DERA and the APC were not working together. After the Olympics the interest in activism for housing by APC dissolved due to lack of members interest which is natural after the intensity of the Olympics and their wanting to follow the rule of law by becoming a society (?) rather than direct action. David Cunningham left two years ago to pursue art rather than direct action. I do not know if that was the reason or not as no one would tell me not even David. I do not remember the last time the APC had a meeting.
audreylaferriere@yahoo.ca

Somehow missed in all of this is the global financial meltdown that started about June-July of 2008 and accelerated through the winter months, leading to a long recession which we are still in the bowl of. Many things this Vision council has done has left me aghast, and then there's Councillor Anton's complicity in voting for the meat-grinder Hornby bike lanes. As a limo driver I have daily contact with many street people. I can state certainty that their situation is immeasurably better now than it was under the previous administration. Maybe that's one of the reasons the protests have lost their sharp edge. I'm no friend of Vision, but let's call a spade a spade-street people were far worse off under the previous NPA administration.

Correction: "state with certainty".

@Gerry;

Can you explain how they were worse off under the NPA than Vision?

If you spoke with them, comments supporting this statement must have been made.

Gerry, hoping for a parking tickets/ violations amnesty for yourself, buddy boy? Vision would take care of that if you play nice. So I'm told.

Daniel, you are completely out to lunch. I was one of the 11 arrested so I feel able to comment on your numerous inaccuracies and poor conclusions, however tf has covered most of them already.

I still see "black-hooded, balaclava-wearing" people at every protest including the Feb 26 event.

There is no "systemic social change in full swing at City Hall" in my opinion.

I think "anaemic protest" might better describe the anti-HST show outside the Vancouver Convention Centre on the same day. After being intimidated by as many as 50 police (media report, I only counted 30) not merely in a public space but then again at a privately owned park and then finally refused entry to a public building, the remaining 75 people held a democratic meeting for over an hour in the snow before deciding to continue to stand up to the oppression of the City and their police. I'm proud of the action I took and I look forward to further action.

"Observers say that the protesters lost their nerve mainly because of the sudden blast of winter weather." Wrong. We knew it was coming and the 250 gathered and marched in spite of it. Although many were scared away by the unnecessary show of force, others were not present at the end because they were resting up to be there overnight. And who were these uninformed "observers"?

There is no "current crew heading the PR campaign to promote more social housing", our community is consensus based. The "ineptitude" is yours. You seem unable to understand that we are not interested in their (and your?) charade posturing as democracy.

Here's a goodie from your post. "This time? No Eby. Perhaps too pre-occupied." Thanks for referencing a video more than a year old to explain David Eby's whereabouts last week.

I assure you we do not embrace Project Civil City, we are not concerned about "upsetting the Vision Vancouver machine" and as for "no news releases and no call to action", there was sufficient media throughout the day and I suppose you think 250 people randomly chose to be at the rally point. And how did the police know to be waiting for us? Probably read the posters all over the city.

"In the past they would have ensured a way to keep their protest alive at the Olympic Village" You mean like returning the following week? Or did you expect us to get in a dust-up with 50 armed thugs? What made me happy about the result was the combination of demonstrated abuse of power coupled with the unwillingness to press formal charges. Must be hard to defend a position they know is wrong.

I did "check out this revealing video whereby Councillors Kerry Jang and Andrea Reimer held a meeting with the activists" and what it revealed was that, as I said, you don't know what you're talking about. I did not recognize a single "activist" in that video and to the best of my knowledge nobody in that group took part in the Feb 26 march. They absolutely did not endorse the rally so as far as I'm concerned they are part of the system that we struggle against.

I'm sorry that our current level of activism is not up to the standards you would like Daniel, but then your level of reporting on social issues is not up to my standards either so why don't we call it even?

@solid. Thanks for your comment. I've taken the liberty of tweeting it out in order that as many of our readers are away of your position as possible.

I stand by my view that the current set of protests pale by comparison to what occurred during the previous administration. As for the circumstances surrounding why that's so...well, we'll just have to agree to disagree.

Thanks again for taking the time to provide us with your perspective on the recent protests.

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