Housing advocates held a rally in downtown Vancouver on Sunday demanding action from the NDP government ahead of the B.C. budget on Tuesday.
The rally, organized by the newly-formed Affordability Action Hub, drew more than 100 people to Jack Poole Plaza where, in the shadow of luxury highrises, speaker after speaker decried skyrocketing housing costs in the region and its impact on locals and communities.
“It’s a crisis,” said organizer Christina Gower in an interview after the rally. “It’s spread like a tsunami across the region and all the populated areas and pockets of cities and towns.”
As a renter of a home in Port Coquitlam that has doubled in price the last six years, Gower, a nurse, says worries about keeping a roof over her head.
“I’m terrified of losing my home. I have two dogs, and I’d rather live in a car than live without my dogs,” she said.
About three weeks ago, Gower and other members of the Facebook group Vancouver is Falling decided to form Affordability Housing Hub where advocates can come together and unify with one central voice.
More than 100 people, including Jennifer and Emma (mother and daughter), attended a Vancouver rally Sunday in support of affordable housing.
Sunday’s rally included speakers from groups such as Pets OK B.C., which is pushing for legislation that would end the no-pets policies in the province; Richmond Farmwatch, which highlighted the need to protect agricultural land from speculation and development; and anti-Airbnb group Homes Not Hotels.
Raza Mirza, a member of Housing Action for Local Taxpayers, said the government has stood by for years and let housing prices spiral out of reach for locals.
“Today we say no more,” Mirza told the crowd. “The time for committees has past. The time for studies is over. Now is the time for action, and we need action now.”
His group, which is made up of both renters and homeowners, called on the provincial government to address global demand and implement the B.C. Housing Affordability Fund, which would levy a surcharge on homeowners who pay very little to no income tax.
It also wants government to end bare trusts, which hide the true ownership of a home and help owners elude the property transfer tax, and stop pre-sales of local developments overseas.
A separate group also held what a smaller “counter-rally” at Jack Poole Plaza.
Alliance Against Displacement spokeswoman Listen Chen said the narrative of blaming foreign investment as the cause of the housing crisis masks the real culprits, which are capitalism and colonialism.
Instead of trying to turn things back to 20 years ago when housing was more affordable for the middle-class, “we think the housing crisis is an opportunity to take steps toward destabilizing private property as a symbol of Canadian settler nativist and nationalism,” said Chen.
Her group is calling for an immediate stop to evictions and demovictions and the immediate construction of “tenant-run” social housing at welfare and pension rates.
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