Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver


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Windermere Law 12 students learn about housing and homelessness crisis at Housing Justice Conference

Windermere Secondary Law 12 classes attended their first Housing Conference. Photo by Maya Cindrich

Windermere Secondary’s Housing Justice Conference 2017

BY MAYA CINDRICH

On Nov. 20, the Windermere Secondary Law 12 classes attended their very first school-organized Housing Conference of 2017.

Key speakers, such as anti-poverty and social justice activist Jean Swanson, gave detailed presentations about Vancouver’s ever-rising homelessness epidemic and what the students as youth, could do to put an end to homeless.

The conference began with a presentation by Jean Swanson, who covered a wide array of topics that tie into Vancouver’s massively increasing homelessness population, such as the $41,000 tax decrease on the wealthy since the 1970s, and the decrease in social housing and inadequate funding from the provincial and federal governments.

Jean also pressed the importance of decisions that will affect our future with housing for the better, saying, “If we can get a man to the moon, why can’t we end homelessness?” Jeans stated simple facts that would inevitably end homeless such as bringing back higher taxes on the wealthy, providing more social housing opportunities and, of course, gaining rent control.

The second part to the conference consisted of students picking their own presentations to attend, according to their own interests. Going with the housing theme, I was the most interested in the presentation about Tiny Homes and Co-op Housing, given by Samantha Gambling and Fiona Jackson.

With the help of these two women, our group of students learned about all the possible aids to not just lower class homelessness as we see it, but our suffering middle class as well. Samantha gave a detailed presentation of her life as a woman owning and living in an affordable, sustainable and ecofriendly tiny home on wheels, and the challenges and the rewards.

I got to learn about zoning –which is a term that basically means what can be built on a piece of land or lot – that I hadn’t known about before. I also got to learn about the eco-friendly alternatives that come with living in a tiny home, for example, “humanure.” Samantha showed us a photograph of her toilet that had been altered to spit up solid and liquid waste, where it could then be sterilized in a bin outside for farming purposes. For me, that piece of information was interesting but wasn’t the highlight of our time together.

Fiona Jackson, however, gave a presentation on co-op housing and the benefits that come with being a part of a non-profit organization. With her, we got a more thorough look into co-ops. We learned about the democratic and business approach to co-op housing, where everyone “aims to break even.” She spoke about the different co-ops in Vancouver, and the ones being built as I’m sitting here typing this. For a short moment she even indulged into the history of co-ops, letting us know that the very first recorded existence of one was in Rochdale England, 1849.

All this brings up the pressing question: is housing a commodity or a human right? Personally, I can give a definitive answer to this question. It would simply be facts against beliefs. I believe it should be seen as a basic human necessity. No one in this world should sleep without a roof over their head, or not have a place to come home to.

Nevertheless, my eyes are still open to the fact that as of now housing is in fact a commodity. Until a real change occurs, whether that be in the form of higher taxes on the wealthy or gaining rent control, housing will continue to be a game of status. A show of sorts. A gamble for the poor, but a game for the wealthy.

Maya Cindrich is a Grade 12 student attending Windermere Secondary. She aims to better her knowledge of our justice system and one day become someone that makes a change, however big or small.

Homelessness addressed at Windermere Housing Justice Conference

Jean-Swanson-Housing-Conference

At the Windermere Housing Justice Conference held on Nov. 20, guest speaker and activist Jean Swanson proposed that the government introduce a mansion tax. Photo by Veronica Kong

BY VERONICA KONG

The Vancouver Housing crisis has affected many individuals who are currently homeless in Vancouver. So how can we work towards ending homelessness?

At the Windermere Housing Justice Conference held on Nov. 20, Guest speaker and activist Jean Swanson proposed that the government introduce a mansion tax. With this progressive property tax, we could end homelessness in a year. The mansion tax would bring in an extra $174 million annually, which could be used to build 2,138 modular homes for each counted homeless person in Vancouver. The cost of building the modular homes would only cost $160 million, which will take less than one year of revenue from the mansion tax.

There are other ways that we can deal with the housing crisis. Co-op housing and tiny houses can also contribute to ending homelessness.

In co-op housing, the members own the co-op, but the co-op owns the housing. Therefore, rent and other housing factors are voted on between the members. This means that the members work together to keep their housing well-managed and affordable.

Another alternative housing option are tiny houses. These houses are fully functional, customizable and has the capacity to be moved to other locations. The tiny houses are designed and built on the principles of affordability, community and sustainability. The downside to tiny houses is that they are currently not legal in Vancouver.

Homelessness affects many individuals in health and other factors. We should not treat housing as a game for the rich when it causes others to suffer. Housing is a human right and should not be taken away from us.

Veronica Kong is a Law 12 student at Windermere Secondary. She is currently trying to raise awareness on  such issues as homelessness and housing justice.

Windermere Secondary hosts housing conference

BY VINCENT WU

“If we can put people on the moon, why can’t we end homelessness.”

This was an amazing quote by keynote speaker and Order of Canada recipient Jean Swanson at Windermere’s Housing Conference on Nov. 20, 2017.

During the brief hour we heard her speak, she discussed the present and future of housing in Vancouver. Did you know in the 1970s over 760 social housing units were built every year, but now the number has decreased to only 11?

Back then welfare was more than enough to be able to survive. Now, welfare only supplies $710 per month, which is not enough to even rent a one-room apartment. One of the main reasons for this was because taxes on the richest one percent have decreased by $41,000 since the 1970s.

To combat this situation, Swanson has lobbied for a mansion tax. This tax would increase property taxes of houses ranging from $5 to 10 million by one percent and houses over $10 million by two percent. This would end homelessness within one year.

The next presenter, 23-year-old co-founder of City Hive Tessica Troung, showed that Vancouver was no longer affordable. In order to save enough money for a 20 percent down payment of a house in 1976, it would take five years. Compared to today, it would take over 25 years. Studies show millennials earn $8,000 less than their parents even though they have more education. Vancouver housing is a real problem that we need to solve.

Vincent Wu is active in the community. He was one of the marketing and promotion managers for Youth Celebrate Canada Day 2017.

Housing: Why you should care and how you can fix it

BY DYLAN LE

Imagine being evicted out of your home and forced to move. Your new neighbourhood doesn’t have any grocery stores, Skytrain stations or community centres nearby, but it’s the best you can afford. Now let that happen to you again and again, until you’re dwindled down to nothing, leaving you homeless.

The situation I just described is that of gentrification. It is a term used to describe affluent people moving in historically less wealthy neighbourhoods. Gentrification is closely associated to capitalism, which is the economic and political system for the private ownership of goods and services with the objective to accumulate more wealth. Capitalism and gentrification are two prime issues that leave many in the Lower Mainland homeless.

Why does gentrification happen and how do landlords profit from it? By evicting your tenants, you can legally raise the price of rent however high you want. How many times can you be evicted, and rent be increased until there is nowhere you can stay?

Capitalism can be found in Vancouver’s Chinatown. To cater to the wealthier residents, more and more coffee shops are opening up. However, the majority of locals, especially long-time residents, in Chinatown are less interested in coffee shops and prefer traditional stores. This hurts the culture of Chinatown and the community that the locals have built.

(For more information visit https://chinatownaction.org)

5 responses to Vancouver’s housing crisis

Regulation

  • Higher taxes for real estate speculators
  • Limit foreign ownership

Using Public Powers and Assets

  • Community land trust
  • Transit-oriented development
  • Inclusionary zoning

Yes in My Backyard

  • Support shelters being built in your neighbourhood

Support Renters

  • Encourage new rental investments
  • Protect renters’ rights
  • Stop home ownership bias

Vote for Housing

  • Pay attention to the news show support for an affordable housing market.

Become aware of the issues in the housing market and how we can respond to it. We can bring Vancouver’s housing crisis to an end.

Housing rally: More action needed to address housing crisis

Housing rally

The November 2017 housing rally was hosted by the Vancouver Tenants Union, Chinatown Action Group and Carnegie Community Action Program. Photo by Jordan Gammon-Fischer

BY JANICE ZENG

The housing rally on Nov. 25, 2017, was a great opportunity to take action in regards to the housing crisis.

When I arrived, a speaker was talking about the purpose of National Housing Day. It is a day on the calendar, but it is not a holiday. Nobody says “Happy National Housing Day,” for it is not a day to celebrate. It is a serious day for social justice and action regarding housing.

The speaker talked about how, last year, many people ended up on the streets around Hastings. Many tents were put up, which lead to the police arresting 700 people. Homelessness is not a crime, and jailing people that are already in a difficult living situation is cruel.

After the speakers, it was time to grab a poster and begin the rally. Leading the rally were people wearing ponchos that spell out “10,000 In Social Housing Every Year For BC.” Many posters were in Chinese as the situation with Chinatown was a big issue discussed that day.

During the march, we chanted, “Get up, Get down, There’s a housing movement in this town,” “The people united will never be defeated,” “What’s our housing strategy? 10,000 homes in BC,” “What do we want? Housing! When do we want it? Now! (we also said the same phrase in Chinese),” and “We are ready to fight, housing is a human right.”

There was a lot of passion and anger in the people’s voices. As we marched, we passed by many homeless people and tents – that just adds volume to what we’re advocating for.

We heard more speakers at the end of the march. First up was Jean Swanson and it was very nice to hear her talk again. She is very passionate about housing, she has dissected the recently released national housing strategy. The context of the document is very disappointing, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not taking appropriate actions towards the cause.

Swanson explained that this “housing strategy” is nothing but a re-election strategy for the Liberal party. What I found most upsetting was their definition of affordable. The plan defines affordable as “30% of units having rents at or less than 80% of median market rents, for a minimum of 20 years.”

One example that Swanson gave was if the median rent is $2,000 per month, 80% of it would be $1,600. Thus, you would need to make $65,000 a year to afford rent. How is that remotely affordable when the average salary in Vancouver is only $56,000?

Afterwards, we had an activist part of the Chinatown movement come speak. I didn’t get to go to the Chinatown workshop, so it was nice getting to learn about it during the rally. The speaker told us about an empty lot and described it as the heart of Chinatown. The lot was the battleground where development plans  have been defeated by a coalition of the city’s most marginalized people – not just once, but five times. The speaker said that they have won the battle, but they have not officially won until the empty lot can become a home for the most marginalized and hard working people of society.

The final presentation was directed against Justin Trudeau. They prepared a dummy with a printed picture of Trudeau’s face attached to it. The speaker displayed a giant poster and began educating Trudeau. She took him back to school about the definition of affordability and the basics of problem solving. The audience had a nice laugh and it was an entertaining way to end the event.

Janice Zeng is a Grade12 student at Windermere Secoundary. She attended the Housing Rally to have her voice heard and hear from fascinating activists.

“Nobody says ‘Happy National Housing Day,’ for it is not a day to celebrate. It is a serious day for social justice and action regarding housing.”

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Welcoming the Kingsway Continental to the neighbourhood

The Kingsway Continental, formerly the Ramada Inn, is scheduled to open in fall 2013. The City purchased it in November 2012 to turn into non-market housing. A coalition of local service providers is collecting donations for welcoming kits for incoming residents.

BY DEANNA CHENG

Renfrew-Collingwood is gearing up to welcome the Kingsway Continental and its new tenants moving in from the Old Continental this fall. From an open house and community meetings, the City of Vancouver worked with a group of Renfrew-Collingwood service providers, identifying needs and concerns for a smooth transition.

Once the Ramada Inn, located at 3484 Kingsway at Tyne, the building will also house local residents requiring affordable housing as well as, temporarily, residents of BC Housing buildings undergoing renovations.

The committee working with the City includes Collingwood Neighbourhood House (CNH), the Collingwood Community Policing Centre, the Collingwood Business Improvement Association, the Evergreen Community Health Centre and the Renfrew-Collingwood Homelessness Community.

Angela Evans, the executive director of the Collingswood BIA, said, “The tenants were notified at the same time, about seven months ago, so it is not a surprise and people have time to process.”

CNH’s executive director Jennifer Gray-Grant said, “The neighbourhood’s expectation is for the new tenants to live here, get services locally and feel comfortable enough to participate in the community.”

Local service providers, residents and youth are putting together welcome kits with shopping bags provided by the Collingwood BIA.

Gray-Grant asks the public to donate everyday necessities such as socks, toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors and shaving cream. These could be dropped off at Collingwood Neighbourhood House (5288 Joyce Street) or the Collingwood Community Policing Centre (5160 Joyce Street).

“The welcome packages will include information on local services and businesses. There will be coupons, socks, toques and toiletries, for example,” she said.

According to the City’s Kingsway Continental Q-and-A sheet, most of the tenants of the Old Continental (a City-operated non-market housing building in downtown Vancouver that will close) are men over the age of 45, primarily on welfare or receiving a pension. “Many tenants at the Old Continental are living with mental health or addition issues or other medical conditions.”

“The Evergreen clinic has said it has the capacity to work with the new residents,” notes Gray-Grant. “And here at CNH we provide breakfast for those who are homeless or tentatively housed every Saturday with our Morning Star breakfast-and-shower program. They are welcome to join us.”

Gray-Grant also said there are other adult and seniors programs and initiatives available at CNH.

Evans said, “It has been a positive process. To see everyone come together as a community–the businesses, people, associations, volunteers–everyone on every level is committed and on the same page. They’re welcoming, not barring anyone. “

She said members of the BIA were asked to contribute next month.

Jennifer Standeven, the City of Vancouver spokesperson for this project, said that, based on the open house event held at the neighbourhood house, she found residents warm and welcoming. Some of them mentioned the possibility of moving to the Kingsway Continental when they get older and want a smaller or more affordable place.

“They see it as a community resource,” Standeven said.

Gray-Grant said, “We have the highest number of seniors of any Vancouver neighbourhood. As well as the highest number of youth and second highest number of children.”

Having this building available nearby means residents on limited incomes will have one more option for staying within their community of friends and neighbours.

One of the priorities set out by the Metro Vancouver Affordable Housing Strategy is to “increase the supply of modest cost housing.” The Kingsway Continental Q-and-A says the hotel has 123 rooms.

“The first priority is housing the tenants from the Old Continental,” said Standeven. “The second priority is to support BC Housing while they renovate their old buildings. People will be able to stay temporarily at the Kingsway Continental.”

Standeven estimates these members would stay from 12 to 18 months at a time while renovations happen.

“And the third priority is two-fold: to acquire or build social housing across Vancouver and to build community partnerships to support affordable housing across the city. We want neighbourhoods to feel good about this.

“Collingwood has been fabulous because they want to see more social housing in the neighbourhood,” she said.

According to the Metro Vancouver Housing Data Book, BC Housing collects data on households that have applied for social housing in Metro Vancouver and there is a wait list. While the waiting list indicates a need for affordable housing, it is not necessarily an accurate measure of the demand.

The book notes, “the number of households in Metro Vancouver waiting for social housing has increased by 35%, from 6,630 in 2009 to 8,955 in 2012.”

The City of Vancouver is the municipality with the greatest number of households waiting for social housing at 3,632 households. It is followed by Surrey (1, 305), Burnaby (1,182) and Richmond (599).

There is a possibility of the Collingwood Legion leasing the former pub space on the ground floor; they are currently in the middle of negotiations and nothing is confirmed.

Standeven said, “Once the tenants are settled in, the community will be invited for a welcome, possibly in October.”

For information about the welcome kits, please contact CNH at 604-435-0323.

For more information about the Kingsway Continental project, go to http://vancouver.ca/people-programs/kingsway-continental.aspx.

Deanna Cheng is a journalism student at Langara College.

Copyright (c) 2013 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News