An organizer of a protest that was shut down by police at the former Olympic Village site on Saturday says housing activists are determined to set up their tent city again.
“We’re definitely planning on coming back twice as strong, and bigger and better,” Vancouver Action organizer Nathan Crompton said in a phone interview. “We’re feeling stronger than we ever have felt.”
Protestors walked from the Downtown Eastside to the former athletes’ village Saturday (February 26) afternoon and began setting up tents in the central plaza of the complex. After being told to leave the city property, the activists moved their tents to an empty lot across the street, followed by a heavy police presence.
Not long after setting up on that site, Crompton said activists were told by police to leave the private property. A group of about a dozen activists then occupied an empty storefront, which Crompton described as a “vast” retail space.
“This empty space in the Olympic Village could house a vast number of people,” he said. “The area of the space is in my estimation larger than every shelter in this city combined.”
Eleven protestors occupying the site were later arrested and taken to the police station. By late Saturday night, the group was released.
Crompton said while a location hasn’t yet been determined, organizers plan to set up another tent city.
The housing activists want to see the original plan for two-thirds of social housing at the site restored.
“We’ll continue making the same demands that we’ve made, which is an immediate moratorium on the sell-off of promised social housing units at the Olympic Village,” Crompton said, noting activists are also calling for social housing throughout the city.
“In this city, we’re thousands of units behind,” said Crompton. “We need to make up for 10 years of market development and gentrification and lack of affordable housing.”
While two-thirds of the former athlete’s village complex, which was recently renamed The Village on False Creek, was designated as affordable housing in the site’s original plan, the number of units reserved for social housing was since decreased to 126. Another 126 units are being rented out at market rates, with priority given to essential workers such as first responders, and health care and public education workers.
According to Thom Armstrong, the executive director of the Co-operative Housing Federation of British Columbia, 45 units in two of the city-owned rental buildings have so far been rented out, including 16 market rental units for essential workers. These units are moving slower than anticipated, although Armstrong said interest has picked up since the recent relaunch of condo sales at the village.
The non-market units range in price from $375 a month to about $1,200, while rates for the market units range from $1501 for a one-bedroom condo to $2368 for a four-bedroom unit.
An information session for a building designated for co-op housing will be held in the next couple of weeks. Armstrong said the goal is to fill 100 of the market and below-market rental units by the end of March.