Little Mountain evictions demonstrate injustice of social housing policies
By Elvin Wyly
It is an injustice that Ingrid Steenhuisen is facing eviction from Vancouver's Little Mountain community. The site has not even been rezoned, and Steenhuisen is told to get out.
Six years after Rich Coleman, the minister responsible for housing, emphatically stated, "These tenants will not be displaced," all of Ingrid's neighbours have been displaced, and Steenhuisen is told to get out. All the previous tenants who once lived at Little Mountain were lied to as they left, and Steenhuisen is told to get out. It's going to take at least a year for the polysyllabic "implementation" drama to unfold, and Steenhuisen is given two months to get out.
Let's get our priorities straight! If we really feel it's necessary to rebuild and upgrade the social housing of our cities, then let's do it. But that means we’ll have to target the really big zones of social housing in Canada: all those areas where wealthy and middle-class owners enjoy all the hidden subsidies of asset accumulation in our economic and legal system.
So, before you evict Ingrid Steenhuisen with a promise to improve that part of the urban landscape, could you please first evict me and everyone else in my building? We live in social housing too; it's just middle-class social housing of a certain type. And while we stratafarians do our best, we could learn a thing or two from what Thomas Thomson's UBC master's thesis documents as "a remarkably successful example of public housing that offered residents a supportive, crime-free, and beautiful living environment".
That's what Little Mountain was, before the bulldozers arrived.
Elvin Wyly is an associate professor of Geography and chair of the Urban Studies Coordinating Committee at the University of British Columbia.
"Final tenants at Vancouver's Little Mountain Housing receive eviction notices", by Yolande Cole, Georgia Straight
"Remaining tenants at Little Mountain told to move", by Cheryl Rossi, Vancouver Courier
The Death and Life of the Little Mountain Housing Project: BC's First Public Housing Community, by Thomas M. Thomson (MA thesis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia)