The person who started the Work Less Party says he has "lots of friends" who are struggling to pay rent in Vancouver, and he's staging a benefit to help them make ends meet.
"Lots of people are losing jobs, and the people that do have jobs are barely making rent at all, and it's just a way to try and see if we can help some people out," Conrad Schmidt, a renter in Grandview-Woodland, told the Straight by phone. "It's that simple."
The Rent Is Too Damn High Party will take place Friday (March 11) starting at 9 p.m. at the Grandview Legion Hall (2205 Commercial Drive). Schmidt said cover will be $10, though no one will be turned away. Co-organizer Andrea Curtis, also a renter, will offer up "Andrea's Hat of Good Fortune".
"Anybody who's struggling with their rent puts their name into a hat," Schmidt said.
At the end of the night, the person whose name is drawn out of the hat will get the takings, up to a maximum of $400, Schmidt explained. Should the takings exceed that, the remainder will go to the next person whose name is drawn.
Schmidt said he was moved to organize the event after Curtis told him about New York City–based activist Jimmy McMillan, founder of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party and a two-time mayoral candidate there.
The Facebook page for the local event claims that people are leaving Vancouver daily "as affordable homes get torn down to make way for million dollar condos and the transformation of this city into a resort city for only the rich".
In a national rental-market survey released on December 9, 2010, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation pegged an average two-bedroom apartment in Metro Vancouver at $1,195 per month. The Toronto equivalent was $1,123.
Schmidt said his rent is $1,100 for a main-level two-bedroom suite, which he considers "dirt cheap".
"That's why I'm able to stay here," he said.
Vision Vancouver city councillor and renter Andrea Reimer told the Straight she found Schmidt's idea "touching and sad".
Reimer lives with her partner and their daughter in a single-family house close to Trout Lake. She said she and her family have moved six times in 10 years. "We refer to ourselves as Grandview-Woodland refugees," Reimer explained. "We just couldn't afford to live there anymore."