Work Less Party founder Conrad Schmidt takes on rental woes in Vancouver

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."



Smell the coffee Conrad.

Mar 10, 2011 at 8:39am

"Work Less" --- if you can afford it! The underlying premise of the Work Less world view is voluntarist, "turn on, tune in, drop out". That is, working less is predicated on having more to begin with, a middle class bohemian back ground is where you have to come from to successfully live this lifestyle.

Now if you want to change society, so that we all can be fishers in the morning, poets in the evening, you have to believe in confrontation. Class confrontation to be specific.

12 6Rating: +6

you read it wrong

Mar 10, 2011 at 2:54pm

The slogan of the Work Less Party is "Work less, consume less, live more". If you consume less you don't need to work more, and can choose where you want to live. The key part is contentment with what you have. That is how Conrad - and myself and many of our compadres - continue to "afford" to live in the Peoples Republic of East Van, where we all pitch in to help pay the rent.

13 8Rating: +5

Second Nation

Mar 10, 2011 at 2:59pm

Maybe you wouldn't have so many rental woes if you worked more.

12 9Rating: +3

Steve Y

Mar 10, 2011 at 4:38pm

So it's like a mini lottery for po' people? Are these the same people against the casino?

12 7Rating: +5

Scott Blackstone

Mar 11, 2011 at 6:42pm

Reimer explained. "We just couldn't afford to live there anymore."

Reimer alone makes $63,609/year base salary. (

Using the formula of being able to afford 30% of your gross income towards rent, that means that she should be able to afford an apartment that rents for $1590/month (though it's probably more, as her partner is probably bringing in some kind of income).

If Reimer, and others like her are finding it difficult to find rent in a city where the average apartment costs $1,195/month, then this points not to a problem with inflated rents, but rather with an education problem regarding managing personal finances.

8 16Rating: -8