Large protest voices opposition against gentrification of the Downtown Eastside

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      More than 200 people gathered at the corner of Main and Hastings streets today (June 11) to voice their opposition against the gentrification of the Downtown Eastside.

      They carried signs and chanted slogans calling for affordable housing. Several speakers placed an emphasis on the rights of aboriginal people, and argued that a lack of affordable housing contributes to high levels of violence against women.

      Herb Varley, a resident of the Downtown Eastside who served as an MC for the demonstration, told the Straight that rising rents are forcing many low-income earners out of the area they consider their home.

      “Many people who I’ve talked to, they’ve said that in other neighborhoods, they don’t feel welcome and that they don’t have a connection to those neighborhoods,” Varley said just before the protest got underway. “And then they came down here and they found themselves and they found a community… but now they’re being forced to leave.”

      Varley, who also goes by the Nisga’a name Gwin Ga’adihl Amma Goot, is a member of the Downtown Eastside Local Area Planning Process, which is working with the City of Vancouver to improve the quality of life in the area. But he said he’s dissatisfied with that process.

      He claimed that while more than 1,000 condos have been approved for the few blocks immediately surrounding the Carnegie Community Centre, less than three dozen affordable housing units have been made available in that same area.

      “We’ve been asked to work in good faith, but every condo unit that comes and gets approved is a show of bad faith,” Varley explained. “So we’ve had a thousand shows of bad faith versus two dozen shows of good faith, with maybe another 12 still up in the air. That’s not a very good ratio and we are understandably upset about that.”

      Travis Lupick

      After approximately 20 minutes blocking the intersection of Main and Hastings streets, the group of demonstrators moved one block east, to the BC Housing office at Hastings and Gore streets. There, a number of speakers expressed frustration with what they described as that office’s failure to provide affordable housing in the Downtown Eastside.

      As the march moved back west along Hastings Street, Ivan Drury, one of the event’s organizers, told the Straight that he has participated in the city’s Local Area Planning Process for two years and has yet to see the initiative make any difference in the Downtown Eastside.

      “People are here today because being included in a planning process is not enough,” Drury said. “People are here today because we need justice, not accommodations for the real estate market.”

      “The voices of low income people are being marginalized,” he added.

      Addressing a group of Downtown Eastside advocates in April 2013, city manager Penny Ballem said that affordable housing and related issues are a “major focus” of the city.

      “The city is working very hard to leverage all the opportunities that we can to improve housing for low-income people, to renovate and rehabilitate housing, and there’s a lot of work still to be done,” she emphasized.

      Travis Lupick
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      Jun 11, 2013 at 11:39pm

      I can't afford to live downtown so I don't. I live in Richmond. I grew up in Vancouver. It was my home. Now Richmond is my home.

      You all need to grow up, get a job, and stop complaining about why you can't afford to live in downtown in one of the most expensive places to live in North America.

      Spend your time working to improve your situation through school or some other entrepreneurial endeavour and stop complaining. You're making "OUR" city look bad.

      Accept It

      Jun 11, 2013 at 11:51pm

      We all have to pay mass amounts for rent. It's not our fault some of us chose to not do drugs and make something of our lives. I have a massive student loan to pay off and I struggle to pay rent. Most of these people are on welfare and don't even have to pay themselves. Get over it, get a job. You have welfare, food banks, soup kitchens, churches and temples that cook meals, needles and other items are given out (which just get left on streets), the police give prostitutes tea, coffee, and snacks at night. We're in Canada, it's pretty hard to suffer that badly in this country. Because myself and others have pushed ourselves through school, don't have drug problems, and haven't been in jail we'd essentially be told to go fuck ourselves if we tried to apply for any of this, especially low income housing. We'd never "qualify," and yet I work two jobs and am almost always nearly broke trying to pay back thousands of dollars.


      Jun 12, 2013 at 12:46am

      The poverty industry is powerful & has friends in high places yet the best they can do is call @200 people a "large protest?" That is pathetic: I have seen more people waiting for the Seabus. The poverty pimps in the DES mostly fall into 2 primary categories: profiteers and class warriors. The problem is that both groups have a vested interest in maintaining & expanding the suffering in the DES. The profiteers see dollar signs for every additional person on the street, each new person in need means more taxpayer money to finance salary increases for managers "earning" 6 figures. The class warriors are just as bad, seeing each person in need merely as potential leverage to "change the system." Like all good members of the far left they believe efforts to alleviate the suffering caused by capitalism undermine the ultimate goal of a "[fantasy ideology here]" society.

      The anti-gentrification crowd are an entertaining bunch. Some of them rant about the lack of options for purchasing groceries in the DES but then block companies willing to take the risks of entering that market. The small local shops face hostility when taking the essential precautions against theft and property loss. One market has the misfortune of being next door to VANDU, the drug addicts "union" and has suffered property damage from the lineups of addicts waiting for their "stipend" from VANDU. The city doesn't care, VANDU doesn't care but the local business faces higher insurance rates and hostility for having the temerity to seek a profit.

      We taxpayers have lost more than $1 billion dollars that we know of in trying to "help" people in the DES over the last decade. Little of that money has reached the people in need, instead it has gone to salaries, office decorations, etc. One organization responsible for some low income housing spends more of their budget paying their top executives than on building maintenance yet had the temerity to blame lack of government funding for problems with buildings. The real kicker is they were given more money.

      We need to end the public funding of most "anti-poverty" programs run by non-profits. They are given little oversight, have no definable program objectives & have a vested interest in maintaining the suffering not reducing it. This is one of the few areas where I want to see more direct government involvement rather than less.


      Jun 12, 2013 at 6:00am

      When people at your protests have signs saying, 'rich scum beware' and 'class war', You're not going to win very many people over.


      Jun 12, 2013 at 7:51am

      Right on schedule with the comments: get over it, get a job, you're all drug addicts, etc., etc. Boom - take that, poor people! You got it easy down there. Welfare? Now there's the sweet life.

      I guess if anything, ignorance is predictable.


      Jun 12, 2013 at 8:08am

      It is hardly just the DES folks being forced out of Vancouver's expensive housing market. There is a price to pay for wanting to live in the Vancouver area no matter where it is. Those days are gone and many of us are having to move elsewhere. It is unfortunate, but like most world cities, we aren't any different.

      teth adam

      Jun 12, 2013 at 9:14am

      What if people went around with signs saying "poor scum beware" and other derogatory comments towards the middle and upper classes? No wonder they ended up in the DTES.

      These protesters are aggressive entitled, selfish bullies. Vancouver does not belong to them. What they call gentrification, the rest of us call urban renewal.

      out at night

      Jun 12, 2013 at 9:18am

      Well, it isn't exactly in my nature to be all free market this and laissez-faire that. I'm a good socialist! But it is a TOUGH question: at what point do we as a city/society deliberately inhibit people from buying certain plots of land and buildings and prohibit them from doing what they please with them (within normal zoning strictures)? Until such time as the real revolution dawns, we are democratically married to the capitalist system and should respect the people's will, no?

      So I think we are grappling with more complex issues beyond the usual zoning technicalities, like deciding what the make-up of a given neighbourhood will or should be, based on a complex weave of social, economic and cultural factors, and imposing what the neo-cons like to call "social engineering" (Oh I am going to burn in Hell for invoking that phrase, but let's face it, that's what the protesters are talking about isn't it?). I am a strong supporter of affordable housing, but I'm not sure one can or should be able to designate the exact neighbourhoods it should exist in, especially given the market forces pushing the other way.

      Like a handful of other hot-button issues such as censorship or hard drug prohibition, I am conflicted, and likely to remain that way. As much as it pains me to even come an inch closer to the domain of the reckless libertarians who would see ALL controls scrapped in favour of a winner-take-all sweep (aren't we already close enough to that anyway?), I still think it is important to at least consider the side of the argument that says, simply: look, you can't afford the rent here any more, so, seeya. Cruel, yes, but no more so than what happened to the wonderful family that ran the corner green-grocer near my place for years, and who recently closed down when the rent became too much for them. Fantastic people, great neighbours, hard workers, ethical businesspeople, and I miss them; but we didn't have a sit-in to protest their departure, nor do I think we had the right to. They just left.


      Jun 12, 2013 at 9:32am

      More ignorance and judgment.
      Well if everyone in the DTES was healthy enough to work and get a mortgage they would. Most people are either mentally ill, have had been abused in more than one way as children and beyond and have the extra disadvantage of being in active addiction which is how many who have been abused try to deal with the pain or try to forget.
      You and you and you by complaining you don't want "them" in "your" back yard in Richmond or New West or Coquitlam have had a huge part in putting people and keeping people in the DTES. The Government and the other towns around Vancouver that have closed down and discontinued programs and cut resources so that people with these issues have literally no where else to go but the DTES are equally responsible. Now you are now slagging them for being right where you've pushed them and they are in your way again.
      The resources should have been kept where they were in the other areas then there wouldn't be such a concentration of homeless addicts and people at a disadvantage to be stumbled over by city hall the gentry and the developers. It's your problem Vancouver you have swept it under the rug for far too long and now YOU need to deal with it and deal with it correctly!!!
      I suppose most people are so miserable about their own struggle in one of the most expensive cities they have no compassion. Shame on you!

      Grey Area

      Jun 12, 2013 at 9:40am

      To the people that think drug & alcohol addiction is a choice, stop being so ignorant. I've never been addicted to either but at least I'm smart enough to know you're all dumbasses. Well done you for studying and working hard but don't belittle others that are less fortunate. Show a little compassion and understanding. We're all human beings.