May 24 rally for the middle class set to send #DontHave1Million message to Victoria

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      A demonstration planned for Sunday (May 24) could be one of the loudest calls for government action on housing affordability in recent memory. And yet the young woman behind it, Eveline Xia, told the Straight she remains unaffiliated with any political group and, until very recently, never intended to organize a public protest about anything.

      On March 18, Xia recounted, she took to social media to vent a moment of frustration, writing “#DontHave1Million” as a comment on the seven-figure price for a single-family home in Vancouver. “And it kind of took off,” she said.

      “People have written me saying they make a really good salary with a partner and they cannot afford to stay,” Xia continued. “I know doctors who have had to leave because they cannot afford to live in this city.”

      Scheduled to speak at the demonstration—which takes place at the Vancouver Art Gallery beginning at 12 p.m.—are Paul Kershaw, founder of Generation Squeeze, and Tony Roy, executive director of the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association. Also presenting will be Wes Regan, a Green Party contender for the federal riding of Vancouver East.

      In a telephone interview, Regan said this protest differs from previous rallies for affordable housing in that its focus is not low-income earners but the middle class: “the 20-somethings and 30-somethings born into this really odd circumstance, with wages stagnant and housing prices skyrocketing,” he explained. “We’re seeing this generation and this middle-income bracket really getting fed up with this.”

      In March 2015, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver reported the benchmark price for a single-family home on Vancouver’s West Side was $2.4 million; on the city’s East Side, it was $990,800. The same month, an analysis by Bing Thom Architects’ Andy Yan found 66 percent of single-family properties in Vancouver were assessed at $1 million or more. That was double the portion worth that much five years earlier.

      The B.C. Ministry Responsible for Housing did not make a representative available for an interview. On May 13, CBC News reported that Premier Christy Clark had responded to questions about “foreign” owners who purchase Vancouver properties in which they have no intention of residing. Clark said the province has no plans to introduce a tax on such investors. (Despite there existing no evidence of a quantifiable link between foreign buyers and Vancouver property values, an online petition demanding the government take action has garnered more than 23,000 signatures.)

      Ray Spaxman, a former director of planning in Vancouver, told the Straight the situation requires some sort of involvement from higher levels of government. He suggested cities cooperate with one another to exert pressure that might bring about that action.

      “We need to agitate the provincial and federal governments more than we’re doing,” Spaxman said.

      He also suggested what's required to fully respond to Vancouver's housing crunch is a greater understanding of international pressures: primarily, globalization and climate change.

      “The tendency is to say, ‘Let’s build more and more,’ without looking at all the implications of why that is happening and what we can do to protect ourselves from too much of that,” Spaxman said. "We believe our future seems to depend on consumerism and yet we sense that consumerism is not going to solve these sorts of problems.”

      Comments

      15 Comments

      BC Liberals. Best government money can buy

      May 20, 2015 at 2:54pm

      The government of BC, Christy Clarke's BC Liberals have absolutely no intention of ever doing anything that might rock any boats for developers or car dealers, hence the hidden agenda in the Transit Plebiscite (note Jimmy Pattison's sudden appearance). Vastly overvalued houses produce huge tax revenues too.

      As far as #DontHave1Million message to Victoria, Vancouver's real estate has been vastly overpriced on purpose, even more so than other cities. Finding comparably overprice property is easy in many other areas in North America such as the city of San Francisco.

      Canadians Against Mass Immigration

      May 20, 2015 at 5:13pm

      You say, "(Despite there existing no evidence of a quantifiable link between foreign buyers and Vancouver property values, an online petition demanding the government take action has garnered more than 23,000 signatures.)" How outrageous of you!

      Long Time Resident.

      May 20, 2015 at 5:17pm

      Your rant on affordability on Greater Van R/E prices has been going on for at least 50 years. I knew a few business people , who refused promotions to move to Van, because of high housing prices. The ones who did come here and purchased home are just doing fine Thank You. Quit your whining and find the money for a Down Payment and purchase something here. Or pack your bags and move to Regina or Winnipeg and freeze your A-- Off.

      jenables

      May 20, 2015 at 8:01pm

      Hahahaha, long time resident is hilarious. Yes, it was possible to buy a home but surely you've noticed the value of houses doubled in the last decade while wages have stagnated. You'd have to be a fool to compare your personal experience to the current climate. Not to generalize, but you sound like a baby boomer who got yours, plus what should be your children's and is digging in your heels to keep it all to yourself.

      joe1234

      May 20, 2015 at 9:01pm

      And the Bank of Canada's low interest rates and low Canadian dollar (which makes out RE cheaper for foreigners with US dollars or equiv) has nothing to do with it....

      tellyou

      May 21, 2015 at 7:31am

      Quit your whining. It is what it is. Your constant whining and praying for the real estate to go down in price is so stupid. I know people who said that houses were overpriced 30 years ago. Same today. The right time to buy is now. Tell you!

      That's Just Reality

      May 21, 2015 at 9:58am

      Vancouver has always been a desirable place to live. Just read some history and you'll see that speculators were attracted here even before the railway arrived and Vancouver has been known internationally as a place to consider living. We've gone through many housing booms with inflated prices in the past. What makes today's boom distinct is that one cultural group, who has desired to live in Vancouver for over a century, now has the money and the numbers to make it a reality. That culture is obviously Chinese and it started with the exodus of the wealthy from Hong Kong before being handed back to mainland China. Who could blame the people for wanting to escape what could have been a disaster and if you had the money, you got out of Dodge. Vancouver was a natural choice and the first wave of immigration was mainly the wealthier and older groups who found the prices here incredibly cheap compared to home and often offered 50% to 100% more than the property was worth just to get it done. I believe many of them continue to live here - this is now their home.

      Since then mainland China has experienced a gigantic economic boom and now Vancouver, with it's huge Chinese population, has become even more desirable. This is the main cause of the massive bubble and the only way you are going to stop it is to stop the immigration. Is that what we really want to do? Wouldn't that be racist?

      Ronnie

      May 21, 2015 at 1:18pm

      @That's Just Reality

      That's just half of the reality. The late 1970s and 1980s saw a concerted effort by local capitalists, with international investment dollars, to invest in real estate, tourism, and other tertiary activities, shifting away from primary resource extraction, which itself was being consolidated. The Hong Kong wave was almost like a gift from God in this sense in the mid-late 1980s, but prior to this we had waves from the United States and Britain, starting in the late 1970s.

      Remember, BC Place and the first Skytrain was finished for 1983. This was all about urban development. Expo was meant to be the big boom that set it off, and it did, by breaking the construction unions that used to make every RE development site a "union shop." Open shops started in 1986. All of this coincided with the sudden weakening of the private sector unions like the IWA amidst the 1982-83 recession that hit BC worse than almost any other jurisdiction in North America. The market was wide open for the developers.

      But, with debt levels at the highest levels ever, incomes flat, and home 'ownership' rates at saturation levels, what will we do next?

      Bruce

      May 21, 2015 at 3:50pm

      @LongTimeResident" and tellyou

      So what you're saying is, "I got mine, you can go fuck yourself"

      Ah, the attitudes that unearned wealth creates never change.

      Nlazarus

      May 21, 2015 at 9:50pm

      General wisdom is that you can afford a mortgage up to 3X your gross annual income. The average home in Vancouver is 14X the average household income. Do you boomers think we're blind? My parents bought a home in Kits for around $200K in 1986. That property is now worth 6-7 times that. Do I make 6-7 times what they did? Of course not. My parents (who are Boomers) make probably twice what they did then and they couldn't afford that house now.

      My household income is the Vancouver average (which is about $15k above the national average) and I couldn't buy a bachelor's suite in this town. Don't give us that "It has always been this" line. Those of us who were born here, and grew up here, have -seen- what the market has done.

      As for the claim that complaining about outside investors is racist; horseshit. I don't care if you're Canadian, Chinese or Hottentot. If you don't live in the house, and you aren't renting it out, you should be taxed for it. And that money should go into low-income housing. Because the people who live here should have priority over those who treat this city like an investment or a vacation resort.