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)
Aug 19, 2012 at 11:36pm
Mr Wyly seems to be attempting satire of an Orwellian sort, but misses the mark by a mile. Academics practiced a worthier irony 30 years ago. Has Wyly never read Gore Vidal? Joe Heller?
Wyly's "polysyllabic implementation drama" hardly falls in the traditions of Swift, or Wilde, or Hitchens. This was a sad effort.
Even so, defending Little Mountain housing (if that's what Wyly was trying to do) is important.
It was an example of true social housing far removed from the ghetto of the DTES. At Little Mountain, drug dealers did not control the streets. Pimps and prostitutes did not control the street corners. There was no clubhouse for drug addicts. Willy Pickton never came calling.
Little Mountain was social housing for people who cared about making a home and a neighbourhood viable and safe.
The future of social housing must lie as far as possible from the madhouse of the DTES and the drug enablers. It needs to be located in every area of Metro, and not just one. It needs to be managed by people who do not have a vested interest in lifetime employment -- tenure by another name.
Above all, like Little Mountain, the social housing of the future needs to help people who want to make better lives, and who want to give better options to their kids.
The Liberals betrayed the good people of Little Mountain six years ago. The incoming NDP government needs to make good that broken promise, and provide safe harbour for these people. They were set adrift through no fault of their own.
Aug 20, 2012 at 9:22am
The measure of a just and civil society is how we provide for those citizens who need extra support. The handling of the re-development of Little Mountain Housing has been ill conceived and badly handled from the beginning. No surprise that the disregard for the remaining residents continues. It is past time for a shake-up of the administration of B.C.Housing. Residents of social housing are people not statistics and deserve to be treated with consideration and respect.
Aug 20, 2012 at 11:35am
What exactly does this person do for a living? Can she not relocate elsewhere? Perhaps not in the city? Can she work from home? Sorry, but I and many others are getting tired of having to work to support people who mooch from the system. If she can stand for a photo, she can work.
Aug 20, 2012 at 12:15pm
Where's the source that Little Mountain was "crime-free"?
You can argue the case for social housing, but don't flat out LIE and say it was a magical utopia. Ask anyone who lives near it next time, instead of some ivory tower geography major who visited a few times and was clearly affected by confirmation bias.
Aug 22, 2012 at 8:39am
Why is so much social housing concentrated in Vancouver, the municipality with the most expensive land? Why not Burnaby, NW, Surrey, Cloverdale, Hope...? Is Vancouver to be a service centre for people that don't work, addicts, hookers and pimps?