On Mayors Dreaming, Renters Wielding Pitchforks and Sunny Afternoons

Tea & Two Slices is a long-running local news round-up by NEEDS frontman and veteran dishwasher Sean Orr, who lives and works in Gastown, deeply aware of his privilege.

It’s official, welcome Gregor 2.0: Rental woes are pushing people out of Vancouver. Here’s how we reverse the trend. Lemme break this opinion piece by Mayor Kennedy Stewart down for y’all:

“Every day, I walk or take transit to work”. Nice virtue signal. “So, I worry when people question the need for market-rental buildings in our city…” When that’s pretty much all we’ve ever had, what do you expect? “Some say market rents geared to anyone above the median household income are ‘luxury’ and should be rejected outright…” Why is luxury in scare quotes? What’s the definition of luxury, other than something that is wildly overvalued and beyond most of the population’s reach?

He continues: “Right now, with a shortage of rental housing…” Let me stop you right there. Shortage of which rental housing? What bracket? Because here are two graphs that demolish the argument you are about to make:

The graphs, from the City’s own data, show that there’s a pretty clear disconnect between what you’re building and who needs it. There’s a very visible group that is drastically under served….

Instead, the guy who can afford a mortgage with no down payment makes up an imaginary family: “Paying 33 per cent or less of your income on housing is widely considered to be affordable. So this hypothetical family can reasonably spend around $3,800 a month on a home for themselves and their two children…” Oh, you don’t say? I have a graph for that too:


See that, Mr. Mayor? The vacancy rate for your imaginary family is 8.7%. Compared to the other groups, we just don’t need more rentals in that range. Get it?

Blah Blah blah: “When we reject housing, we’re rejecting the only available housing option for over half our population…” Again, you’ve just conflated an entire swath of class lines and income brackets into one generic ‘renter’ class. It completely ignores the fact that affordable rental housing is nearly nonexistent for minimum wage workers. It’s reductionist. It’s market evangelism. It’s neoliberalism.

But the Mayor goes on: “But when we say yes to market rental housing, something important happens. People move into new purpose-built rentals, pressure eases on the older stock they move out of, and it gets a little easier for lower-income renters to remain in the neighbourhoods they know and love…” But that just doesn’t happen. Like I said last week, why on earth would someone volunteer to pay more for housing? And if they are able to upgrade, what’s to stop the rent of the unit they are leaving from being jacked up? Nothing, because there’s no rent control.

The Mayor continues: “In our current economic climate, purpose-built market rentals are not luxury housing. Single-family homes are luxury housing…” A sneaky obfuscation of the fact that ‘purpose-built market rentals’, as a term unto itself, means absolutely nothing. And besides, those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.

And finally: “The choice is simple. Either we reject rental projects and send a message that only multimillion-dollar homes belong in Vancouver. Or we support housing at all levels and send a message that we will fight to make sure working families belong in our city”. That’s just not true, Kennedy, and you know it. /rant

We need a trickle-up housing approach instead, A Plan to Solve the Housing Crisis Through Social Housing. Low cost non-market housing will help renters of all income levels. In Vancouver 29.7% of low income renters are housed beyond their affordability. This will give them options to leave their current overpriced units. Not the other way around.

Free-market economists sometimes argue that new buildings will eventually “filter” down to lower market segments as they age, but not only is that an unreliable procedure (many very old buildings remain expensive), it will take decades to happen. By adding new supply where it is most socially needed — instead of where it is most profitable — cities can directly attack their housing affordability problems.

It Really Do Be Like That Sometimes: Vancouver rental for earners of more than $72 per hour vouched for city subsidy as affordable housing. Be right back, asking for a $57/hr raise.

Good: Vancouver councillor wants to see temporary modular housing in single-family areas. Oh boy. Prodding Vancouver’s sacred cow, the detached single family house. Even though this should be extended to build all types of social housing, you know the NIMBYs will be out in full force.

The government has zoned themselves out of the market while letting developers build whatever they want when the land is rezoned. The only way to solve the housing crisis is admit the market has totally failed and to start building affordable units on every piece of land we can.

Otherwise this happens:

Meanwhile in West Van: West Vancouver puts hold on 390-unit apartment project. “There’s not enough creativity, there’s not enough respect for the character of the neighbourhood. I hope that feedback is helpful to anyone considering this again in the future…” We’re in a full-blown fucking crisis and you’re worried about the character of the neighbourhood? I wonder what a mob of pitchfork-wielding peasants renters will do for the character of the neighbourhood?

B.C. posts $1.5B surplus as tax revenue increases and real estate market cools. Great, now raise the rates and invest in non-market housing of all types — modular, social, rental, and coops. Do it. Like, yesterday.

Transit police investigate possible hate crime after teens told to ‘speak English’ on bus. Remember, when Trudeau says to Trump, that’s ‘not how we do things in Canada’, yes it is.

It happens all the time: On a sunny Vancouver afternoon, he called us ‘the g-word’ and told us to go home. Yup, abandon your “at least we’re not America” smugness. A study shows we’re actually worse.

Bonus: Cat filter accidentally gets activated during press conference for double murder. Literally something straight out of an SNL sketch.

There are 6 comments

  1. “ I wonder what a mob of pitchfork-wielding peasants renters will do for the character of the neighbourhood?”

    Bring it on. I believe that you will find your schizophrenic, dish pig ass in jail.

  2. Hey Sean, anyone who every paid attention to local politics knew this and voted for him regardless. Thanks Vision own toxicity for that one. I await your riveting analysis of the people’s champ – Jean “I vote no on all development” Swanson. Vancouver is already a city that is notoriously hard for developers to work in, so go figure why none of them really give two shits about below market rental stock.

  3. Thomas V – hopefully those elected to serve their constituents will listen to their grievances, and things won’t escalate to that. But it is telling, that the best predictor of social discord is not the level of absolute poverty in a society, but relative wealth disparity. We’re on that trajectory now, and if we do get to that point, it will be worse than you know.

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