On the Shrieking Howls of the Entitled and Understanding a Lack of Seriousness

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.

The Big Reason We’re Not Serious About Tackling Housing Affordability. Short answer: because boomers. Long answer: because the commodification of housing enabled an entire generation to hit a bigger bonanza than Barkerville by doing absolutely nothing. This combined with a lack of foresight by any level of government means clawing back a modicum of that unearned wealth is met by the shrieking howls of the booster class. Meanwhile, anti-tax conservatives throw gas on the fire of righteous indignation that comes with being a member of the most entitled generation to ever live on this planet.

“An average detached house in Vancouver cost $400,000 in 1995; by 2015 it was $1.8 million, a 450-per-cent increase. Average incomes in Vancouver increased only 14 per cent in the same period.” No matter how many times I read this I’m still completely floored, especially when in combination with the white-knuckled pearl clutching over a slight “correction” or the whining about a 7.2% property tax hike (to pay for cops).

Case in fucking point: Taxing our way to housing affordability in Vancouver is like bombing for peace. Or, real estate developer who can’t figure out how to fill out his speculation tax forms hilariously thinks co-living will solve our crisis, somehow gets more column inches in the paper to declare “the market will figure things out.”

This is a guy who stomped his feet like a petulant child when he only made a 5% profit on an Ambleside mansion.

The mayor himself, elected to deal with the housing crisis, tacitly admitted that tripling the empty homes tax would be so effective that prices could tumble, thereby making them…drumroll please…more affordable.

And we don’t even have a proper house-flipping tax! We could be taking 50 per cent of the profits made by someone who buys and sells a home within a year, but we’re led by a bunch of fucking cowards who are in on the action. BC’s speculation and vacancy tax and the city’s empty home tax have worked, sort of. As the Tyee article up top reminds us, a price drop of between 5 and 15 per cent in 2020 is less than half the value gained in just 2015, when prices jumped by 30 per cent.

Moving on, while this looks like the poster child of speculation it’s a little more nuanced than that: Owner of home empty for 20 years gets reprieve on paying vacancy tax. Still, imagine if we had an empty homes tax in 1997 when this house first started to sit empty. Imagine how much revenue we could have collected! Permit issues aside, if you can pay $26.5 million for a house and then tear it down, you can afford the $250,000 tax. If you think you can’t afford the tax maybe it’s time to buckle down and get a second job.

It’s almost like you could write a book about this nightmare of a market: Vancouver author recounts 140 years of real estate horror stories:

The recurring themes that pop up throughout Land of Destiny are the worst of the worst: Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) employees amassing vast wealth through deception and insider trading, outright lies and political corruption spanning decades.

So what’s different now?

“I was fascinated by how little things have changed,” Donaldson said.

Donaldson’s book covers the time period spanning 1862 — the time of the first land sale in the West End — up until Expo ’86 with good reason. As Donaldson explains, the forces of corruption and greed that led up to 1986 are still very much at play today.

“Politically, we were naïve at best about what happens when you let rich people do whatever they want, and that’s what happened during the recession in the 1980s,” Donaldson said. “That’s permeated every element of our society here.”

Meanwhile, a case study on why more rental supply doesn’t mean lower rents: Greater Victoria’s rental vacancy rate to rise in 2020: CMHC.

Rising vacancy rates, however, do not inevitably lead to lower rents. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment will rise from $1,535 in October 2019 to $1,675 in October 2020 to $1,829 in October 2021. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment will respectively rise from $1,175 (2019) to $1,282 (2020) to $1,400 (2021).

So what accounts for the increase?

“For one, a significant share of new units will enter the market, they will command higher rents, and this effect will pull the average rents up,” notes the report. “Second, as current renters exit their units, the rents paid for those units will likely increase as current market rents exceed the reported averages.”

The report completely validates Jean Swanson’s position against construction of new rentals at City Hall. Here it is in her own words:

This means to me that when the city gives incentives for expensive rental with units starting at over $1600 a month for a studio on the east side and more on the west side, the city is helping to “pull the average rents up.” Then, of course, when people move out of cheaper units to go into the expensive units, the rents in the cheaper units go up too because we don’t have vacancy control. ARGH!!!

Oh, weird! Housing people works! What a fucking concept: Former Oppenheimer Park resident gets housing — and goes back to pay tribute.

It shouldn’t be this hard. Red says getting off the streets was one of the hardest things he’s ever done. He worked alongside outreach workers from programs like Carnegie Outreach and New Fountain Shelter. He collected reference letters, filled out forms, and asked for support from anyone in a position to help.

I first met Red at Crab Park where I was making a weird landscape art project. He had made a ingenious structure down there which Port workers inevitably dismantled. Good on ya, Red.

Again, it shouldn’t be this hard: Mental health should be considered in accessibility legislation.

That may be a minor issue to most, but Emberley said it can be a real barrier to accessing services – “the front counter person doesn’t realize that it took incredible guts just for them to walk up there,” Emberley said.

What should have been one of the most explosive and widely reported Canadian media story of the year barely made a whimper: NDP wants RCMP investigated following report of plan to send snipers to Wet’suwet’en blockade. “Lethal overwatch” is the most insidiously Orwellian way to say you were going to murder Indigenous peoples defending their land against a pipeline they don’t want. Abolish the RCMP.

Another anti-Chinese racist rant caught on camera in a Canadian parking lot. And surprise, surprise…it’s another middle-aged white woman.

Resolution for 2020? Stop the normalization and platforming of white nationalists: Jewish summer camp hit by ‘disappointing and disturbing’ anti-Semitic graffiti on BC island.

RIP: Pioneering sex worker and LGBT rights advocate Jamie Lee Hamilton dies.

And: Little Sister’s cofounder Bruce Smyth dies.

Bonus: What does it mean to be working class in Canada?

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