VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Is it time to occupy Vancouver’s vacant homes?
That’s the suggestion from a local freelance writer, who’s written a column calling for the dramatic action as a way to draw attention to our city’s affordable housing crisis.
“I think finding housing in this city is getting to be a game of musical chairs,” says Mitchell Anderson, who penned a recent column, envisioning a “Gandhi-like march” from the city’s core to the pockets of vacant luxury real estate.
And while he’s not advocating that people break the law, he wonders where things can go from here for those in need of shelter.
“Obviously that is having a major impact on affordability, not just for people that are looking to buy a home but people in the rental market as well. I’m personally affected by that. I’ve been evicted twice now.”
Anderson says there is a historical precedent, going back more than 60 years.
“In 1949, a series of veterans occupied the old Hotel Vancouver site which was sitting vacant and was used as a barracks during the Second World War. A lot of returning veterans had no access to housing for themselves or their families so they illegally occupied the hotel to raise awareness of their plight and managed it as a housing facility until they could find appropriate housing.”
He’s not calling on people to break the law, but Anderson says something needs to be done.
“I really think that nothing is going to happen until various levels of government are forced to act. And I think that this might be a way of generating some political will to do so.”
But Justin Fung with advocate group Housing Action for Local Taxpayers isn’t so sure about the idea.
“Personally, I would not be supportive of this kind of initiative. I think it sends a very strong message but I don’t think that’s the way we would go about sending that message,” says Fung.
He agrees, housing continues to grow as one the biggest issues of concern in the region.
But even though things have gotten more unaffordable, he still favours a diplomatic solution.
“If anything, I think that message needs to go to city hall, it needs to go to Victoria, to Parliament there.”
Fung admits foreign investment is a major contributing factor and says rules and regulations need to be changed.
“Foreign investors are bringing their money in because they’re able to, and we make it incredibly easy; there isn’t a lot in the way of restrictions. That’s really at the core of the issue right now.”