Eloquent speakers call for 10,000 units of social housing a year
The big room in Vancouver’s main library was packed with about 200 people on Feb. 4th as the Social Housing Coalition launched its campaign for 10,000 units of social housing a year and rent control. Speaker after speaker used their own experience to document the need for governments to build more social housing and save existing rental housing.
“The housing crisis is a human rights crises,” Ivan Drury told the crowd. It is also about “racism, sexism and colonialism. The people most at risk of homelessness are those who are most oppressed and least able to have rights in practice.”
“Most people move out when the landlord decides to renovate,” said Rachel Goodine of ACORN. “I chose to fight,” she said. “Then the landlord can’t jack up the rent. We need to close the loopholes so landlords can’t pull these things off.”
Connor Donegan of the Renter’s Union said that the government should give tenants the power to bargain with their landlords about rent levels so “people won’t be gentrified building by building.”
“Migrant rights are human rights, said Erie Maestro of Migrante BC. Erie explained that employers of live-in caregivers and temporary foreign workers also provide their housing. If one of these workers loses their job, they can also lose their housing.
Stacey Bonenfant, a widowed mother of two, talked about the “dramatic difference in the stress level” that social housing can make. Getting into social housing, she said, “saved my custody and my family.” “It makes a massive difference in what we are going to eat,” she added, referring to the fact that rents are lower in social housing than in private housing, so families have money left that they can spend on food.
“I’ve been homeless with my partner and 2 daughters for 4 months,” said Victoria Bull. “Its exhausting. “I had to drag my grand daughter to the shelters. “We have to take a stand for housing,” said Bull.
Shurli Chan explained how she went from a Pt. Grey home to the Downtown Eastside and lost 50-60 pounds in 6 months because she has bipolar illness. “There’s always the possibility that someone will end up homeless,” Shurli said. “What we need is social housing from Newfoundland to BC. Everyone of us has a voice and it means so much to stand together.”
“We’re not invisible. We are human beings and we need homes now,” said Stella August.
Money for social housing is going into jails, explained Marlene Basil of VANDU. “People are tearing our community apart by building condos. The free social housing for us is to go to jail.” “We work hard just as much as they do and still we are considered bottom of the barrel people.”
“Housing is the greatest unmet need of people with AIDS,” said Richard Marquez who works for AIDs Vancouver. “Building social housing is HIV care. It empowers people to defend themselves.”
The Coalition plans to have STANDs for Housing every Saturday between noon and 1 pm in various locations around BC. At a STAND, a group of people hold a banner, wear red scarves, and hand out flyers about social housing and rent control. If you would like to get involved in a STAND for Housing, call Jean at 605 729 2380. The Coalition is also planning a big United we STAND on March 2 and a Province wide day of action for social housing on April 9th. For more information, check out http://www.socialhousingbc.com/