Jean Swanson’s speech at the Annual Women’s Housing March

On September 28th, the DTES Power of Women Group organized the 7th Annual Women’s Housing March in the DTES. CCAP volunteer Jean Swanson spoke about housing in the DTES. Here’s what she had to say.20130928_150040

How many people in BC need decent housing?

Its over 100,000

What is the BC government doing about this?

Virtually Zero, nothing, nada

After the buildings that are now under construction are finished there is no provincial program or budget to fund new social housing

What is the fed government doing about it?

Almost zero nothing nada

What’s the city doing about it?

With the city its worse than zero, nothing, nada.  They are actually giving developers incentives to build condos that push up land prices. Over 1000 new condos are planned for the DTES.  In 2 years Chinatown will be full of condo towers.  The new businesses will cater to the richer residents.  The old businesses that low income people could afford are going fast.   This is gentrification, where poor people are pushed out with no where to go, and richer people move in.

One DTES landlord has been videoed bragging about how nice one of his buildings is because it has no people on welfare living in it anymore.  This landlord finds ways to get rid of low income people and then renovates a little bit and charges higher rents that people on welfare, disability and pension can’t afford.  He has buildings with at least 300 rooms. 3 days ago we found out that the city is giving developers incentives to put bathrooms and kitchens in hotel rooms with no protections for tenants against rents going up. That means more renovictions.

Governments talk about housing  “partnerships”

Partnerships mean developers building 10 condos and throwing in one social housing unit.  Partnerships mean charities building social housing like the housing over the library and then calling it “cause we care house”, humiliating the residents by reminding them that they are charity cases.  Partnerships mean having condos push up land prices, and sro and apt prices so low income people can’t afford them.   Partnerships mean gentrification, pushing low income people out of their own neighbourhood.

Partnerships won’t solve the housing crisis.  They make it worse.  We need government funded social housing designed and run by the people who live in it. They have it in Vienna.  They have 50% social housing in Hong Kong.  There is no reason we can’t have it in Canada.  Now is the time to really make a big push, before the fed and provincial elections, to start building the case for social housing. Now is the time to say we won’t be pushed out of our neighbourhood by gentrification.  And that’s exactly what this march is doing.  Thanks everyone for coming out.