Tensions over the housing affordability crisis reached a boiling point at city hall on Tuesday, when dozens of housing affordability activists occupied Vancouver City Council chambers.
Among them were Order of Canada recipient Jean Swanson and VANDU’s Karen Ward, but also lesser known faces from the tent cities and SROs that have become the focus of the housing crisis debate.
WATCH: Protesters occupy City Hall
Councillors left quickly afterwards while the activists expressed their frustration.
Among their demands, activists asked for better enforcement on landlords who refuse to upgrade SROs, stopping the displacement of tent cities, ending what they called harassment of homeless people, as well as making homelessness a priority for city expenditures.
LISTEN: CKNW Senior Reporter Jeremy Lye discusses the occupation
“This is an action. Instead of talk or asking for something, this is more of an action,” said Kia Arschembault, one of the activists who said they moved in on City Hall because they’re not being listened to.
“It’s one I think most homeless people in this city need to do, I mean we need to unite.”
The protesters left without incident around an hour after occupying the chambers.
Councillor George Affleck says the protest was “a bit of a shocker,” but says that’s democracy.
Speaking on CKNW’s Steele&Drex Affleck says he understands why other councillors were quick to leave as the sound of chanting dominated the chambers.
“It can be pretty intimidating for sure, it’s unusual and I respect those who feel uncomfortable with that,” said Affleck.
LISTEN to the full interview:
“I was fine, I stayed and listened and they have valid arguments.”
Affleck says the affordability crisis must be addressed by all councils in the Lower Mainland, not just Vancouver’s.
New homeless camp
Meanwhile, newly evicted residents of a homeless tent city on Main Street have relocated to another city-owned piece of land.
A day before an injunction for members of the ‘Ten-Year Tent City’ was meant to take effect, campers have set up a new camp on a vacant lot at Powell Street and Glen Drive.
Campers have dubbed the new encampment ‘Sugar Mountain Tent City.’
New resident Crystal Cardinal said it’s better than being at a shelter, which she says she’d feel unsafe in.
But she said the camp is no long term solution either.
“No it’s not. What we’re really wanting is for us to get social housing for everybody, that’s what we’re really focusing on right now.”
The residents left the Main Street location after a social housing group won an injunction Monday in BC Supreme Court.