Protesters interrupted a provincial housing announcement in Vancouver on Wednesday morning with a message about renters.
Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon was speaking about a new development at 2538 Birch St. that will be 28 storeys high and include 58 below-market units and 200 units for households with middle incomes.
However, Kahlon paused speaking when a few volunteers from the Vancouver Tenants Union stood in front of the podium.
“I’m sorry to be doing this, you and your staff, no offence to you, do not know what renters need and we do, we’ve been talking to renters all along in this neighbourhood,” Mazdak Gharibnavaz, a volunteer with the organization, said to Kahlon.
“You don’t listen to renters in this city and that’s why we need to be speaking out today.”
Gharibnavaz said the issue is that the provincial government has no plans to protect current renters in the city and that the developments they are proposing will only drive out residents.
“They have no plans for demovictions, they have no plans for tenants that are being driven out by displacement, by gentrification. They just want to build a lot more luxury rentals and condos, they want our cities to drive us out of here and we’re not going to stand for that.”
Gharibnavaz said they are seeing the term “affordable” being applied to rental units that are not actually affordable for anyone trying to make a living wage in Vancouver. “This is not dignified living,” he said.
“We haven’t had any provincial government who care about renters or about protecting them in any meaningful way.”
Gharibnavaz added that they wanted to show up Wednesday to let Kahlon know this announcement is not actually doing anything for renters in the city and Eby, as the former housing minister, did not do anything for renters in the city either.
“What we’re talking about is when you see older buildings, whether they are small or larger size, it’s the land value that drives the cost, whether it’s houses for sale or whether it’s the rent. The land values are skyrocketing. The government will not take any action to lower land values and therefore, whatever they build, as long as it’s dependent on the private market to create that housing, those rents are going to be extremely high.”
He said this will lead to the displacement of people in the communities who have helped build those communities.
Gharibnavaz said the provincial government has never listened to renters and has not moved to take action on protecting renters.
“We need publically built rental stocks that keep rents low,” he said.
“Our message today is very clear, hands off our homes.”
Kahlon did not address the protester’s message.
The development on Birch Street is a partnership between the province, through BC Housing’s HousingHub program, Jameson Development Corp. and the City of Vancouver. The Province is providing approximately $164 million in low-interest financing for the project, which will be repaid by Jameson Development Corp., according to a release from the province.