Video mocks viral TikTok showcasing $2,000 SRO rental in Vancouver

Click to play video: 'DTES residents spoof video of $2,000 a month rental'
DTES residents spoof video of $2,000 a month rental
Downtown Eastside residents have responded to a viral video showcasing a renovated SRO unit renting for $2,000 a month. As Kristen Robinson reports, their “mock video” about life in the neighbourhood is highlighting some very real issues – Aug 27, 2023

Residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) have responded to a viral TikTok video showcasing a renovated SRO unit renting for $2,000 a month, and their “mock video” of life in the neighbourhood is highlighting some very real issues.

Creator Trey Helten, who manages the Overdose Prevention Society (OPS), said he and other DTES residents “wanted to show the whole truth.”

In the 58-second video posted to Twitter on Aug. 23, Helten is seen walking in an alley off East Hastings Street as a man defecates behind a dumpster, then into Pigeon Park where another man yells, “Hey buddy, can you jug me.”

Holding a can of bear spray, Helten advises prospective condo dwellers to get used to breathing it in because “it’s frequently used as a weapon around here.”

He also suggests they learn how to use a naloxone kit due to deaths and overdoses, and to get used to burned out buildings “because everything around here lights on fire.”

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The video gives viewers a glimpse of the 200-square foot apartments with shared bathrooms and kitchens in a single room accommodation (SRA) or SRO on Abbott Street across from the Lotus Hotel where the controversial TikTok video was filmed.

Helten also points out what is reportedly “a bed bug infested mattress.”

In an interview with Global News Sunday, Helten said developers often don’t reveal everything their buyers and tenants will experience.

“They come here, they hear screaming all night, they see ambulances, they see overdoses.”

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Pricey but small Vancouver SRA stirring up Canada’s opposition leaders

DTES graffiti artist James Hardy, also known as Smokey Devil, has a cameo in the mock video, which he said is a very accurate depiction of the reality of life in the neighbourhood.

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“It’s a little far-fetched but I mean it’s pretty close right,” Hardy told Global News. “The living conditions are terrible.”

Videographer Nathaniel Canuel said he fears the identity of the DTES is being lost.

“It really stings,” Canuel said. “The gentrification that’s happening where we really feel like we’re losing control of our neighbourhood.”

Indigenous artist and DTES resident Edgar-Alan Rossetti said the SRO spaces which keep people from ending up on the streets are disappearing as property owners purchase buildings like the Lotus Hotel and offer long-term tenants buyouts in order to renovate the units and hike the monthly rents.

“They want to deal with the homelessness, why are they kicking people out and putting up $2,000 rooms,” Rossetti told Global News in an interview Sunday.

Vancouver City Coun. Pete Fry said the reality of what the DTES residents behind the video are spoofing is “very real.”

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Pricey DTES bachelor suite draws criticism

The city adopted vacancy controls in 2021 to limit rent increases between tenancies in SRA buildings to the rate of inflation – but the bylaw amendments were struck down in B.C. Supreme Court last August and the city has filed an appeal.

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“But whether or not it happens and results in the kind of need that we see, which is vacancy control for these SRO units or some radical massive investment into new housing units to replace those units, we’re going to see a lot more homelessness on the streets of Vancouver,” Fry said.

Helten’s video spuriously predicts that soon, “developers will buy this building and turn these units into $3,500 rentals,” and ends with the message: “Gentrification means displacement, we need more social housing not luxury condos”.

“When we see stuff like that, it really throws salt in the wound that we’re losing a place that we really love,” said Canuel of the TikTok video.

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