Saturday, May 21, 2016

Limitless luxury

Promises, promises at site of new towers at Hornby and Burrard in Vancouver.
Services offered at new towers include a private wine cellar.

Bare-earth site of new project, once an automotive dealership.

Hotel for low-income residents is new project's neighbour.
After weeks of intensive media coverage about unaffordable housing in Vancouver, it seemed slightly surreal recently to pass a construction site with a sign advertising "limitless luxury" for residents of the new towers going up there. Another sign detailed just what this will entail: "Butler concierge. Private wine cellars. Star chef on demand. Personal shopping salon." I couldn't help but compare these celebrity-level services with the story I'd just read about people being forced to couch-surf because their aging, affordable rental apartments are being torn down to make way for more expensive condo towers in the Metrotown area of nearby Burnaby. It's a story being repeated everywhere in the Vancouver region as property owners seek to make maximum profits out of soaring land values. Metrotown is a long way from the construction site I passed in Vancouver, where three towers of 54, 36 and 14 storeys will go up on a former car-dealership site at the north end of the Burrard Bridge. It would be hard to argue there is anything wrong with this project, which is not displacing any housing and will certainly be attractive to the wealthy with its central location and bird's-eye views of the city and the ocean. But with all those displaced Metrotown residents in mind, I thought about how little interest there is in building affordable housing for all the people who need it here. Most people's earnings don't climb along with the higher rents they face when their old apartment is replaced with a new one. Most people can't afford -- and wouldn't even aspire to -- the luxuries of the new Vancouver towers, but they all need a place to live. One of the oddest things about the new project is its proximity to the old Murray Hotel, with its low-income residents, questionable maintenance history and poverty peering out of every window. When the new towers are built, the one per cent and the bottom of the 99 per cent will be living on the same block, side by side. I wonder how those with butler concierges and those with nothing will get along?

From a Vancouver Sun story by Kelly Sinoski on May 19, 2016: "The situation is really desperate because the scale of the demolition is astounding; just hundreds of people being pushed out of the neighbourhood seems like a real disaster. We're really trying to capture the human cry of these renovictions"-- Dave Diewert, organizer of a social impact report on the effects of apartment demolitions in Burnaby's Metrotown area.

1 comment:

  1. You'd probably need the wisdom of Job to solve this problem but someone in the Tyee suggested having a capital gains tax after a certain minimum exception and that money could go into affordable housing. An idea worth exploring.