A rally protesting the lack of action taken by all levels of government to combat Vancouver’s soaring and unattainable housing prices is set to take place this weekend on Sunday, May 24 at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Eveline Xia, the rally’s organizer and founder of the online #DontHave1Million campaign, has been steadily working to encourage residents to speak up against the unprecedented inflation of housing costs. For Xia, the housing crisis doesn’t only affect millennials hoping to one day own a house, but a much wider range of the Vancouver population: “Anyone who has been affected by the stratospheric prices, from low-income folks to homeowners lamenting this unhealthy and unsustainable pace of change,” the 29-year-old environmental scientist says.
“Homeowners tell me they are affected because their children can’t ever afford to live here, and many also lament the rising inequality which they believe is unjust. Most clearly impacted is anyone under 40. The working middle class will struggle to get into the unaffordable market and raise their families. Last time I checked, a two bed townhouse was close to $900k.”
She also comments on diminishing rental stock, especially for families who need more space than a typical two-bedroom Vancouver condo can provide.
Xia, herself a Chinese immigrant, is also brave enough to touch on the taboo topic of foreign ownership, a subject that often elicits name-calling such as “racist” or “xenophobic” toward those in opposition. And to be fair, reading through any online comment board shows a great deal of blame on the Chinese for the escalating prices, something that creates resentment toward Vancouver’s established Chinese-Canadian population.
“Chinese-Canadians and the broader Chinese community are affected because they’re being subjected to resentment and stereotyping, people forget that non-wealthy Chinese are victims too,” she adds.
Xia’s rally is also for those born and raised in Vancouver who feel they don’t have a choice other than to leave their families and hometown in order to afford a home.
“It’s gotten out of control and our elected representatives have for the most part, failed us. From all the articles and expert opinions I’ve been soliciting, it’s clear to me that the change has to come from the higher levels of government.”
Between 2001 and 2014, the cost of housing in Metro Vancouver increased by 63 per cent – and 211 per cent in the City of Vancouver – while salaries only rose 36.2 per cent. Even at today’s prices, much lower than the projected average cost of a detached home in 2030 ($2.1 million), the salary needed to maintain a typical mortgage in Vancouver for a $713,125 house is $78,088.
The Affordable Housing Rally will be the first time a protest is held for the middle-class population in B.C. It is a chance for those affected by high housing prices to “stand up for themselves” and hold the provincial and federal governments accountable for their actions – or lack-thereof.
Speakers at this weekend’s rally will include Paul Kershaw, professor at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health and founder of Generation Squeeze; Saeid Fard, author of blog post “The Decline of Vancouver”; Wes Regan, citizen journalist at the Vancouver Observer; and Tony Roy, Executive Director of BC Non-Profit Housing Association. The Carnival Band will also play music to energize the crowd.
The rally begins at noon on Sunday outside the Vancouver Art Gallery and runs until about 2 p.m.
“I used to think that politicians should lead the public to good policy solutions,” says Xia, “but it’s clear to me that they won’t act until the public leads them to those solutions.”
When: Sunday, May 24; noon to 2 p.m.
Where: Vancouver Art Gallery – 750 Hornby St., Vancouver