January 2021 [Virtual] General Meeting

52 VTU members attended our online general meeting on January 31, 2021. Here is what happened...

Item 1: Territorial Acknowledgement & Community Agreements

As usual, we ask all attendees at VTU functions to follow these community agreements:

  1. One-mic- means to respect each other’s speaking time.
  2. Speak Up/Listen Up- means that people who are comfortable should step up on their listening skills and people who tend not to speak should step up speaking more.
  3. Break It Down- explaining words or phrases that are unclear/ inaccessible.
  4. Respect Each Other- oppressive behaviour will not be tolerated
  5. Challenge Ideas, Not People- disagreements should be expressed with what people have said and not the people themselves.
  6. Be Present
  7. Take Care Of Yourself- do what is best for your physical and emotional well being

Item 2: Motion to endorse City Hall Motion against REITs

  • Summary of Presentation from City Hall Working Group:
    • Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) are dangerous for existing affordable housing stock. Business model has to do with buying up affordable rentals (rental upside). They can (usually) renovict someone and then bring rents up to market level. It’s an issue of preserving the existing, affordable stock and vulnerable tenants from these predatory tactics. They have access to large sums of money, so they can buy up a large amount of the stock at a time.
    • We need to preserve existing rental stock, since new purpose built rentals are invariably more expensive than what’s already existing
    • REIT’s business model is based in purchasing buildings with low rents and bringing them up to market level rents
    • REITs have more power and capital than other developers, their assets are often derived from union pension funds; this connection to unions is a possible pressure point
    • Toronto is currently seeing a lot of REIT investment and aggressive eviction tactics, while Vancouver is now being seen as an opportunity
    • With no position against this, we will see more of it.
    • There were 15 buildings and 600 units purchased recently by Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

      • Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) have contributed to housing insecurity and commodification across the world, undermining housing as a human right; 
      • REITs are showing increasing interest in the Vancouver rental housing market.
      • The VTU general membership endorse the upcoming REIT motion from Councillor Jean Swanson instructing governments to find solutions to the predatory behaviour and negative outcomes of REITs; 
      • The VTU send a letter to city hall endorsing Councillor Swanson's motion

Motion passes unanimously with 39 in favour, 0 against, 4 abstain

Item 3: Steering Committee Vacancies and By-election

  • Nominating committee was elected at last GM; there are 5 positions available, 3 reserved for Equity Seeking Liaisons or people with housing vulnerability; 6 candidates have stepped forward
  • Ranked ballot system; rank 5 choices from first to last; first choice gets 5 points, second gets 4 points, and so on; the five candidates with the most points are elected
  • Candidate statements were heard from nominees Alison, Maya, Tintin, Asha, Aissa and Fraser

  • ELECTION RESULTS (presented later):

    • Alison, Maya, Tintin, Asha & Aissa elected to Steering

Item 4: Meeting with Housing Minister

  • Summary of Presentation
    • Over the last year, we’ve been pressuring the provincial government with emails and petitions; most recently we launched a postcard campaign sharing our precarious housing experiences with new minister David Eby
    • Minister recently accepted to meet with the VTU, something the previous housing minister never did; it will be a 30 minute meeting
    • There was the decision to send one Steering Member, one volunteer, and one renter with a challenging housing situation
    • Steering committee and members campaigning on provincial issues discussed making a formal request to the Minister Responsible for Housing to attend a virtual town hall session with our membership as a gesture of good faith but also to give renters the opportunity to share their stories face to face and ask tough questions; this may prove more effective than a smaller meeting

  • Discussion (member responses to presentation)
    • Members wonder if we have any other concrete demands beyond inviting minister to another meeting
      • We have produced reports on the Rental Housing Task Force and solicited surveys from renters in the past, we can submit these to Eby, in particular if Eby ends up not agreeing to a town hall
    • Concerns raised over the effectiveness of this town hall;
    • it is unlikely Eby and government will concede to any of our demands without significant public pressure; the government may also coopt the town hall, say that they’ve consulted with us on tenants issues and then do nothing;
      • VTU’s experience with lobbying the Rental Housing Task Force bears remembering, when Spencer Chandra Herbert more or less argued that he’s in favour of our ideas but his hands are tied
        • Response that the town hall could provide ammunition, holding Minister Eby’s feet to the fire more directly and collectively
        • Also as a directly democratic organisation, this is an opportunity to bring direct democracy to our lobbying efforts
    • One member refers back to a town hall the Carnegie Community Action Project invited David Eby to; it was an organizing opportunity, and this can be as well
      • This can be a first step in a series of escalating actions; no matter what there needs to be follow up

    • Be it resolved that
      • VTU General Membership make a formal request to the Minister Responsible for Housing at our meeting with him to attend a town hall session with our membership
      • the Provincial Working Group be responsible for planning a Town Hall for renters

        Motion passes with 38 in favour, 1 opposed and 2 abstentions

Item 5: New Working Groups

  • Membership Working Group wishes to reframe itself to tie its work more explicitly to organizing within the union; provide education workshops, skill shares, learning opportunities
    • Proposal to change the name to MOATS - Member Organizing and Tenant Solidarity

  • We are now in the process of building a Provincial Working Group, to tie our local work to provincial housing policy

Item 5: Open floor (announcements/updates/advocacy questions)

  • Call out to members to interested in starting neighbourhood chapters - email main VTU inbox
  • Upcoming workshop for Chinese speaking tenants: Eviction Defense Workshop for Chinese tenants Saturday Feb. 27, 2021, 10 am - 12 pm, via Zoom online; a Zoom link will be shared upon registration; meeting will be in English, Cantonese and Mandarin 
  • A second workshop for Spanish speaking tenants this spring
  • Renters Collective Bargaining ("Rent. Strike. Bargain.") group will be sending out a survey to VTU members soon