November 2019 General Meeting

a speaker stands at the front of the room. several dozen people sit in plastic chairs listening while others cluster by the wall. the vancouver tenants union banner hangs in the background

48 VTU members attended the general meeting on November 16, 2019. Here is what happened...

Item 1: Territorial Acknowledgement & Community Agreements

  • We are meeting on the unceded and occupied territory of the səl̓ílwətaʔɬ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh), Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations.

Item 2: Community Agreements

The meeting next moved summarizing our Community Agreements. They are:

  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 3: Sara gave an update on the 326 Nanaimo Street demoviction fight

  • Sara discussed difference between renoviction and demoviction (renovictions may have some protection, while demovictions have none)
  • In this case, tenants tried to take up the terms of the new TRPP (tenant relocation and protection policy)
  • 326 tenants who are going through relocations have received very weak relocation assistance (for example, getting sent links to Craigslist ads for inappropriate rentals)
  • Since Sept 7th, tenants are refusing to leave until the landlords relocate them properly
  • A break-in has meant an escalation in urgency because the landlord refuses to fix the door, creating a fire hazard. This could create an eviction situation.
  • In case of emergency eviction, the plan is for tenants to go to City Hall with a rally. Talk to Sara if you are able to help or for Hastings Sunrise canvassing.

Item 4: Syd led a breakout group activity to engage with the Red Women Rising report as it intersects with housing:

  • The expropriations happening on unceded land (e.g. Balmoral) also should point us to listen to the people who live here and the people whose land we are on.
  • We read printed copies of “I am Priscillia Tate” account and discussed the reading in breakout
  • Circles of 8-10 people discussed our personal responses and responses to discussion prompts

Item 5: Presentation: Thanks to Hotel Workers organizers and volunteers

  • VTU members showing up was appreciated; updates on the work to keep up the action

Item 6: Wendy and Sam: Question and Answers about City of Vancouver expropriation of neglected SROS

  • Wendy and Sam emphasized that success was due to workers
  • Sam recounted his personal experience organizing within SROs
  • Vancouver City Council was sympathetic to experiences of those in SROs
  • Can find the Council video online

Item 7: Presentation by Tristan on Rent Control as a Wealth Tax

  • Tristan gave a quantitative look at renters and rent control
  • The city is about half renters, less than half homeowners
  • Various ‘super wealth taxes’ are in public discussion
  • In Canada, the majority of wealth is in Real Estate
  • Wealth is transferred from renters to homeowners
  • But Tristan outlined how rises in property are driven by projected rises in rents above regular inflation (speculating on upzoning)
  • Beyond a rent freeze, there is the option of a rollback to match inflation
  • Check out the whole slide show: [link to come]
  • Cope Housing Convention is on Dec 1


Item 8: Short-term Rental Presentation by Claire from City Hall Working Group

  • Short term rental is defined as 30 days or less (e.g. Air BnB)
  • It undermines the long-term rental market (e.g., offers 200-300% more net revenue than long-term renting)
  • VTU is not arguing against home-sharing
  • VTU is pushing back against this use in secondary homes (laneways etc)
  • City of Vancouver has a memorandum of understanding with Air BnB (requiring short term rental business license and limiting to principle units)
  • This relies on data supply; not only Air BnB but identifying operators
  • Requires a provincial government charter change, as city’s power of enforcement is limited to by-law enforcement
  • Need to lock-down definition of short-term rental business and how taxes are managed (e.g. right now $4 million going to Tourism Vancouver)
  • Also creates labour issues (e.g. ‘shadow hotels’)
  • City Hall Working Group meets every second Friday at 7pm

Item 9: Update from David Hendry about Renter Grant Advisory Committee:

  • Application was submitted
  • Info to come in the newsletter and more at the next GM

Item 10: Community Announcements:

  • Rocco: Burnaby tenants need support re: demoviction plans in 8 buildings
  • Evan: talk to Evan about Extinction Rebellion and Vancouver EcoSocialists
  • Syd: support RA union organizers on Nov 21
  • David: training by Jane McAlevey on Nov 19 and 26