November 2020 [Virtual] General Meeting

34 VTU members attended our online general meeting on November 7, 2020. 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

In addition to these agreements, we are asking everyone to observe the following meeting norms to help our virtual meeting run smoothly:

  • When entering the meeting, please type your full name. We will use this to cross reference our database so that this can remain a members-only meeting.

    • If you are calling in, we will be cross referencing your phone number.

  • Keep your mic on mute unless you are the speaker. Facilitators will have the ability to mute your mic if need be.

  • Questions & Comments

    • Please submit your questions and comments in writing in the Zoom Chat window, or ahead of the meeting if possible.

    • The above community agreements apply to the Zoom Chat window. Members submitting disrespectful comments in the chat window may be ejected from the meeting by facilitators

    • Call-in participants will be given a time at the end of each Q&A session to ask their questions out loud or they can use email

    • Please keep your questions and comments succinct so that as many people as possible can have time to ask their question

    • If your question wasn’t answered in the meeting, you are always welcome to follow up after the meeting: info@vancouvertenantsunion.ca

  • If you are having technical difficulties hearing or participating in the meeting, please understand that facilitators will have a limited ability to help you. If you are asking a question and it does not come through clearly, we may have to move on, but we’ll try to come back to you.

    • If you missed something, you can refer to these meeting minutes. Minutes were recorded in real-time.

 

Announcements

  • Dont Rhine, a member of the LA Tenants Union is very ill; request to send out support and solidarity, contribute to his recovery fund: https://www.gofundme.com/f/dont039s-medical-care-recovery

    • He always advocated the value of neighbourliness, an elder organizer and longtime contributor to housing movements; the VTU invited him to our first AGM

    • Community is built and forged through struggle

 

Item 2: Special Resolution on eligibility for standing in an election

  • A proposal to change the bylaw part 2, article 2.5, concerning members not in good standing, to reduce the number of days to achieve good standing from 65 days to 45 days

  • Case to be made that 65 days is too prohibitive a timeline for achieving good standing; 45 days seems like a good compromise to be more accessible, but not allow bad faith infiltration by e.g. landlords

  • Being a member in good standing allows you to vote on motions and special resolutions

  • Clarifying question concerning existing members late on dues; you are still able to vote if you are late on renewing membership fees

  • Question about what options exist to prevent landlords from interfering if they wait the 45 days: Bylaw 2.4 is A person's membership in the VTU may be revoked by a two-thirds vote of the Steering Committee, if the Steering Committee is of the view that the individual is acting in a manner that is injurious to the VTU. - so if a landlord joined and was harming the org they can be removed

  • Larger question concerning “active membership” (those who are in good standing but participate little) still up for discussion

Be it resolved that the VTU General Membership accept the bylaw change to Part 2, 2.5 as proposed at the Nov 7 2020 General Membership Meeting

 

Motion passes unanimously with 20 in favour, 0 against

 

Item 3: Update by City Hall Working Group on recent developments at Vancouver City Council

  • Taking action against renovictions and demovictions: they’re both currently allowed under the RTA, and are encouraged in our system due to the financial incentive

    • Vancouver City Council passed a motion pledging to maintain rent controlled tenancy agreement during and after renovations

    • Offering demovicted tenants the right to return to new units at the same rent

    • Provide temporary accommodation at the same rent during renovation or demolition

    • Motion also calls for financial incentives to support building owners to do repairs and renovations without hiking rent, and penalties for landlords who violate these protections

    • Staff will report back in 2021 on how to move forward with these recommendations; they may try to argue that these can’t be implemented, so our fight isn’t over

 

  • SRO Revitalization Plan

    • Council unanimously adopted a plan presented to staff to protect privately owned Single Resident Occupancy (SRO) units

    • Skyrocketing rents and poor maintenance of these units have pushed many low income people into homelessness

    • DTES residents and organizers have been pushing for change for years

    • Plan includes seeking $1 billion in funding from province and federally to purchase and revitalize 105 SRO hotels (nearly 3700 units)

    • Higher development fees and compensation for tenants if private SRO owners redevelop their properties

 

  • Renter Advisory Committee Recommendations

    • A motion for the mayor to lobby the province for rent forgiveness for tenants who are unable to pay back their rent debt due to financial impacts from COVID

    • Call on the province to prohibit “no pets” clauses in tenancy agreements

 

  • These motions are built off the successes of similar motions in Burnaby and New Westminster, which came from years of organizing on the ground

  • Speaks to the power of coalition building with other community organizations, unions, politicians

  • The fight isn’t over yet, we’ll need to keep pushing to make sure these motions are put into meaningful effect

  • Something to note: all of these motions passed unanimously

  • Vancouver City for All: City trying to pass motion to retrofit buildings to save energy, may put a great cost on renters. If landlords need to pay for retrofits, then they will pass costs to tenants. Plans around Broadway corridor. (https://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/broadway-plan.aspx) (https://vancouverplan.ca/

  • City of Vancouver trying to bypass two year permitting system, to pump out commercial properties -- call-out for VTU to participate in these surveys. Send surveys to info@vancouvertenantsunion.ca for dissemination across the union.

Item 4: Update/Wrap-up on Broadway-Carolina campaign

  • WE WON!

  • Summary: We were working with three tenants at Broadway-Carolina, Nelia, Sarah, and Andrew. All lived there for very long time, all slated for development by Portliving. Mount Pleasant Chapter embarked on two-month organizing campaign. Fought the developer!! Culminated on a rally on September 30th to fight off the bailiff. Through working with Pivot, VTU organized first ever picket line, held for 3 days straight. Compensation package reached for Nelia. Fought against the TRPP, according to the rules that aim to relocate and protect tenants threatened against demoviction, but in reality it gives a small payout and “relocation assistance” which has been ineffective. VTU broke this policy through community direct action; city and developer did not want to offer more to the tenants due to it “setting a precedent.” Much more going on in Mount Pleasant, so there will be more action happening on Broadway in the future. (Broadway subway extension, Broadway Plan) Developers are active on Broadway for redevelopment at this time.

  • Wrap-up blog post that will come out of this campaign shortly.

  • Contact Vince if you would like to join Mount Pleasant Chapter meetings on Sundays @11:30AM! (email: mtpleasant@vancouvertenantsunion.ca)

  • Question: What has been the experience dealing with City/Provincial officials that are suspected of being part of corruption? -- Answer: Two months of correspondence with planners can only point to either real corruption or bureaucratic defence of policy. Lillian primarily interacting with the city planners trying to implement the TRPP, according to them they are not enforcing a policy but rather administering it. Did not want to enforce the full policy out of fear of the landlord suing the city.

    • When advocating in the West End, a similar experience. City planners do not want to touch big developers.

  • Low level bureaucrat dealt with in the Broadway-Carolina campaign. He repeatedly stated that he wanted to be the only contact with the developer, the City was supposed to be the middleman rather than reaching out to the developer directly to negotiate. A huge hindrance rather than help. Having a huge push on Broadway-Carolina at the same time with folks pushing at City Hall was beneficial.

  • Revolving door between city staff and development gigs, more awareness about how city bureaucracy works. Challenging to create connection with City Hall at this time, so important to build capacity on the ground.

Item 5: Open floor for members to speak on issues affecting them/their buildings

  • Get involved! Join a local chapter, Membership working group to revitalize our volunteers and membership, City Hall working group to push our municipal government. Spread the word! (Training provided)

  • The Mt Pleasant Chapter and VTU is in the process of building a tenant-trade network, finding tradespeople to add to a master list of expert trade witnesses. Lillian reached out to VDLC and a meeting will be held on Monday, November 9. If you know somebody knows something about building maintenance (e.g. asbestos, mold), route them to mtpleasant@vancouvertenantsunion.ca.

  • Maz: Provincial campaign -- important for renters to be visible for the next four years at all levels of government. The provincial government must protect renters, if policy didn’t fail renters, many facing demoviction would not be facing the precarity that they are now. Window of opportunity in the middle of November while BC election is still counting votes and welcoming the new provincial government. Renters must pressure the BC government and let them know that evictions during a pandemic, rent increases at this time are unacceptable. Work in progress regarding an action(?) in solidarity with renters and pressuring the BC government. If you are interested in participating email info@vancouvertenantsunion.ca -- this may be a temporary or permanent working group focusing on the provincial government. Also email rentrstrikebargain@gmail.com. If you know folks who are part of tenant organizations across B.C. connect us with them.

  • Question about what it means to be a member of VTU: we have about 2000 members, but only 700 have renewed their dues and far less are active

  • Lillian asking for suggestions on how to allocate our grant money