53 VTU members attended our General Meeting on Sept 21. Here's what happened...
Item 1: Territorial Acknowledgement & Community Agreements
Item 2: Community Agreements
The meeting next moved to introducing our Community Agreements, (which will be re-iterated at all our meetings). They are:
- One-mic - means to respect each other’s speaking time.
- 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.
- Break It Down - explaining words or phrases that are unclear/ inaccessible.
- Respect Each Other - oppressive behaviour will not be tolerated.
- Challenge Ideas, Not People - disagreements should be expressed with what people have said and not the people themselves.
- Be Present
- Take Care Of Yourself - do what is best for your physical and emotional well being
Item 3: City of Vancouver's "Renters Services Grant" Presentation + Discussion
- Summarization of the CoV Renter Services Grants (on handout)
- Deadline to apply: Oct 11th, 2019
- Other organizations provide legal advocacy, not all as organization focused as VTU (~15 groups like this in Vancouver), $500k to be distributed, per year
- Money comes from empty homes tax, must have a defined goal you'll accomplish w the grant.
- Decisions in Jan/Feb 2020, grants awarded in March 2020
- 1-3 year grants will be awarded; VTU meets eligibility requirements
- Consistent with VTU's goal of shifting cultural narratives around renter's rights, what renters do and do not "deserve"
- Where are we with respect to our goals?
- Low density membership - many parts of the city still underrepresented/unorganized (far way from our goal to have a tenant representative in every building)
- VTU Priorities: Educate tenants about rights, help tenants pursue rights, help tenants stay in their homes
- Application is non-binding
- Applying doesn't mean VTU automatically is awarded a grant. Member will have another chance to vote on accepting a grant if the VTU is awarded one
Post presentation discussion - Pros, cons, and considerations of applying for grant:
- This money is partly coming from our fight, this is what we fought for. We need a paid organizer, but we shouldn’t depend on it
- We are only considering the grant application today, not accepting the money
- Able to do great things, I was a paid organizer with Latino youth and was able to create all kinds of programs with just one organizer
- We should plan to develop fundraising while taking the grant
- We should be wiling to have the $ taken away or not renewed, it will be politically damaging for the city to remove it
- There are lots of projects that could use funding: eviction observatory, developing the province wide tenants union
- Training, mentoring, recruiting and building our organizing capacity - we operate very thread bare right now but punch above our weight, we can use the money to build tenant power
- Worried that we can’t meet the current needs of tenants and landlords are getting away with murder because of it
- Wants to stress training/recruiting new organizers
- We’re not getting the money forever it’s only a max, 3 yr term
- We should leave the opportunities open by doing the application, decision to take funding comes later
- Due dilligence is to apply for the grant, the money is for tenants
- People in the city are suffering, there is a big demand and small capacity, rich ppl’s money (from the empty homes tax) is now going to tenants. We can get angry if they take the money away.
- It was a great relief for my own org to get money, but I had to fight really hard for it
- Used to be a lot more grants in the 60-70’s, it was the only way we were able to do our work, used to do research, make pamphlets etc
- Jean Swanson is a good example of someone being involved in the city, getting on city council, and still keeping principles
CONS & CONSIDERATIONS
- Compromising integrity, can be viewed as hypocritical taking money from the city when the city caused the issues
- Saw co-optation organizing in Burnaby
- How we guard against being co-opted and how to build in accountability has to be in the process today
- We should be able to do things outside of the box, should be training organizers, it’s hard to organize your own building
- VTU has to change the by-law before date of the application (don’t have bylaw about board members getting compensation)
- This is not a deal breaker for the city
- Not taking compensation is part of the societies act
- Org can’t be giving renumeration/grants to other organizations
- Other tenants unions say no to money to keep their autonomy
- Take this as a sign to get more dues from members, get revenue from multiple places
- Does the act of applying have political ramifications i.e. being seen with the city
- Is the city department in charge of the grant arms length enough from an antagonistic council
- VTU needs to have transparency with members
Motion: Should the VTU apply for the City of Vancouver's Renters Services Grant?
Motion passes; 40 in favour, 0 opposed, 2 abstentions
(42 members in-good standing participated in vote)
Item 4: Breakout Group Discussions: Visions for growth of VTU - Focused on what the content of the grant application should focus on
Groups of 6-10 people discussed:
- Current gaps in our work
- Projects, campaigns, and other activities that can “elevate and enhance” our capacity along the priority lines identified in the grant (i.e. educating tenants about their rights, empowering them to pursue them, and supporting them to secure their housing)
- How to put checks and balances in our dealing with the City?
An ad-hoc from-membership advisory committee consisting of 6 members (nominated from each breakout group) forms to consult with the Steering Committee during application process.
This Committee will report back at the next General Meeting.