Vancouver is increasingly moving towards a financial caste system.
It’s not like it hasn’t been going on for generations, but now it’s becoming entrenched in civic development policy.
Instead of an intentional, well-led civic discussion about housing, justice, poverty, inclusion and community, developers continue to run the city, with teensy requests from the city government to do nice things like provide “social housing” of a sort.
But now we have a developer reluctant to allow the poor in “non-market” housing to mingle or interact with the rich, who are basically the only ones who can afford market housing in Vancouver.
BC has subsidized private schools to allow the rich to segregate their kids away from the poor. But when the city allows developers to build separate entrances, lobbies and playgrounds for children based on the wealth of their parents–all in the same building!–I remember images of segregation of the past.
As a kid I used to see East Hastings hotels with a men’s entrance and a ladies entrance. Pretty benign compared to racially segregated bathrooms, water fountains, restaurants, schools, residential schools, etc.
We are truly in a deeply class-divided city when we read city staff supporting this regressive, insulting development proposal, in this excellent piece of journalism from Jen St. Denis at Metro:
Cameron Thorn, vice-president of Strand, said the two portions of the building will be distinct legal entities, and title for the social housing component will be transferred to the city. In an email to Metro, city communications staff wrote that social housing with separate entrances and amenities are easier to manage.
“We learned from the Woodward’s development that residents living in properties that combine social housing with a market residential component appreciate having their own shared common spaces and outdoor space,” wrote communications staffer Ellie Lambert.
Of course they do. No one wants to sully themselves with the riffraff if they can afford a condo in Vancouver.
For the city to just nod and smile and go about its business, we entrench more class division, moving towards caste treatment in the city.
And I don’t know my Judy Graves thinks separate entrances for the poor is OK, called poor doors in NYC, but not separate playgrounds. It’s only a matter of degree.
As we pivot to a new world of justice, dignity and respect, this housing development moves us closer to tolerating segregation based on income, segregation of children who didn’t plan the income level of families they were born into, and a city that more formally entrenches income castes in Vancouver.
This kind of gated, Robocop, Gattaca world can simply emerge when the city lacks the leadership to be intentional about what kind of city we want.
But that’s being charitable. The city doesn’t really care about egalitarianism, access or dignity. That’s why they “let” things get this bad: laissez-faire economic principles.
The mayor has been in office for 9 years and just now has released a 10-year housing plan. This, after he campaigned on eradicating homelessness years ago. This all sounds like Trudeau, whose speeches speak of a purely imaginary Canada, while the real Canada continues to decay and bifurcate, favouring the 1%
This city’s inaction on affordable housing, along with the province’s, is intentional. We haven’t seen any will to ensure housing with dignity and it’s only getting worse.
Luckily we have an election in a year. If Vision can’t be bothered to address housing with dignity and the NPA is similarly beholden to real estate developers, we need a revolutionary approach to civic leadership from somewhere else.
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