Our Homes Can’t Wait, who help the poor and the homeless, blocked access to Vancouver City Hall, disrupted a council meeting and stormed a permitting office Tuesday to demand more affordable homes in the Downtown Eastside.
Members of the Our Homes Can’t Wait Coalition started off the day by surrounding every entrance to City Hall, forcing city councillors to postpone a morning meeting until they could find another space.
They continued the demonstration by walking into the Vancouver Service Centre across the street, where one protester jumped onto a desk and led dozens of others in a chant in support of the poor and homeless.
“Inaction is costing lives,” activist Vincent Tao told the crowd back outside. “There are 1,200 homeless on the streets in the Downtown Eastside alone. And what is city council doing? What is Mayor Gregor Robertson doing?”
Our Homes Can’t Wait was out to protest the direction of a planned development at 58 West Hastings St., the site of a former homeless camp that was cleared out last fall.
Protesters want the city to ensure every one of the project’s 231 units are rented out at the welfare and pension rate of $375 a month, something they say was promised by Robertson himself.
Some group members carried pictures of the mayor posing with a signed pledge to develop “100 per cent welfare/pension rate community controlled social housing” at the lot.
“That was Gregor signing two years ago,” Tao said. “Now it’s just 30 per cent social housing.”
Planning documents on the city website only guarantee one-third of units will be made available at the welfare rate, amounting to 77 homes.
For housing activists, that’s not enough, and some have vowed to continue disrupting City Hall until their demands are met.
“We will not sit idly by while the city is remade for the rich,” protester Martin Steward said. “We will fight for our lives and our rights to live with dignity.
The “Our Homes Can’t Wait” coalition vows not to “sit quietly while our city is remade for the rich.” – Protester Martin Steward