No. 25September 17, 2021
Three people were arrested on September 16 by Toronto police during a march to 14 Division Police Station. The march was organized to support the 26 people who are facing charges arising out of the forceful eviction of homeless people from a camp at Lamport Stadium in July. Following the arrests marchers held a vigil at 14 Division demanding the release of the three people. One of those arrested was Skyler Williams, spokesperson for the Six Nations 1492 Land Back Lane land defenders.
The Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada (MLPC) condemns the criminalization, brutalization and removal of homeless people from the streets of cities across the country and the lack of social responsibility on the part of governments at all levels to make sure all Canadians have housing adequate to their needs. The brutalization of dispossessed and homeless Indigenous peoples is a further crime for which governments must be made to render accounts by providing reparations for all crimes committed against them past and present.
The MLPC calls on Canadians to support the demands of housing advocates who are fighting to uphold the rights of all.
Videos of the vigil, such as this one, are available on Facebook.
(Photos: Encampment Support Network, A. Pabani)
– Statement, Skyler Williams, Six Nations 1492 Land Back Lane Defender –
(September 17) Indigenous people make up nearly 40 per cent of those living without homes on the streets of every major city across the country. This is the legacy of residential schools. Dispossessed of lands. Disconnected from language, culture and family. The legacy of trauma inflicted on our nations and our people over and over again.
These are our people. People stolen from our nations through the residential school system and CAS, criminalized and brutalized for simply existing in one of the few spaces left where they feel safe.
The city of Toronto has no right criminalizing, brutalizing, and removing Indigenous people from the place they’ve made home on stolen native land. To see a city and it’s police come down so hard on folks that have already been through more than most could ever bear is infuriating.
I will be standing with our Indigenous family members wherever they choose to live. We need to stand together to keep each other safe while our brothers and sisters cope with their trauma, find their nations, and reconnect with lost families. We need space and time to heal from generations of trauma. And to fight for landback so that our nations have space to grow, space to welcome our brothers and sisters as they find their way home.
Our nations have called these lands home forever but our fight is not over. No government outside of our nations will dictate to us where we can live. Landback is everywhere. The time to stand up is now! Whenever our people make a call out, whether that’s in the bush or in the middle of a city, everybody should know that we will all be there to help.
Thank you to everyone who answered the call from Encampment Support Network Toronto to show up for myself and two others who were arrested yesterday. And an extra huge thank you to everyone who donated to the 1492 Land Back Lane Legal Defense Fund, pushing us over our fundraising goal.
With less than a week to go before the end of the election campaign, housing advocate organizations and the People’s Action Front for Urban Renewal (FRAPRU) organized a protest in front of Justin Trudeau’s campaign office on Park Avenue in Montreal. On the day FRAPRU held its action, tenants from Trudeau’s riding were occupying his campaign office to express their opposition to the lack of commitments from the Liberals to improve the situation of tenant households with urgent housing needs.
FRAPRU Statement on the Situation
Montreal tenants are facing a serious housing crisis that is likely to continue if strong measures aren’t quickly put in place. In Villeray and Parc-Extension, neighbourhoods in Trudeau’s riding, the scarcity of rental units, the rapid rise in rents, real estate speculation and the increasing number of fraudulent evictions is making the situation very precarious for many tenant households. Many are no longer able to find housing in the neighbourhoods they’ve lived in for years. Even before the pandemic and the rent increases of recent years, 16,100 tenant households in the borough of Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension lived in unaffordable housing and 6,445 lived in housing that was too small. “The public health crisis exposed the serious physical and mental health consequences for tenants in Mr. Trudeau’s riding living in substandard or overcrowded housing, and in particular for the development of children and the safety of abused women. One would hope that this would lead to greater interest on his part, but it didn’t,” said Amy Darwish, coordinator with the Comité d’Action de Parc-Extension. “We can’t be satisfied with half-measures when faced with the magnitude of needs, either in Parc-Extension or in Villeray. Much more needs to be done to support low-income tenants in these two neighborhoods,” she added.
L’Association des Locataires de Villeray and the Comité d’Action de Parc-Extension are reproaching Trudeau for his indifference towards the difficult situations experienced by tenants in his riding and denouncing his lack of commitment to those in urgent need of housing. They point out that Liberal promises to improve access to home ownership do not address the situation. “Promising a way out of the crisis through access to property is an affront to tenants, who risk finding themselves on the street,” said Charles Castonguay, community organizer at the Association des Locataires de Villeray. “We already cannot rely on the private rental market to take care of low-income households. The response must be political, the State must take this on. This response requires social housing and we want clear commitments from Mr. Trudeau,” he insisted.
Since the beginning of the campaign, FRAPRU has been calling on the parties seeking to form the next government to make clear commitments to social housing. However, despite the many criticisms of the National Strategy it has put in place, the Liberal Party has not made a clear commitment to fund the development of new social housing in a targeted manner.
FRAPRU and its member groups note that one of the only references to tenant issues in the Liberal platform is to address “renovictions.” They point out that the measures needed to address these issues are under provincial jurisdiction. Even the promise of a surcharge for excessive rent increases would be difficult to achieve without a provincial lease registry to verify the veracity of claims.
However, funding social housing — which is a shared jurisdiction — would be a concrete way for the next government to fight the housing crisis, FRAPRU says. “Social housing is the only formula that is affordable in a sustainable way and that could significantly reduce the astronomical number of tenant households that have urgent needs,” said Catherine Lussier, an organizer at FRAPRU.
“Under the Liberals, Ottawa finally recognized the right to adequate housing in the National Housing Strategy Act adopted in 2019, but the measures proposed in the Liberal Platform, as in that of the Conservatives, do not give the impression that there is a will to defend this right” Catherine added. FRAPRU also denounces the opportunism of the two parties that are leading in the polls, which give the impression that they are concerned about housing affordability while ignoring the urgent needs of poorly housed tenant households.
FRAPRU and its member groups in Montreal are calling on the parties to commit to a recurring investment of $3 billion per year to fund new social housing. Such investments would allow the construction of 7,000 social housing units per year in Quebec, which has already been the case in the past. They would also contribute to a building 50,000 social housing units in 5 years, including 22,500 in Montreal, which FRAPRU is demanding from both levels of government.
– Serge Lachapelle –
The following interview was conducted with housing activist Serge Lachapelle, an MLPC spokesperson on the right to housing and candidate in Laurier–Sainte-Marie.
Renewal Update: During this election the right to housing has been a serious issue in Montreal. Despite this, the cartel parties and media do not have those affected by this problem or with expert knowledge such as yourself speaking about the needs and solutions. Can you comment on this please.
Serge Lachapelle: It is inspiring to see that the organizations that defend the right to housing are speaking in their own name during this election campaign and rejecting the call to put the issue of housing rights back in the hands of cartel parties. The hypocrisy of the cartel parties is beyond the pale.
Of the two parties that are said to be the main contenders to win the election, the Liberals have said that they will take action on the problem of evictions of tenants under the hoax of renovations although the matter is under provincial jurisdiction. Justin Trudeau also said that he is going to deal with the social housing issue but he didn’t say anything concrete, just more words devoid of concrete action. In addition, he said that the way out of the crisis will be through private home ownership. Activists responded by saying this is an affront to tenants who are at risk of being put out onto the street because they cannot afford private home ownership by buying a house or a condo.
As far as the Conservatives are concerned, their main demand in terms of housing is tax benefits for those who already own houses to make them more affordable. Their platform is also in the service of narrow private interests.
We must also remember that the federal government, in 1990, abandoned the construction of social housing, which has contributed to the current shortage that is estimated at 80,000 social housing units in Quebec alone. All the federal governments that have succeeded one another since 1990 have maintained the decision to withdraw from the construction of social housing. Serious catching up has to be done.
On this issue, for 10 years the Popular Action Front for Urban Renewal (FRAPRU) has been demanding the construction of 50,000 social housing units over five years in Quebec. During the election, it has asked for $3 billion per year to finance new social housing. These investments would permit the construction of 7,500 social housing units per year in Quebec. This demand is important and must be implemented.
The housing crisis is profound. For example, on July 1, more than 500 people in Quebec found themselves on the street because they could not find housing. The CAQ government has put forward a housing income supplement to help these people, but this does not solve the problem of the lack of housing. This year alone, 2,200 households contacted a help service because they were on the street or were going to be on the street during the moving season.
A problem that is very widespread at the moment is the phenomenon of evictions for renovations, especially in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighbourhood, where I live, as well as other historic working class neighbourhoods. Landlords justify evicting tenants by saying that they want to do renovations. Hundreds of people are targeted in several sectors in Montreal alone, but the problem also exists in other cities in Quebec. With these renovations, people have the right to move back into the unit once it is renovated unless that unit no longer exists as a result of the changes, but it is often at double the rent which is unaffordable.
The cost of housing is absolutely unbelievable, for example, on the Plateau, the rent for a one-bedroom apartment can easily reach $1,200 per month when just a few years ago it was between $500 and $600. Because of this, young people, in particular, are often forced to join together to rent a unit, for example a three- or four-bedroom apartment and live there with five or six people in order to be able to afford the rent.
In addition, the supply of housing in Montreal and in Quebec has not been improved for years and the dwellings are often unhealthy. For example, there are low-rent housing projects known as HLM which are dilapidated and even closed at the moment. There are HLMs with problems of mold and cockroach infestation. It is a very difficult situation.
For activists, a main problem is that housing is left in private hands. And the private sector sees housing as an opportunity to generate profits for itself. One of the main demands of FRAPRU and RCLALQ (Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec) is to set up housing cooperatives in which it is the members who manage the cooperative.
The housing crisis leads us to talk about the situation faced by the homeless. They have been hit very hard during the whole pandemic. They were provided with hotels but many homeless people did not want to stay there because the conditions were not appropriate for their situation. For example, their privacy was not respected because they had to leave their room door open at all times. People built homeless encampments so that the homeless could have a roof over their heads. The encampments were supported by those who advocate for the homeless and defend their rights. These encampments were quickly dismantled by the City of Montreal, the police and the fire department under the hoax of safety. No effort is made to provide them with all the necessary assistance to make them safe. On the contrary, they are brutalized, their possessions burned and thrown into the garbage. Those who are already traumatized are traumatized further. It is outright human cruelty for which they must be held to account.
With no real alternative, the homeless were moved to less visible locations, and the phenomenon of hidden homelessness grew exponentially. Many homeless people have found themselves cut off from the resources and services they need, and without the direct help of activists advocating for them. Authorities have chosen the path of criminalization, which is not a solution to homelessness, but only makes it worse.
I call on everyone to raise their voices with that of Network in Aid of Persons Living Alone and Homeless Persons (RAPSIM) and other organizations and individuals who denounce the repression of the homeless and demand solutions to the problem that defends the rights of the most vulnerable.
On behalf of the MLPC, I salute the work of all the organizations and activists who are defending the right to housing for all and of those who speak in their own name during this election and at all times.
– K.C. Adams –
The revelations of a corrupt real estate deal involving the BC government, the City of Vancouver and Holborn Properties Ltd. raise important questions. How pervasive is corruption in real estate, not only in depriving people of the right to housing but in driving skyward the price of land itself and real estate generally? Large amounts of the people’s money and funds in the economy are tied up in real estate and paying residential and commercial rent. The resulting economic and social problems, including homelessness and bankruptcy must be addressed and resolved.
What role does corruption play in these problems? Corruption usually refers to illegal activity but with regard to real estate often the corruption is legal according to business law. A perception is held by many that real estate corruption may be morally abhorrent but not illegal. Such is the case with the 2008 BC government sale of twelve acres of Little Mountain to Holborn Properties, a global real estate and investment cartel.
A way to attack corruption is to make it materially and legally difficult, if not impossible. In the case of land, it would require removing land as a commodity and making it public common property that cannot be bought or sold. With residential housing generally and social housing in particular it would require human-centred public enterprises across the country constantly building structures to be rented or bought for a determined price of production.
For rental housing, the public enterprises would build and maintain the structures at Canadian standards with modern amenities. Social housing would require not only constant maintenance but all other necessary social programs for the residents to retain their dignity and attachment and solidarity with work and society. This means social housing would include at Canadian standards all aspects of health care, education, recreation, sports, culture and food security for residents.
Removing the Legalized Basis for Real Estate Swindles
None of the cartel parties in the federal election would ever suggest removing the material basis of corruption in real estate. To create all-sided human-centred public enterprises across the country to build and maintain housing, and produce and supply the main elements necessary such as wood and steel without the involvement of the aim of certain individuals becoming rich in the process would run the risk for cartel parties of all hell raining down from the ruling elite.
Removing the prospect of becoming rich from building housing and selling land would go a long way in defeating corruption in real estate, in solving the housing crisis and affirming the right to housing as necessary to uphold the right to be.
Corruption must have some material basis to exist. If the material basis allowing corruption is removed, and the imperialist aim constantly denounced as anti-social, immoral and unjust, then corruption will gradually disappear. If the aim to become rich is under pressure and more closely scrutinized as harmful and contrary to what should be the aim of a modern economy —- which is to serve the people and meet their needs —- and a material basis to become rich through manipulating real estate is removed, then corruption becomes more difficult to express in actual behaviour.
The housing crisis can be solved if Canadians take bold action on the front of removing land as a commodity and establishing human-centred public housing enterprises.
Removing land as a commodity to be bought and sold would address the housing crisis and block the parasites and flippers who, like in the case of the Little Mountain corrupt deal to pay the rich, can without remorse tear down social housing and sit on an empty lot for years until the opportune time arrives to either sell it or build something on it for a huge profit. Instead of having rich owners expropriating the value workers produce in building, maintaining and supplying the necessary material for housing, the value would be reinvested back into the sector for the good of all.
Putting a market price on land and buying and selling it become obstacles for economic and social development. In fact land has no economic value unless used, improved or serviced. The Little Mountain land, fenced in and sitting mostly vacant for 12 years in the middle of Vancouver, is devoid of economic value. Yet paradoxically and parasitically, its market value has skyrocketed to pay the rich. This destructive practice must be stopped.
Seven hundred people were displaced when BC Housing sold Little Mountain to parasites. Holborn took possession of the property and tore down the social housing. Of course, this was accomplished while spouting high ideals and promises of this and that. But the aim is to become richer and that trumps everything, including principles and humanizing the social environment. To stop this corruption in its tracks, the city and province should have jointly kept the property public and formed a human-centred public construction enterprise to build new expanded housing and amenities on the site and elsewhere. This public enterprise could hire permanent construction workers, architectural and engineering professionals and acquire as public property all the productive means and forces necessary to build, maintain and supply housing for all.
The 2008 deal involves the BC government as owner of the property, the city of Vancouver and Holborn Properties Ltd, a global investment cartel whose principal owner is one of the richest oligarchs in Malaysia.
The 12 acres of Little Mountain lie in Vancouver just east of Queen Elizabeth Park. Seven hundred people lived in 224 units of social housing at the time of the sale. The units had been built in 1954 and were owned and maintained by BC Housing. Many of those living there and displaced in 2009 were seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income families with children.
The BC government sold the land and housing to Holborn for a purported $334-million, although the details of the contract dispute that amount. Holborn evicted the residents in 2009 and tore down the housing. Most of the twelve acres is now a fenced-off field of tall grass and a few trees with Holborn banners saying, apparently without intending to mock itself, “Great stories take time to write.”
The details of the deal remained secret until this year when, after a three-year court battle, the BC Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner ordered the details released. The contract and amendments are available here.
According to the now public 2008 contract, instead of Holborn using its own resources to come up with enough funds to buy Little Mountain, the BC government gave Holborn both millions of dollars and the property. To turn public property into the private property of Holborn to do with as it wishes the government handed over to Holborn a $211 million interest-free loan that does not have to be repaid to BC Housing until the end of 2031 and is interest free for 18 years. No interest will be charged on the $211 million government loan until the end of 2026. No loan repayment schedule was arranged. Holborn has not paid back any of the loan since 2008 and no interest has been charged. By taking ownership of Little Mountain as its private property, Holborn acquired the land and the free use of most of the government’s $211 million without any requirement to repay the loan until 2031. But that is not all.
The government also reduced the total price for the property Holborn was required to pay by $88 million. The contract lists this reduction of the price as a government “credit” to Holborn for “the promised construction of 234 non-market units on the property.” No date is found in the contract stating when the units must be completed.
With the $88 million “credit,” the sale price fell to $246 million leaving only $35-million as a down payment. By using a portion of the $211 million government free money to pay the $35 million, Holborn acquired private ownership of the 12 acres plus $176 million from the government as a free loan until the end of 2026. In return, Holborn promised to repay the $211 million loan by 2031 and to build 234 non-market units by no fixed date. No deadline, time limit or date requiring the developer to build homes to replace the destroyed non-market housing can be found in the contract.
But even that was not enough! The contract also relieved Holborn of various expenses that would normally be the responsibility of the purchaser. The contract stipulates that BC Housing will “pay for environmental remediation, negotiate any First Nations’ claims, which become the responsibility of BC Housing, take care of costs for demolition and be responsible for relocating residents of the original social housing buildings.” Also, the government assumed and paid all real estate fees.
Once it became known earlier this year that the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner would order the Little Mountain contract made public —- 13 years after the deal was signed, Holborn and the City of Vancouver quickly announced an approved “master plan.” The master plan includes site-wide rezoning of a “complete build out [of] over a dozen buildings up to 12 storeys, with a combined total floor area of about 1.7 million sq ft, containing 1.32 million sq ft of condominiums [about 1,500 units], 330,000 sq ft of social housing, and 33,000 sq ft of local-serving retail and restaurant space.”
Given the sharp rise in housing and land market prices since the economic crisis of 2008, the Holborn-owned 1,500 new condo units on the 12 acres of Little Mountain alone once built could have a market price of over a billion dollars. Holborn would also own the planned commercial units, childcare facility, neighbourhood house, plaza and park. The updated total number of social housing units in the master plan is 282 with 48 to be owned by the City of Vancouver and 10 by the Musqueam Indian Band, according to a separate BC Housing document.
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