December 29, 2017

Is the Vancouver We Know Gone?


Christopher Cheung has written an evocative piece in Metro News  that really resonates with the remarkable changes Vancouver has experienced in the past year. Noting that it is not only  housing affordability at stake, Chris states that “inequality, segregation and displacement are destroying what makes Vancouver special”.
On the heels of Dr. David Hulchanski’s Warren Gill lecture on the hollowing out of Vancouver reported here in Price Tags Vancouver Christopher observes that the City is changing in fundamental ways. Once welcoming to all socio-economic groups, the city is now giving a ‘slow goodbye to diversity and inclusivity as segregation rises”.  Christopher also keenly describes the disappearance of the blue-collar working class out of the city as described by Dr. Hulchanski’s talk.

“Rich Vancouverites settling or spending money in lower-income neighbourhoods are causing displacement, something local activists and academics have sounded alarm on.
The Downtown Eastside and Chinatown are losing businesses catered to its low-income residents as high-end retailers and restaurants move in. Around Metrotown, condo developers are destroying rental housing that single-parents and newcomers have depended on for affordability and transit-access to get to work.
In addition to segregation of the rich and poor, Hulchanski’s analysis of census data shows how extreme Metro Vancouver’s divide is. There are more rich and poor neighbourhoods, but less middle-income neighbourhoods. (A middle-income neighbourhood is a census tract of about 5,000 people with an average individual income 20 per cent above or below the local average.)
In 1980, middle-income neighbourhoods made up two-thirds of the region. In 2015, they make up half the region.”
Christopher Cheung is also absolutely right in describing that the “idea” of Vancouver’s working class neighbourhoods might still exist, but only in “the form of condo ads, businesses, products and neighbourhood rebranding efforts that commodify and glamourize their grittiness“. Even Andy Yan, the Duke of Data and Director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program perceives that a “homogeneous, dull, hostile” Vancouver without the ability to be welcoming and open could develop. As both Christopher Cheung and Andy Yan state the issues in Vancouver are not just about accessibility and affordability to housing and jobs, but also looking at  how to enhance social inclusion and accentuate economic resilience and opportunity. It was those factors that made Vancouver attractive as a city to live in the latter part of the 20th century. How can policy be shaped to ensure Vancouver is a place  that not only can adequately houses its workers, but provides economic diversity and potential? Is it too late to hold onto the Vancouver we used to know?


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