Friday, December 2, 2011

Gimps Against Gentrification!

[photo description: night street scene at a construction site, approximately 12 people, ranging in age, size, ability, colour, stand or sit in the rain in walkers, with canes, and a scooter at the front left, blocking one of the entrances to the under construction Paris annex condo development in Vancouver's DownTown EastSide]

While 24 folks occupied the Paris annex condo development in DTES today, many more linked arms blocking the doors so more cops couldnt get in, including Elders and disabled folks who used our big beautiful bodies and mobility aids to increase our collective strength.

We chanted "NO CONDOS IN THE DTES!", "NO HOUSING, NO PEACE!", and "WHAT DO WE WANT? HOUSING! WHEN DO WE WANT IT? NOW!!" in solidarity with all those fighting the condo onslaught in this area and the unwillingness of the City to do anything about it which reflects & respects the needs of this community.

In the words of the folks fighting gentrification throughout the DTES: 
"Condos at this site would be a gentrification bomb in the heart of the DTES.
The 100-block of East Hastings is symbolically important because it includes single room occupancy housing for about 400 low-income people.
It also includes key gathering places where low-income DTES residents feel comfortable, including:
- Carnegie Community Centre which serves 5000 low-income people and is a hub for food and recreational activities.
- Insite which ensures access to critical health services for thousands of IV drug users..
- Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre which is a drop in and safe-space for thousands of low-income women.
- Aboriginal Front Door which is the only centre in the area run by and for Indigenous people.

Bringing condos to this block could change all of this. Condos cause higher property values, higher rents in SROs, and displacement of low income people from the SROs as we have seen with Woodwards. This contradicts the “without displacement” part of the city’s policy of “revitalization without displacement” in the DTES. The condo-social housing mixed development at Woodward’s caused rents in neighbouring hotels to increase and pushed out low-income residents. Expensive restaurants and boutique stores sprang up and more private security guards and police pushed low-income people out of public spaces. This is why we want 100% social housing, not 80% condos with 20% social housing."

Disabled folks and Elders are some of the hardest hit by the gentrification process in the DTES. Rising poverty rates, reduced disability benefits, health care supplements being slashed, Elder community spaces in uncertain futures, welfare rates at all time lows (and increased barriers), and condo developers encroaching further and further into the heart of the DTES, this pattern will only continue.

But disabled folks and Elders are also often the first on the line when fighting back. There are networks of folks working together to stop these developments, and you can be part of that! There are many victories to celebrate. Get in contact with the folks at the link below, or just come on down to an action. There are many people --including other disabled folks-- able and willing to stay alongside for support, to find ways of working together, to keep each other safe and connected. However you do it, join in the fight! See you out there!

Please, read more here, get informed, come out to an action, support in whatever way you can!

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