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Vancouver Tenants Union turns two!

Members of the VTU celebrate and organize. Photo by Michael Tseng
By: 
Ryan Schebek

April 30, 2019

This weekend the Vancouver Tenants Union (VTU) celebrated its second anniversary. On April 27 members gathered at the Carnegie Community Centre to share success stories of the past year, organize further action and (most importantly) eat cake!

The past year has been a battle for renters in Vancouver. The cost of living continues to rise and landlords continue to exploit vulnerable tenants to make a profit at the expense of their tenant’s health and safety.

It has been six months since the elevators broke at the eighty-six unit Solheim apartment building leaving many of the disabled and elderly tenants feeling trapped. The building is run by a B.C. social service organization called S.U.C.C.E.S.S which told tenants they would have to wait another eleven months before the elevator could be fully repaired. Tenants received no compensation or alternative living arrangements until the repairs could be finished. No accommodations were made for the tenants despite S.U.C.C.E.S.S. running a $1.5 million profit from revenues between 2017-2018.

VTU helped organize Solheim building residents to demand that not only the elevator be fixed in a timely manner (which is law under B.C. Safety Standards Act) but also to receive compensation for suffering. Some tenants have had to leave their wheel chairs and climb, step by step, to their floor. The organized demands of the building’s tenants have been heard and those that require an elevator are now being accommodated and compensated. The ongoing battle between Solheim and S.U.C.C.E.S.S is only one of many VTU campaigns.

Since its inception the VTU has done everything it can to protect renters and reaffirm that housing is a human right. Sometimes that battle takes them to city hall where the VTU fought for bans on renovictions . Other times that meant taking to the street. Throughout the year the VTU has mobilized renters at the grassroots level. It has done this by tabling on street coroners and organizing entire neighbourhoods by going door to door and building by building. Their efforts have been successful as the VTU has seen a rapid growth in neighbour chapters. This year has seen the beginnings of a number of neighbourhood chapters including the West End, Mount Pleasant, Hasting’s Sunrise and Kensington-Cedar Cottage.

During the birthday celebration members worked together, democratically, to create action plans for how the VTU will move forward. There is plenty of work to be done as specific actions and directions identified by members in small break out groups. Despite the amount of work ahead the general atmosphere was that of energy and excitement. Capitalism will only intensify the point of struggle between those seeking housing and those looking to make profit off of exploitation. It is comforting to know the VTU is growing in its second year and continues to give voice to those in need. To get involved: www.vancouvertenantsunion.ca

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