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Premier's house 'sold' to protest Little Mountain development

A real estate spoof sold shares to Premier Gordon Campbell's house this afternoon to denounce the sale of Vancouver’s Little Mountain Housing and the lack of low-income affordable housing around B.C.

“If the Premier can sell land that belongs to us, I guess we can sell land that belongs to him,” said Linda Shuto, a member of Community Advocates for Little Mountain.

The organizers decided on today’s carnival-style event -- which included live music, games and a clown -- as a new tactic, after holding a number of recent rallies and protests.

“We decided that maybe we need some laughter, a little satire,” Shuto told The Tyee.

Little Mountain is the oldest social housing project in Vancouver. Residents were told in early 2007 that the publicly-owned property would be sold and redeveloped.

Of the 224 units on the 15-acre property, only about a dozen remain occupied today, with many residents relocated outside Vancouver, said Shuto.

A number of current and former residents attended today’s event to see old friends and share the loss they experienced after so many left.

“I’m in a house now that is not my home,” said Alana Zubot, who lived at Little Mountain for eight years before leaving last fall.

“This is my home, this is where all my community ties are,” she told The Tyee.

It’s this sentiment that has kept some of the few remaining tenants from leaving, said Ingrid Steenhuisen, whose family has lived there since 1957.

“For us it’s not just four walls, it’s not just this site. This community is an integral part of who we are.”

While many of the residents have been told they will be able to return to Little Mountain after the site is redeveloped, Zubot said she is sceptical.

“I don’t believe it,” she said. “If they tear it down it’s going to sit empty for a long time.”

She also questioned why the units are sitting vacant now when there is such a need for affordable housing in Vancouver.

“For all the damage that’s been done, the least that they could be doing right now is reopening the homes and start housing people that need housing.”

While the event highlighted the situation at Little Mountain, it underlines the much broader issue of the lack of low-income housing, said Shuto, and the need for affordable housing strategies from both the provincial and federal governments.

And while she welcomed the recent focus from the province on support housing for addictions and mental illness, she said there has been no attention given to affordable housing for low-income families, seniors and students.

“It’s their job to build homes, just like it’s their job to build schools, and hospitals and roads. Until we have a government that sees that and says 'this is our responsibility and we take it seriously,' I don’t think we’re going to see a solution to this.”

To highlight the non-partisan nature of today's event, Shuto said the mock sale of the Premier's house will apply to whichever party leader wins the May 12 election if the next government fails to meet the needs of affordable housing in B.C.

Garrett Zehr reports for The Tyee.

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