Marking 20 years
of bold journalism,
reader supported.
Rights + Justice
Municipal Politics

Vancouver Housing Advocates Rise Up to Tackle Unaffordability

New citizen groups tell us how they are making a difference in a city few can afford.

Christopher Cheung 20 Mar

Christopher Cheung reports on urban issues for The Tyee. Find his previous stories here and follow him on Twitter at @bychrischeung.

Vancouverites are rising up.

Local residents have formed a number of new advocacy groups to tackle housing unaffordability.

They've gone the traditional route of holding rallies and speaking up at public hearings and open houses, but they're using other tactics as well. They crank out policy suggestions and create new tools for the public to learn more and get involved. One group led tours of "Vancouver's Worst Zoning" in a neighbourhood of mansions. One advocate developed easy-to-use letter generators addressed to the powers that be. A renters group steps in to prevent evictions.

These advocates represent a diverse collection of views on supply and demand solutions. Some have collaborated; some have clashed with each other.

Of course, the "housing crisis" label isn't unique to Vancouver. Many metropolitans regions have "perfect storms" of different symptoms.

California's crisis has been called a perfect storm of unique geography, state policies, activist culture and a poorly distributed economic boom. BARF, San Francisco's Bay Area Renters' Federation, advocates for more units fast to keep up with job growth.

Vancouver's storm has common challenges like population growth and debates over land use. But there's also the challenge of domestic and foreign speculation. Media investigations have revealed that laundered casino and drug money is being funnelled into real estate. And on the national level, the latest housing strategy has been called "random" and lacking in immediate action.

Regardless of where critics place blame, the city is facing increased homelessness, a rental vacancy rate below one per cent and decreased access to homeownership. Young people, families and seniors are all affected. Middle- and high-income people are feeling the crunch; those with lower incomes even more so. No wonder the housing crisis is personal for Vancouverites.

A 2014 Spacing article with the headline "Enough with the Break Up Letters" said that more Vancouverites need to organize; there are too many "Dear John" goodbye Vancouver rants and not enough advocacy.

Well, Vancouverites are getting organized and tackling unaffordability's symptoms.

Here are profiles of new groups and one activist written by the parties themselves, with some editing on our part for brevity.

There are many other active groups in Vancouver - some longtime advocates, some new and neighbourhood-specific, including some brave high schoolers who stood up for social housing in south Vancouver - but the following are featured for being new and having a focus that's city-wide or wider. The oldest, Generation Squeeze, was formed in 2011, though with less of a housing focus at the time. The rest launched in the past two years.

All have made significant impacts with the public and those in power.

Read part one on the first two groups here.  [Tyee]

  • Share:

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Comments that violate guidelines risk being deleted, and violations may result in a temporary or permanent user ban. Maintain the spirit of good conversation to stay in the discussion.
*Please note The Tyee is not a forum for spreading misinformation about COVID-19, denying its existence or minimizing its risk to public health.


  • Be thoughtful about how your words may affect the communities you are addressing. Language matters
  • Challenge arguments, not commenters
  • Flag trolls and guideline violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity, learn from differences of opinion
  • Verify facts, debunk rumours, point out logical fallacies
  • Add context and background
  • Note typos and reporting blind spots
  • Stay on topic

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist, homophobic or transphobic language
  • Ridicule, misgender, bully, threaten, name call, troll or wish harm on others
  • Personally attack authors or contributors
  • Spread misinformation or perpetuate conspiracies
  • Libel, defame or publish falsehoods
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities
  • Post links without providing context


The Barometer

Are You Concerned about AI?

Take this week's poll