There were a couple of very important meetings in Grandview last night. Obviously I couldn’t be at both and so I will post later about the Eco-Density meeting that a number of kind correspondents who did go have written to me about. I chose instead to go to COPE’s Rent Control Forum at the Grandview Calvary Baptist Church.
The meeting was arranged by Sean Antrim and COPE’s Housing Committee, and was moderated by Rider Cooey. The panelists were Maureen Burke, Theresa Diewert, Patrick Stewart, Garth Mullins and Jon Leah. About fifty people filled the small hall.
This was a policy forum immersed in story telling, and certainly none the worse for that. As Wendy Sarkasian has written: “People relate to stories more than to data, evidence or directives … When stories are shared, each person gains a new perspective.” And so it was last night.
Maureen Burke told us the harrowing story of her renoviction from the Aquilini apartment building on Adanac. From this she led us to understand the weaknesses of the Residential Tenancy Act and the need for a Housing Authority and an Ombudsman to assist renters.
Theresa Diewert regaled us with stories of homelessness and displacement. She noted that Grandview is (or has been) both welcoming and affordable, but she fears for the neighbourhood as condos are planned and built.
Architect Patrick Stewart spoke of his upbringing in care and interlaced Aboriginal issues with the failures caused by our lack of a National Housing Strategy. He opposed the “scattered sites” policy being pushed these days as destructive of community.
Garth Mullins talked about all the types of accommodation he has lived in since moving to the neighbourhood. He noted that the Drive itself has gentrified since his earliest days here, where simple coffee shops have become chains, and political spots like La Quena have been transformed into yoga studios. He decried the need for tall building, noting that they inevitably became the centers of widening ripples of social and economic displacement.
The last speaker, Jon Leah, gave us the sad story of a senior having to move from her own home to an apartment in a co-op which, having started with great hopes, has itself become old and fragile and somewhat unsafe. She believes that forms of rent control will allow seniors to age in place, and wants to see some guarantees against eviction.
These were all moving stories, stories that generated thoughts of change and thus of policy. It will be interesting to see how COPE puts this information together.