On the podcast, The City discusses the intersections of race, class, and redevelopment in Brooklyn, New York with My Brooklyn filmmaker Allison Lirish Dean. In the filmmakers’ own words:
My Brooklyn is a documentary about Director Kelly Anderson’s personal journey, as a Brooklyn “gentrifier,” to understand the forces reshaping her neighbourhood along lines of race and class. The story begins when Anderson moves to Brooklyn in 1988, lured by cheap rents and bohemian culture. By Michael Bloomberg’s election as mayor in 2001, a massive speculative real estate boom is rapidly altering the neighbourhoods she has come to call home. She watches as an explosion of luxury housing and chain store development spurs bitter conflict over who has a right to live in the city and to determine its future. While some people view these development patterns as ultimately revitalizing the city, to others, they are erasing the eclectic urban fabric, economic and racial diversity, creative alternative culture, and unique local economies that drew them to Brooklyn in the first place. It seems that no less than the city’s soul is at stake.
Meanwhile, development officials announce a controversial plan to tear down and remake the Fulton Mall, a popular and bustling African-American and Caribbean commercial district just blocks from Anderson’s apartment. She discovers that the Mall, despite its run-down image, is the third most profitable shopping area in New York City with a rich social and cultural history. As the local debate over the Mall’s future intensifies, deep racial divides in the way people view neighbourhood change become apparent. All of this pushes Anderson to confront her own role in the process of gentrification, and to investigate the forces behind it more deeply.
The film is an important reminder of how seemingly mundane processes of zoning and land use change can dramatically change urban landscapes, and these changes may entail the loss of vibrant, racially diverse neighbourhoods and the displacement of lower-income residents and affordable, independent businesses. While the contexts may be different, these broader processes are at work in cities across North America, and certainly in Vancouver.
There is a free screening of “My Brooklyn” scheduled for Wednesday, February 20th at SFU Woodward’s. Find the details on the Facebook event page. These very processes are occurring throughout Vancouver’s neighbourhoods, especially in Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside. A large number of rezonings for large condominium developments (by large developers) have been approved for the predominantly low-income Chinatown and Downtown Eastside area.
Tune in for more about this on the week’s radio program and podcast, airing live February 19th at 5pm on CiTR 101.9 FM.
Cities like New York have embraced the global city moniker as central to their identity and have fostered those economic sectors that city leaders understand as being congruent with this designation. Financial and producer services and the arts economy, signals of global cityhood, have become vital to New York’s self-image. Economic sectors that do not fit with the image of a global city suffer through a policy of malign neglect.
–Professors Winifred Curran and Susan Hanson
In the first podcast of an ongoing series exploring urban economies, The City talks with urban geographer Winifred Curran about industrial displacement in New York City, the future of economic development in North American cities, and the assumed inevitability of deindustrialization and the post-industrial urban economy.
What type of industries prosper in particular places? Why? And what are some of the pressures industries face in a globalized economy and in so-called global cities?
Dr. Winifred Curran is associate professor of geography at DePaul University in Chicago. She is an urban geographer focusing on gentrification and urban change, labor geographies, and race and gender. Her dissertation work looked at the effect of gentrification on small scale manufacturers in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. Her current research looks at the connections between gentrification and environmentalism. She has been published in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Local Environment, Urban Geography, and Urban Studies, among others.
On October 25th, 2012, the Province of BC and the City of Vancouver announced that the four remaining tenant-households at the Little Mountain social housing development would not be evicted, and that up to 50 social housing units would be fast-tracked and built on a portion of the site. Previously, the existing tenants (in the remaining townhouse who refused to be displaced) were served eviction notices, despite the fact that site redevelopment had not even reached the rezoning stage (and construction completion was still years away).
On the podcast, The City evaluates the recent social housing victory at Vancouver’s Little Mountain and we reflect on the history of the struggle. We begin with an excerpt from UBC Geography graduate student Tommy Thompson, who conducted extensive research on Little Mountain and found that “through an analysis of the distribution of benefits and losses of redevelopment to various relevant groups, Little Mountain tenants are being squeezed out of the benefits of redevelopment while bearing significant losses.”
We then hear from David Vaisbond, a documentary filmmaker, who has thoroughly and intimately documented the history of the Little Mountain housing struggle. We ask him to reflect on some of the most profound moments of documenting this struggle. Finally, former MLA and Little Mountain advocate David Chudnovsky reflects on this victory and provides a history of the proposed Little Mountain privatization and redevelopment.
How is a billionaire mining magnate involved in Vancouver’s new rent bank?
The City critically unpacks the recently launched Vancouver rent bank with the editors of The Mainlander. Editors Tristan Markle, Andrew Witt, and Nathan Crompton recently published an in-depth, and highly critical analysis of the rent bank. We discuss a seemingly progressive institution – the rent bank – and look at the history of who is financially involved in the program, why it matters, and if the rent bank is actually as innocent as it may seem. We look at the issue of charity versus justice in our neoliberal times, and we turn to renowned political philosopher Slavoj Zizek for some assistance in understanding the role of charity in society today.
Mayor Gregor Robertson’s Task Force on Housing Affordability avoided using Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) definition of “affordable housing” in their final report (“Bold Ideas for an Affordable City”), instead opting for a flexible and vague definition of housing affordability. In the glossary (page 40) of the task force’s final report, “affordable housing” is defined as housing that
can be provided by the City, government, non-profit, community and for-profit partners. It can be found or developed along the whole housing continuum, and include SROs, market rental and affordable home ownership. The degree of housing affordability results from the relationship between the cost of housing and household income. It is not a static concept, as housing costs and incomes change over time.
This definition stands in contrast to the widely accepted definition provided by CMHC, and widely accepted in Canada:
The cost of adequate shelter should not exceed 30% of household income. Housing which costs less than this is considered affordable. However, consumers, housing providers and advocacy organizations tend to use a broader definition of affordability.
While Vision Vancouver Mayor Robertson’s Task Force is arguing that it is not a “static concept”, the CMHC and others would argue that it is indeed a static and stable concept at this point in time. The point of the Task Force’s exercise was to address housing affordability for households at this point in time based on a current definition of what affordability is for households.
Arguing that affordability is not a static concept only opens the door for the real estate and development industry, as well as developer-backed political parties, to define what affordability is. Housing affordability is based on household income, which, yes does indeed change based on income level, but is static at 30% of household income. Furthermore, housing policy experts and analysts have argued that housing expenditures beyond 20% of household income for low-income households is excessive, and thus not affordable.
By refusing to define “affordability” consistent with the widely accepted CMHC standard, the task force’s final report is fundamentally flawed. And moreover, we are no closer to establishing an evaluative criteria for which progress towards greater affordability can be based. Again, we are witnessing a developer-dominated housing task force and municipal party catering to the development industry in another flamboyant exercise in political spectacle with the release of this report, which amounts to little more than regurgitated neoliberal policymaking at a time when we need a transformative, progressive political agenda.
Dispossession and displacement as active projects are very much about land as property. Property is both the point of these struggles and the medium. Struggles over the meanings and moralities of property have been central. Law, in this sense, must be conceived not simply as an instrument of colonial domination but as a means through which colonialism has itself been produced. In order to understand the historic dynamics of colonialism and its contemporary echoes, it helps if we attend to the geographies of land. The meanings and practices associated with land as property have proved critical, yet are inseparable from its spatialities.–Nick Blomley (Professor of Geography, SFU)
In this edition of The City, we reflect upon the Musqueam’s ongoing struggle to protect their ancestral village site and burial grounds of c̓əsnaʔəm (pronounced cusnaum) from condo development. Friday, August 10th marked 100 days of the Musqueam keeping an around-the-clock vigil and occupation of at the site in the 1300-block of SW Marine Drive, which is under threat of development. Musqueam marked 100 days with a march from Granville and W 70th to c̓əsnaʔəm and a rally with other First Nations from around the province, as well as many non-Musqueam supporters and organizations.
The owners of the site are planning to have Century Group, the developer, build condominiums on the site despite over 4,000-year-old Musqueam ancestral remains have been discovered and c̓əsnaʔəm has been recognized as a National Historic Site since the 1930s. The BC government has continued to okay the site for development based on their archaeological assessment, with the city then issuing the necessary development permit. By keeping an ongoing vigil, the Musqueam have prevented further development and desecration. Musqueam have proposed a land swap to ensure the future protection and recognition of c̓əsnaʔəm. The provincial government has been unwilling to move this proposal forward. The BC Liberal government has suggested that they will expedite payment of cash that is already owed to the band, so the band can then buy back the land from the owners/developer. The irony of buying back your own land is not lost on many. You can follow the struggle for c̓əsnaʔəm on Twitter and Facebook.
ON THE PODCAST | We hear from Musqueam’s Cecilia Point and elder Delbert Guerin, provincial NDP MLAs Jenny Kwan and Scott Fraser (Aboriginal Relations Critic), former COPE City Councillor Ellen Woodsworth, BC Nurses’ Union President Debra MacPherson and Lisa Walker. Additionally, The City speaks with Tristan Markle, co-founder and editor of The Mainlander, about the city’s role and responsibility in the matter, specifically on why a development permit was issued. In the first part of the podcast, host Andy Longhurst reads excerpts from Nick Blomley’s (Professor of Geography, SFU) 2003 book Unsettling the City: Urban Land the Politics of Property.
The town also emerged as a vital economic and political node in a broader colonial network, directing flows of capital and command that opened up resource frontiers in the colonial interiors. All of this, of course, was pivotal to the process of colonial dispossession. But colonial towns also quickly emerged as speculative spaces. Layout was designed so as to facilitate the acquisition and transfer of urban land. Vancouver’s initial expansion, it has been argued, was largely a product of land speculation, rather than expansion in the production of goods and services. Boosterist publications marveled at the leapfrogging of prices, and the fact that areas of “wild land” could become “first-class property” in a matter of months. Vancouver “is a purely business town,” noted one observer, “a land of speculation…above all, in city lots.”
Check out host and producer Andy Longhurst’s recent article published by The Mainlander.
Vision Vancouver and city planners have recently launched a series of highly branded “ideas competitions” with design-heavy titles like re:THINK and re:CONNECT. While the stated purpose of these competitions has been to generate creative new ideas for the city’s greatest planning challenges, the reality is that these events represent staged spectacles that obscure Vancouver’s housing crisis.