Hern, Kothari, and Seigl

Former UN special rapporteur Miloon Kothari revisits Vancouver housing

Former UN rapporteur Miloon Kothari visited Vancouver this summer to receive an honorary doctorate from Simon Fraser University. This trip marked his return to Vancouver for the first time since visiting as UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing 10 years ago to report on Vancouver’s housing situation.

A decade later, Kothari observed that housing in Vancouver has in fact worsened, and the city has not kept pace in its efforts to promote the right to housing. In today’s housing crisis, he says that Vancouver is on the verge of becoming an “apartheid city.” There is a growing divide between its low and high income populations, where low-income people are concentrated to a small area with restricted access to the rest of the city.

While in town, Miloon Kothari visited different sites of displacement, such as the Balmoral Hotel and the Ten Year Tent City. Director of SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement Am Johal interviewed Kothari both in 2007, when he made his initial report and in June 2017, on his observations 10 years later, in which Kothari says that “the housing crisis that I observed in 2007, 10 years ago, has become worse on virtually every level [. . .]”

Miloon Kothari also visited with the Carnegie Community Action Project and heard about the loss of Single Resident Occupancy (SRO) units and the lack of enforcement around standards by the City of Vancouver. Additionally, the lack of increase in welfare rates also exacerbated
the housing crisis even further.

He met with the SRO Collaborative and visited the Balmoral Hotel prior to the evictions. Following that site visit, he met with individuals at the Tent City and took part in a press conference. He also met with representatives of Pivot Legal Society and was briefed on the situation of the tent city in Maple Ridge.

Kothari also sat down with City of Vancouver officials to discuss what more the city could do in terms of utilizing more policy interventions against landlords and utilizing a continuum of housing approaches with a human rights lens as a basis for public policy on affordability. He outlined the need for a long-term strategy with real financial investment and greater policy interventions that have teeth. He reiterated that there has been a crisis for some time and that there needed to be greater urgency in the interventions from all levels of government, including the City of Vancouver.

In partnership with SFU’s Urban Studies program, SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement hosted a talk by the former UN rapporteur, in which he reflected on Vancouver’s lack of progress and provided an international perspective on the merits and drawbacks of housing solutions being implemented globally. His talk was followed by a discussion with local respondents:

Margot Young, professor, Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia
Jean Swanson, Carnegie Community Action Project
Matt Hern, author of What a City Is For: Remaking the Politics of Displacement (2016)
sχɬemtəna:t, St’agid Jaad, Audrey Seigl, environmental and social justice activist, unceded lands of the Musqueam

The full talk and following panel discussion are available here.

Read Miloon Kothari’s affidavit to the Supreme Court in the case of the City of Maple Ridge’s injunction against tent city occupants.

See below for more press coverage of Miloon Kothari’s most recent visit:

CBC News Vancouver becoming ‘apartheid city’ in housing crisis, says former UN rep
Radio-Canada – La crise du logement à Vancouver, « c’est l’apartheid », dit un ex-membre de l’ONU
The Tyee
Vancouver Housing Crisis ‘Worse on Virtually Every Level,’ Says Former UN Investigator
The Vancouver Sun UN representative ‘horrified’ by housing standards in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside
The Georgia StraightInternational expert says Vancouver fails to embrace a rights-based approach to housing
The Georgia Straight – If Vancouver truly respected human rights, it would allow port-o-potties in tent cities
Metro News
 – Vancouver’s housing crisis a form of ‘apartheid:’ former UN housing rapporteur
The Globe and MailAs Metro Vancouver’s affordability gap widens, a search for answers
Metro News – Homelessness isn’t the result of a lack of morals: Mochama
North Shore News – 
West Vancouver council splits on future of Marine Drive
Roundhouse Radio – Vancouver facing potential “Apartheid” says former UN housing envoy
The Talon – The Balmoral Hotel: One of the Many Effects of Decades of Neoliberalism in Vancouver
Vancouver becoming an apartheid city: former UN rapporteur
Carnegie Community Action Project – Former U.N. Rapporteur, Miloon Kothari Speaks Out On Homelessness Crisis In VancouverVIDEO
Vansky – 大温已有“种族隔离”? 前联合国记录员看不下去
Spacing Vancouver – Housing as a Human Right: Miloon Kothari at the MOV