Vancity is Supporting Gentrification Not DTES Low Income Community: By Dave Diewert

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**NOTE from editors: Since this article was published Vancity has clarified that they do not have a partnership with Sequel 138 condos, and their logo and name was used on the Sequel 138 website without their knowledge.

 

The drive to sell Sequel 138 condos is on. The project at 138 E. Hastings, the former site of the Pantages Theatre, has generated very strong community opposition. It would directly threaten the housing and services for low income residents of the 100 block E. Hastings and surrounding DTES neighbourhood.

But the project has some shocking and disturbing allies. Last issue we exposed how BC Housing bailed out the financially- troubled developer Marc Williams with low-interest loans of up to $23.5 million. This helped get the stalled project back on track.

Now we find out, from the Sequel 138 web site, that Vancity Credit Union is the first of two official partners of the project.

Vancity is facilitating mortgage arrangements for potential condo buyers. Applications for financing go through Vancity and can be submitted to the Mortgage Development Manager at the Chinatown Branch on East Pender.

Sequel’s sales pitch is that those who make less than $65,000 a year can purchase its $250,000 condos with zero down payment and a $5,000 deposit. Vancity has offered to waive bank and appraisal fees for applicants.

Vancity says it’s committed to corporate social responsibility by investing in the well-being of communities and respecting the environment.

But by contributing to the success of Sequel 138 it primarily serves the “community” of new condos owners and not the current low income residents of the 100 block (many of whom are Vancity members through its branch at Pigeon Park Savings). The gentrifying changes Vancity is promoting will lead to rising  property values and rents, renovictions, more security personnel, and involuntary displacement from the community.

Vancity says it makes decisions about what organizations it will and will not do business with on the basis of an ethical policy.

It will work with organizations that show a commitment to environmental leadership and healthy communities, exhibit positive and fair relations with the communities in which they operate, respect indigenous rights and land claims and contribute to societal health and well-being. But it won’t do business with organizations that demonstrate non –compliance with environmental laws and regulations or have a track record of fines or convictions relating to violation of workplace health and safety standards.

Marc Williams and his Sequel 138 project clearly fail this ethics test.

He has shown contempt for the neighbourhood by making and leaving a rat-infested, environmentally hazardous toxic demolition site for a year (only the threat of City fines forced a clean-up).

He allegedly exploited local workers by under-paying them or failing to pay them on time. His project will threaten nearby low income focused health and support services that assist women, indigenous people and drug users in the DTES.

It is hypocritical for Vancity to partner with a project which been soundly rejected by many neighbourhood resident-based community organizations and artists groups.

Vancity welcomes feedback. If you are a member, you should let them know they are badly failing to live up to their stated business values and ethical mandate.

Vancity must drop its partnership with Marc Williams and refuse to collaborate on the project. It can demonstrate its social responsibility to the low income community by supporting 100% community controlled social housing on the site and nothing less.

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