Dianne Hanchiruk says she feels increasingly alienated by the rising cost of everything in the southwestern edge of the Vancouver Granville riding, where the 76-year-old has rented an apartment for more than four decades.
Luckily, the retired nursing home housekeeper has secure housing with affordable rent, a situation she says would be impossible to replicate nearby if she were ever forced out of her unit. But all her favourite restaurants have long closed and the area’s seniors don’t have the cash to frequent the grocers, clothing boutiques and upscale chain stores on the main strip of South Granville, where jeans are hawked – already ripped – for $200.
“Now it’s just so boring, it’s so cold, here is just for the rich,” she told The Globe and Mail on Tuesday from inside Frank’s Barbershop, where she drops in at least twice a day to gossip about neighbourhood goings-on with barber Karima Ayers.
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Ms. Hanchiruk says she has voted for Jody Wilson-Raybould in the past, but wouldn’t say which candidate she wants to replace the woman who became Canada’s first Indigenous justice minister before breaking away from the Liberals after The Globe uncovered the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
Vancouver’s lone riding without an incumbent MP trying to get re-elected is a microcosm of the real estate problems many Canadian cities are now facing: a place starkly divided by housing haves and have-nots. It also offers a barometer to measure the success of each party’s pitch to urban voters across the country.
One of the riding’s unofficial dividing lines for the wealth of its voters is West 16th Avenue. To the north lay many older three- and four-storey apartment buildings housing renters such as Ms. Hanchiruk, and directly to the south sits Vancouver’s exclusive Shaughnessy neighbourhood, which has some of the country’s most expensive homes, including a block with Meng Wanzhou’s mansion and the official residence of the United States Consul General.
Comparing the latest official data from 2016 shows the census tract encompassing Ms. Meng’s residence was more than five times as large as the one directly north of it yet less than seven times as densely populated and housed nearly a thousand fewer people. The median household income of the Shaughnessy census tract is more than double the $64,402 claimed by those living north of 16th.
The housing crisis is now touching nearly every one of her constituents regardless of where they live, Ms. Wilson-Raybould said, noting her eight years of knocking on doors and talking to residents showed her this is their No. 1 concern.
“There were very similar stories in terms of people being concerned about the cost of living, being concerned that they’re going to be able to live where they work and being pushed out because of that affordability,” she said in an interview Friday. “I don’t know what one worries about more than having a roof over their heads.”
Paul Kershaw, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia who founded the Generation Squeeze group aimed at increasing the equity for younger people, said the main party platforms are all going further than previous elections to address the real estate crisis. But, he said, none of them are willing to have the hard conversation about breaking Canada’s addiction to a system that rewards those who park their money in housing and watch prices rise.
“I’ve been a homeowner for over 15 years and I get richer while I sleep, watch TV and cook,” he said. “Owners get a wealth windfall – everyone else has their goals crushed.”
Andy Yan, a housing analyst and director of Simon Fraser University’s city program, said the 2016 census data shows that the riding echoes the rest of the city of Vancouver in terms of the have-nots: Just over half of the people rent and, of those, just under half (43 per cent) have unaffordable leases, which is described as requiring more than 30 per cent of one’s income.
“It is a tale of two cities,” he said.
Mr. Yan said the election winner may be the one with the charisma, or “political empathy,” to appeal to such a polarized “Frankenriding,” which made its debut in 2015 after being stitched together from pieces of four neighbouring districts.
Both he and Ms. Wilson-Raybould agree that the Liberal candidate may have too much baggage surrounding his past history flipping properties in the region. (Ms. Wilson-Raybould would not endorse anyone, but has publicly wished the NDP’s Anjali Appadurai well on social media.)
Taleeb Noormohamed is once again trying to win after finishing runner-up to Ms. Wilson-Raybould in 2019. Property records show Mr. Noormohamed, a tech entrepreneur and long-time partisan who ran for the Liberals in North Vancouver almost a decade ago, bought and sold more than 30 houses over a 17-year-period, netting a profit of more than $4-million.
Mr. Noormohamed, who worked in the Privy Council Office under both Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, declined an interview request with The Globe and did not attend an all-candidates debate nor another panel on CBC Radio attended by his rivals this week. Mr. Noormohamed has told other media in interviews that, despite his past business improving and selling homes, he fully supports the Liberals’ pledge to create a tax to discourage such flipping.
Imtiaz Popat, a psychotherapist running for the Greens again after first competing for the party 30 years ago in Vancouver-Centre against Kim Campbell and Hedy Fry, said the renters to the north of the affluent single-family neighbourhoods in the riding often find themselves in precarious living situations because of the rise in real estate prices. Mr. Popat, who rents on the Broadway thoroughfare currently being torn up to build the new UBC subway line, said his party has the best plan to commit to building much more social housing.
Kailin Che, his Conservative rival, declined a Globe interview request this week, but outlined at a recent debate her party’s commitment to funding much more supply – one million more homes – if the Tories form government.
“The limited impact of the Liberals housing strategy demonstrates it’s not a demand problem … it’s a supply issue,” said Ms. Che, a lawyer who is representing a group of plaintiffs fighting to overturn B.C.’s popular speculation and vacancy tax.
The New Democrat Ms. Appadurai, who went viral a decade ago with a fiery speech in Durban, South Africa, exhorting delegates from Western countries contemplating deep emissions cuts to “Get it done!,” said she has focused most of her energy during this short campaign on the renters north of 16th Avenue. But, she said in an interview, voters across the riding have a strong conscience and homeowners are increasingly coming around to her pitch for more equitable policies aimed at cooling prices.
“There are a lot of people who have benefited from the housing market, but whose children won’t,” she said.
With research from Rick Cash and Stephanie Chambers in Toronto and a report from The Canadian Press
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