JEAN SWANSON AIMS TO REVOLUTIONIZE POLITICS IN VANCOUVER. She says the first step will be to elect her to Vancouver city council on October 4.
Her focus is on the lack of affordable housing in Vancouver and the rocketing rise in homelessness that results from it.
“I want to be an activist councillor working with tenants and using city powers and facilities to push as hard as we can for a four-year rent freeze for all tenants,” Swanson said.
She also proposes a “Mansion Tax” to force the rich to pay their fair share toward funding a long over due affordable housing program.
Jean says the thinking behind her Mansion Tax is simple common sense: Income tax is progressive, so why isn’t property tax?
“With income tax there’s a lower rate for poorer people, a middle rate for middle income, and a higher rate for richer people. But for property tax, there’s just one rate. And it seems like sort of a crime.”
That’s why she’s pitching the idea of “an extra one per cent on the value of a mansion that’s over $5 million and an extra two per cent on the value of a mansion that’s over $10 million.”
To drive the point home, Swanson and her supporters recently marched from Volunteer Park in Kitsilano to the $65 million dollar home of Lululemon founder Chip Wilson. The home is the most expensive home in all of Vancouver.
Jean says a rent freeze is necessary to combat sky-high housing prices, which have reached around $2,000 for one-bedroom apartments in the city. Reports of landlords increasing rents by $300-400 per month when leases are renewed are common. These exorbitant costs have led to a sharp increase in the homeless population.
Jean is calling for a public response to this crisis. She proposes that the city begin construction of 2,138 modular housing units, which could be funded in part through collecting a $160 million Mansion Tax.
She has pointed out that the building of social housing units has largely dried up over recent years, and the city has repeatedly failed to enforce its own by-laws to maintain standards in its single-room occupancy (SRO) facilities designed to save people from winding up on the streets.
A room in Vancouver’s first modular housing development to help address the affordable housing problems in Vancouver. This innovative building solution will provide interim homes for 40 male and female residents on low- and fixed-income
In June, Jean was among a group of housing activists and homeless people who occupied Vancouver Council Chambers to get action to improve the atrocious conditions prevailing in SRO slums in the city.
The protesters called for a stricter enforcement of by-laws on SRO landlords who fail to maintain their properties; a stop to the clearing of tent cities and the police harassment of homeless people; and more spending to eliminate homelessness.
Forty years of resistance
“Austerity started at the beginning of my activist career,” says Jean, “so governments have been reducing taxes on the rich and cutting services and programs for everyone else, for all those years.”
Jean has been involved in many bitter battles against government cutbacks and indifference to social problems. In the Downtown Eastside, she has spent many years advocating for increases to welfare rates, which are so low that they barely allow recipients to rent a home in the city, a rise in the minimum wage and opposition to gentrification.
We need an uprising
Swanson and her fellow social justice activists refuse to accept that the constant assault on the poor and most vulnerable sections of society is inevitable. She blames the politicians in power, who are wedded to the idea of serving the interests of the rich and powerful at the expense of the vast majority of the working population. “We need an uprising from people to get different politicians, politicians who don’t believe in austerity, who believe in humanity,” she said in April this year.
These are the kind of sentiments that will help to inspire the building of movements across Canada for social justice, affordable housing, decent levels of funding for public services, and a plan to combat the scourge of homelessness. You can find out more about Swanson’s campaign on Facebook.
This article was originally published by The Canadian Labour Institute.
Reprinted with permission for CALM Members use.