WHY WE FIGHT
The Eviction Defence Network fights evictions because we want to end the housing crisis by striking at its root cause: the commodification of housing and land and the relationship that gives rise to between landlords and capitalists on the one hand, and working class and Indigenous people on the other.
Everyone agrees that we’re facing a housing crisis but political parties and interest groups peddle different solutions: landlords say that more landlords will end the housing crisis; left-wing politicians say that minor reforms and building more institutional, supportive housing will end the housing crisis; right-wing politicians say that more “supply” will end the housing crisis; and non-profit agencies say that the government will end the housing crisis, if only it were to adopt the right policies. What all these solutions have in common, even as they compete with one another, is that they take for granted an economy premised on private property where housing is, above all, a source of profit for landlords and corporations.
The Eviction Defence Network is different. While we practice advocacy and push for reforms that will decrease the power that landlords have over tenants, we think that tenants themselves must come together in a radical movement in order to end the housing crisis. Without pressure from below, no government – NDP, Liberal, or Conservative – will swim against the global flows of capital in order to secure affordable housing for Indigenous and working class people. Only when housing is no longer a commodity to be bought and sold for profit, but a social necessity provided for free, for all who need it, will Canada’s housing crisis be over.
We fight because we think every single eviction is an unjust, inhumane displacement that places profit above people. But the fight for universal housing – housing that is created and treated as a human need rather than a source of profit – isn’t just about what we want, it drives at the roots of the housing crisis and how we define it.
Below are some common myths we hear a lot that we think distract people from which groups benefit from Canada’s colonial and capitalist housing system. In sharing them here, we hope to help you be prepared to challenge these ideas when they arise in your organizing.
Myth #1: “Good tenants shouldn’t be evicted, but it makes sense for bad tenants to be!”
Truth: Evictions are driven by profit, not the personality of individual tenants. From a tenants’ perspective, all evictions are unjust because every eviction shores up the power of landlords over tenants.
Evictions are a daily reality for tenants living in BC. Here, you are twice as likely to face eviction compared to anywhere else in the country. Yet, we still hear people say, “I’m not concerned by evictions. I’ve always been a good tenant.”
Landlords don’t evict people because they think they’re “bad tenants.” They evict us because our homes are their source of income, which they will happily destroy if it means higher profits for them. If housing wasn’t a source of profit, there would be no evictions and no displacement.
The threat of eviction is a tool landlords use to exploit tenants, because the more afraid of being homeless we are, the more desperate we feel, the more likely we are to accept rising rents and deteriorating living conditions. For us to be free we must make evictions impossible.
We reject the idea that we should only be fighting illegal evictions, demovictions, and renovictions, and that other evictions such as failure to pay rent are justified. All evictions are unjust because they rip people from their homes and their communities. All tenants have an interest in ending evictions because they are the most powerful tool the landlord has to make us accept unaffordable rent and dangerous living conditions.
Myth #2: “Foreign investors, who are all from China, are responsible for the housing crisis!”
Truth: Anti-Chinese racism protects white landlords, real estate corporations, and their mega-profits, and all settlers are foreigners on Indigenous land.
Vancouver has a long history of anti-Asian racism, from the race riots of 1907, the Chinese Head Tax and the Exclusion Act in late 1800 and early 1900, and more recently the framing of the pandemic as a “Chinese virus.” Time and time again, white settlers have blamed Chinese people for stealing things from them: from jobs, to land, to condos and detached homes. The “foreign investment” myth is the latest of a long history of scapegoating Chinese people for problems caused by capitalism.
What makes a landlord a landlord is their ownership of property, not their race. The narrative that Chinese landlords are worse than white landlords reinforces racism against working class Chinese people and ultimately naturalizes the power of white landlords. Foreign-involved property transactions make up a tiny fraction of real estate purchases in BC, with most of it comes from Europe and the USA. But you wouldn’t know that from reading racist Canadian media. Scapegoating Chinese buyers of property obscures the roots of the housing crisis, blaming a tiny minority of property buyers for a system that was wreaking havoc long before they showed up on the scene.
The foreign investment myth is rooted in white supremacist ideas of Canada as a white man’s nation, diverting us from our real enemies: private property and the commodification of housing on stolen Indigenous land. To build our power, we must fight back against the use of this racist scapegoat, which harms our low income Chinese neighbours – and all of us, in the long term.
Myth #3: “I can’t fight back or else I’ll be evicted”
Truth: Landlords have more power than tenants, but that power isn’t set in stone. When we band together, we are better able to defend all our neighbors from eviction.
There is truth in the feeling that we might be evicted at any time, but it is no less true that when tenants take a stand against landlord power, they can stop landlords from abusing them. While it can feel like landlords can get away with anything, the more tenants know about their rights, and the more they get organized, the less power landlords have to exploit, harass, and evict them.
To evict tenants, landlords have to follow a specific procedure. They have to deliver you a notice on a specific RTB form. Depending on the eviction, you have usually between 5 to 10 days to appeal it at the RTB. If you don’t appeal it, the eviction is considered accepted by the tenant. But the landlord is still not allowed to evict you themselves. They have to apply for an order of possession, deliver it to you, and wait 2 days to allow you to file for a review. Then they have to go to the court and get a writ of possession, which allows them to hire a bailiff. Bailiffs are the only ones able to physically carry out evictions. During this time, you can file twice to stop the process, allowing you to build a case to demand the cancellation of the eviction.
When tenants speak out against abuse or neglect, landlords and developers do sometimes try to retaliate against them. But they might also give in to their demands in order to try to place them. No matter what their tactics are, landlords try to stop tenants from getting organized because nothing scares them more than buildings full of renters who have one another’s backs. This is why building our numbers through organizing is essential. A landlord can try to retaliate against one tenant, but what can they retaliate against an entire building, neighborhood, or cross-regional movement? One of our main principles is to always deal with landlords collectively, not individually.