From chic, clean condos, to drafty old Chevy vans, the 2017 documentary film Vancouver: No Fixed Address brings you the residential experiences of, in the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald “the inexhaustible variety of life” in Canada’s most expensive housing market.
Director Charles Wilkinson (Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World, Oil Sands Karaoke) touches on issues of economy, race, immigration and poverty. The documentary poetically constructs a picture of the strange cohabitation of vulnerable humanity and robotic finance.
This doc offers personal insight into a complex housing problem and the connection between these very individual experiences and international commerce.
Strikingly intimate images of people sheltering themselves with cardboard boxes, and family homes being bulldozed to the ground are starkly contrasted with sterile interiors of empty condominiums comprising the immaculate Vancouver skyline.
Meet Vancouver’s everyman: he’s selling his home of 29 years simply because he’s been made a financial offer he can’t refuse. He’s made a choice, but many members of Vancouver’s young and older generations are being uprooted from their birthplace as very few people can afford to own or even rent a home in the city.
The film presents the idea of the city as a community and living space has been essentially turned on its head by financial greed, and the idea of “home” been reduced to dollar signs. This is illustrated in an interview clip with long-time Vancouver icon, David Suzuki: “I got a letter from a real estate agent that said, ‘Offshore money is pouring into Vancouver, now is the perfect time for you to sell and buy up.’ I said, ‘This isn’t a piece of real estate, this isn’t property, this is my home!”
Others share these concerns in the film.
“We manufacture and export condominiums, but they just stay here,” states Sandy Garossino, former crown prosecutor and investigative journalist.
In Vancouver, it’s not a lack of “vacancy” that’s the problem. The Vancouver Sun published statistics on Feb. 8, 2017 stating that, “The latest census numbers for 2016 show there were 25,502 unoccupied or empty housing units in the City of Vancouver.” The film makes the point that the problem actually lies in the fact that the “homes” being constructed are units of financial investment that have little or nothing to do with the housing of people.
In the film, investigative journalist Sam Cooper makes the case that condo units aren’t being designed as living spaces, but as safety deposit boxes or “physical stock, a bunch of stocks in the sky” –
So, while Vancouver cries out for housing units to shelter its families, developers continue to construct one-room units, simply because this is the most efficient way to market space.
Economics aside, you can’t completely rid a city of its human residents. While some people will leave Vancouver, others will adapt: they’ll downsize to eke out financial breathing room, live in “tiny homes” and endure communal living situations normally reserved for college years well into their adult lives and careers.
Working people live in their vehicles parked in busy neighbourhoods, and the less fortunate sleep under hovels constructed from shopping carts and old tarps. Vancouver: No Fixed Address shines a bright, penetrating light on Vancouver’s rampant inequality and paints a human face on its sparkling façades.
And although the two cities exist in very different social, political and economic realities, are there lessons here for Whitehorse?
Director Charles Wilkinson will be in attendance for the Available Light Cinema screening of Vancouver: No Fixed Address at the Yukon Arts Centre on Monday, November 27 at 6 p.m. The film is co-presented by the Yukon Arts Centre and the Yukon Film Society.