2021, Innovations in Research

The Right to "Vancouverism"

Social Reproduction Placemaking in the Revanchist City

Renters play an important role as policy actors in urban structure. This article calls for a closer examination of renters as policy actors in Kitsilano, Vancouver, a gentrified neighbourhood with a critical housing shortage. With the continual demolition or conversion of affordable housing and the attendant displacement of existing Kitsilano residents, many renters stave off “renoviction” by mobilizing social reproductive labour—sweat equity—to maintain the few unrenovated, circa-1960 apartments that are still affordable. In the context of resilience research, this article recognizes the creative resilience of these renters and aims to collect and integrate their knowledge into Vancouver’s housing policy. Their uncompensated work has slowed or modified the deterioration-redevelopment cycle and preserved communities by reducing displacement. We argue that resilience research could apply advanced urban analytical skills to the creation of a citizen-renter map that addresses renters’ actions, motivations and visions for the future. In the present study, it takes a first step by analyzing relevant census data to confirm a relationship between household income and Vancouver renter/homeowner status.

Vancouver's affordable housing strategy will not gain any data prior to the release of the 2021 Public Use Microdata Files for Kitsilano (where the author has lived for the past 30 years), yet a GeoLive crowdsourced renter eviction map would offer real-time, "boots on the ground" renter eviction data more quickly. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (2019) found that one in 10 renters were forced to move within the last five years, and a GeoLive map could find out the reasons WHY. New York already has an open-sourced eviction map and we want to do a similar project in the first Vancouver gentrified neighbourhood: Kitsilano. This would discover those sweat equity renters of older, circa-1960 apartments staving off evictions through their social reproduction networks by holding onto the last affordable units in a "city of renters." Such work leads to a community association organization combatting the 50-year acute affordability crisis.

“We need to embrace that Vancouver is a ‘city of renters’ with more than half of households living in rentals,” explains Dan Garrison, assistant director for Vancouver’s Department of Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability (Eagland 2020). Indeed, the role played by renters in the city’s real estate economy and society is as crucial as it is, at times, unacknowledged. It is a fact with which I, as a Marxist geographer and a sweat-equity renter in a 1962 apartment, am intimately familiar. I am the “eyes on the street” (Jacobs 1971) in my Kitsilano, Vancouver community. Renters are a large and pivotal part of the Vancouver real estate landscape. Even many owners can only afford their homes by offsetting their mortgage payments with rental income. But the voices of renters as economic and political actors are often marginalized.

About the project

Presentation at Innovations in Research, April 13, 2021

Read Cheryl-lee's book The 6th Eviction: Shining a Light on the Dark Side of Vancouverism, published by BCcampus Open Education via Pressbooks.

Cheryl-lee Madden

Alumnus, City Program

Social reproduction, sweat equity, gentrification, housing affordability, rent gap, inequity, inequality, polarization, resilience


Cheryl-lee Madden

Cheryl-lee Madden (she/her/hers) has a BA in Human Geography from UBC (2018) and is a leader in social reproduction. She is speaking on "The Right to 'Vancouverism': Social Reproduction Placemaking in the Revanchist City" at the Western Division, Canadian Association of Geographers (WDCAG) and American Association of Geographers (AAG) conferences in spring 2021. Theories of urban location, social areas, neighbourhood and land use change; urban trends and public policy are the themes of her research. As an urban geographer, Cheryl-lee is particularly interested in how people and places, environment and society interact by creating a new map of a sustainable urban Vancouver where all people are able to access higher education and live in the city. Click here to learn more about Cheryl-lee's work.

More Innovations in Research