Narrowing the housing gap
Gil Gan-Mor of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel will be one of the speakers at Gimme Shelter on Nov. 20. (photo from Gil Gan-Mor)
A condominium used to be a potentially affordable alternative to a home for buyers in Vancouver, but condo prices are now so high that the vast majority of Vancouverites cannot afford them.
The most recent Strategics’ Vancouver Condo Report, released last week, noted that, in Vancouver, “The average low-rise project … asking price is $632,000, which eliminates many of the young couples and single buyers in this market.” Other reports using other factors have come to similar conclusions. And housing affordability is not just a problem facing this city.
On Nov. 20, New Israel Fund of Canada is hosting the event Gimme Shelter: Closing the Middle Class Housing Gap in Israel and Canada, co-sponsored by Temple Sholom, Generation Squeeze and Tikva Housing Society. It will feature speakers Gil Gan-Mor of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Dr. Penelope Gurstein of the University of British Columbia and Dr. Paul Kershaw, founder of Generation Squeeze.
Gan-Mor, an attorney, will talk about the situation in Israel and provide an update on the government’s actions there since the social protests that took place in 2011. He spoke with the Independent in anticipation of his visit.
According to Gan-Mor, ACRI is the only human rights organization in Israel “that engages with the full spectrum of human rights and civil liberties.” A nonprofit, it is funded through donations and grants, but receives no financial support from the government. Its goals, Gan-Mor said, “are to protect and promote human rights in Israel through a combination of litigation, policy advocacy and public outreach. Specifically, in the Right to Housing Project, our goals are to ensure equal access to housing, fight housing discrimination, protect the right to affordable housing, promote inclusionary policies in housing and reduce segregation, combat homelessness and protect the rights of homeless people.”
Gan-Mor began working with ACRI during his second year of an NIF fellowship for graduates of its Civil Liberties Law program. He was “given the opportunity to develop a new project in ACRI,” he said, “the Right to Housing Project, which fit in with ACRI’s efforts to increase its involvement in social and economic rights.” He “didn’t expect at that time that, four years later, the right to affordable housing would be at the centre of the social protests that drew hundreds of thousands of Israelis to the streets.”
About the current situation, he explained, “In Israel, housing affordability is a big issue, because of two processes. First, in the last two decades, the governments in Israel dramatically withdrew from their past involvement in the housing market, leaving the role of providing housing to private market forces…. The second process is the dramatic increase in housing prices, which were already expensive…. These two processes led to a growing inequality in Israel,” as “more and more families must spend an increasing share of their income to ensure decent housing at the expense of other basic needs,” as well as “a growing polarization of residential neighborhoods, which are becoming increasingly separated on a socioeconomic level.”
Gan-Mor added, “We in ACRI view those aspects with great concern and are acting to force the government to become more active in realizing the right to housing, a right which cannot be ensured only through private market forces.”
The Gimme Shelter event will give attendees an opportunity “to question how Israel expresses the values of human rights in its domestic policy, and how they as international supporters of Israel can participate in this dialogue on building a more just society inside Israel,” said Gan-Mor. And it will offer a similar opportunity for Vancouverites to participate in the dialogue about how to build a more just society here, too, at least as far as housing is concerned.
Gimme Shelter will take place at Temple Sholom on Nov. 20, 7 p.m. For more information about the speakers and to register for the event, visit nifcan.org/our-events/upcoming.
Zach Sagorin is a Vancouver freelance writer.