Miloon Kothari, Former UN Investigator, Reviewing Vancouver Housing Crisis – “Hyper-speculation. Casino Capitalism. Gentrification. Collusion. Corruption. Criminal Investigations. A Lottery Which Reduces A Social Resource Like Housing To A Commodity.”

“Overall, I’m actually quite shocked on several fronts. One is that the housing crisis that I observed in 2007, 10 years ago, has become worse on virtually every level, whether you look at the level of homelessness, densification of poverty, the crisis of rental housing and the lack of housing options for low-income people. So that’s been quite surprising. These adverse housing and living conditions are partly fed by the hyper-speculation and gentrification you see all across the city.
I’m also quite disturbed by the fact that the city government, instead of playing the role of protecting housing options that lower-income people have, has been either through acts of commission or omission actually abetting this whole process. The kind of gentrification that you see happening in the Downtown Eastside, and that you see now in Chinatown is also being done through a process of rezoning, through the development of condominium buildings that drive up land values for adjacent areas. There doesn’t seem to be a commensurate attempt to increase the housing options for lower-income and modest-income people. You either see a shortage of shelters or inadequate conditions in shelters, a complete reduction in the number of single resident occupancy units, or the type of decrepit situation that you see at the Balmoral.
I don’t know what the logic is there, but [it’s] similar to the logic in other cities, where municipalities, in collusion with developers, deliberately let a particular area deteriorate and then it becomes an emergency. And then, when renovations happen, those properties don’t ever go back to the people who lived there before…”


“There’s no reason why the gentrification that is happening in the Downtown Eastside or Chinatown should be allowed. An entire area could be zoned off from this speculation to protect the low-income people living there. It has to be a political choice. It requires leadership at the political level. One can’t rely on the planners without the political sanctioning of such a policy. If you are doing rezoning, it could be limited to developing social housing for those most in need, not for the rich. A few token units for seniors and low-income people are insufficient. So I don’t see the city doing an adequate job in trying to stem that tide of gentrification.
The only conclusion you can reach is that there has to be collusion between the city machinery, developers, and obviously homeowners are de facto part of that too. That is who is benefiting from this system as it is. And it’s hurting the vast majority of the people who live here. We’re talking about millions and millions of dollars being made in this corrupt structure. People should be thoroughly embarrassed by this. If this were a similar situation in other countries, there would be investigations and hard questions being asked. Why are interest rates so low? Why are the banks being downgraded for being overexposed in the housing market? There should even be criminal investigations related to the real estate sector. The story of the unbridled real estate market in Vancouver is casino capitalism as its worst — a lottery which reduces a social resource like housing to a commodity.”

– from ‘Vancouver Housing Crisis ‘Worse on Virtually Every Level,’ Says Former UN Investigator’, an excellent interview with Miloon Kothari by Am Johal, The Tyee, 20 June 2017

34 responses to “Miloon Kothari, Former UN Investigator, Reviewing Vancouver Housing Crisis – “Hyper-speculation. Casino Capitalism. Gentrification. Collusion. Corruption. Criminal Investigations. A Lottery Which Reduces A Social Resource Like Housing To A Commodity.”

  1. Remind me again why political campaign contribution isn’t considered to be a bribe?

    • Great question, space.

      This is part of the reason for campaign finance reform becoming such a hot topic.
      Why should politicians be allowed (or need) to take money from any entities?
      Why not a small set campaign budget, and a standardized way of informing the population about candidate platforms (cheap flyers and internet)?
      Then townhall discussions and debates (online if necessary).
      Why should the candidate with the best advertising team win?

      It’s so obvious that this should change, but guess why it doesn’t?

  2. The investigator is shocked? Take the time to watch Bill Moyers interview with Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman relating to the book Capital, by Thomas Picketty – What the 1% don’t want you to know. It’s a lot easier than trying to read that 700 page tome. Moyers and Professor Krugman use the word ugliness. It’s apt.
    We the geese are being plucked. The brainwashed geese don’t realize it’s happening as they rah rah at corporate sports events; drinking corporate beer; eating corporate CAFO mystery dogs. Tipping servants at Starsucks because the billionaire owner doesn’t pay a living wage. Buying water, or sugar water, from billionaires.
    So often these parasites are introduced as billionaire so and so, or so and so is worth x billions of dollars. Worth? These parasites. These horrifically greedy relentless parasites. And they’re passing the billions on to their spawn. Ugliness. Ugly parasitic dynasties.
    Whenever someone asks you to contribute to a charity – don’t. Point your finger at the billionaire parasites. Put some pressure on these shameless venal blood suckers – these maggots who can’t afford the time to pick up thousand dollar bills, but still screw their wage slaves.

  3. If gov’t bought land in advance of re-zoning, or transit expansion, then sold it at cost, and extended their lending rates at cost, then housing wold be cheaper for low income people. To remain affordable, this inventory of low income housing then has to stay in that category, ie sold back into the low income housing pool. Enabling people to volunteer their time, where they could help out, or where organizations like Habitat For Humanity was willing to help, would also reduce the cost. This appriach cost the gov’t very little; not a tax burden on others. Yet would add housing for many.

    • Sorry, aside from the whole stupidity of that idea which wouldn’t actually help low income people after a few years, it also defeats the whole purpose of having transit centers – which is to have massive density so people don’t need to drive! If you buy up land around potential transit centers beforehand and don’t build up massive density, the transit center wouldn’t work as planned and hemorrhaging even more money.

      As well, government in democracy are supposed to be transparent and respect citizen rights and properties. So, it would be very bad optics and begging for a court case if government bought properties under another name for cheap, and trying to hide their intentions.

    • Sorry dude, the idea is a bit too simplistic. Let’s look at the scenarios. Take the cambie corridor for example. Is your plan that the city would buy up lots for sale before annoucning rezoning plans? If that is the case, two issues.

      1. City would have massive liabilities on their hands and also have to manage rentals and other maintanence issues to deal with. The issue here is that the city of vancouver is not an investment entity so it can’t have massive balance sheets to the tune of say a few hundred lots bought at market value like this. The other thing is that if they start collecting land then the remaining land owners would then start to not want to sell. And we all know that even if you are missing one lot in say a five lot assembly it won’t work.

      2. What if a homeowner wants to rebuild their lot. Right now, if it is rezoned the city can say no. But if there is no rezoning the city have no legal grounds to deny a homeowner the ability to rebuild on a lot that it is zoned for.

      So while the idea sounds good in principle in reality this would never fly in the current system. Imagine if city of vancouver jacked up property taxes just so that they can hold or buy land on their balance sheets the uproar would be massive.

      Also remember that the social housing policies that the city is enacting is all using land it already owns. Because there will be hell to pay if it jacks up taxes to pay for social housing.

  4. It’s too bad that basic personal finance, economics, psychology are not taught as required courses in high school. It’s almost as important as the 3Rs in modern society, and it would probably help reduce some of the idiotic ideas from the left, who wants government to do everything for free or at other people (eg. those evil & lazy rich people) expense.

  5. Word of Mouth (from westside frank):
    RE costs are making it difficult for hospitals in Vancouver to find personnel such as radiology technicians, physiotherapists, and renal dialysis technicians. Specific stories of individuals in these kinds of positions leaving town.

    • really? I bet a lot of physiotherapists clinics would love that because a lot of them aren’t making a lot of money or overflowing with clients.

      Yes, there are those that leave town but there are also out of work grads that would love to have a job to stay in town.

      People have to get their head out of their asses and stop believing fairy tales that you can triple a city’s population and everyone will still have affordable single family houses in the same city area. Especially when we have more high income couples than before.

  6. One of El Ninja’s heroes invested heavily in the Canadian Real estate market, and he missed it by a day! Sigh.

    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/berkshire-hathaway-home-capital/article35418133/

    • white_angelos_honest_ombra

      the warren may have started as a value investor … but now, he’s as crony as can be … hey, it’s what works … until it doesn’t

    • El Ninja doesn’t speculate and gamble, he invests! He doesn’t care about minor events because he’s concentrating on the bigger picture and making bigger returns!

    • white_angelos_honest_ombra

      to guess right, recapping busted companies can be very refreshing … otoh, my guess is the warren’s guess involves co-opting nice cdn taxpayers somehow … oh the hypocrisy … meanwhile, the russians are at it again … pffft! … http://tinyurl.com/yamnh9sz

  7. Warren Buffett is a refreshing financial genius. Take some time to read his quotes if you get the chance. He believes he is a rare combination of luck and a peculiar financial mind who is rewarded by society far more than a great teacher or soldier. His policy response to poverty interestingly enough is that he believes in a low earned income tax credit, which incentivizes people to get some kind of job but makes sure they make a living at it.

    On North American capitalism and taxation:

    “The free market’s the best mechanism ever devised to put resources to their most efficient and productive use. … The government isn’t particularly good at that. But the market isn’t so good at making sure that the wealth that’s produced is being distributed fairly or wisely. Some of that wealth has to be plowed back into education, so that the next generation has a fair chance, and to maintain our infrastructure, and provide some sort of safety net for those who lose out in a market economy. And it just makes sense that those of us who’ve benefited most from the market should pay a bigger share. … When you get rid of the estate tax, you’re basically handing over command of the country’s resources to people who didn’t earn it. It’s like choosing the 2020 Olympic team by picking the children of all the winners at the 2000 Games.”

    • white_angelos_honest_ombra

      the folksy hypocrisies more blatant than ever … how is tax and redistribution not even more so handing over command of resources to ppl that didn’t earn it? … all just feel good salesmanship … however, one must credit to him with knowing how to work it … btw, the warren made out huge in the bail-outs … that’s his mo in the age of cb interventionalism … greet the masses with the right hand, pick their pockets with the left … enjoy

  8. The Orifice of Omaha is a parasite; a feudal financial lord. “Low income earned tax credit” – what a crock. It amuses him if wage slaves in hopeless jobs get a tax credit. Better to read Pierre Berton’s: ‘Smug Minority’.
    Capitalism has stuffed his pockets, and he can pontificate all he wants, he can even buy aircraft carriers, but he is not giving up a non-taxable cent – until he dies. How magnanimous. Don’t bullshit about what you’re going to do with all that cash when you’re dead. If the Orifice believed what he was saying, he’d divest now. Today. Yesterday.
    He has 76.6 billion dollars. Can you wrap your head around that number? How much bigger a share should billionaire parasites pay since they’ve benefitted so much from unfettered capitalism? How about all of the billions. Let’s be gracious and kind and leave these bleeding heart angels a few hundred million – just to get by – a safety net.

    • Wrap your head around this: How many billionaires are giving away 99 percent of their fortune, and how many are advocating for increased income taxes on the wealthy? Some parasite. Buffett is an uber capitalist but there are far better targets for your scorn.

      • [Guardian] – America’s trailer parks: the residents may be poor but the owners are getting rich: It’s an unusual but potentially lucrative investment: billionaire Warren Buffett is heavily invested, and his and others’ success is prompting ordinary people to attend Mobile Home University, a ‘boot camp’ in trailer park ownership

        …”Trailer parks are big and profitable business – particularly after hundreds of thousands of Americans who lost their homes in the financial crisis created a huge demand for affordable housing. According to US Census figures, more than 20 million people, or 6% of the population, live in trailer parks.

        It is a market that has not been lost on some of the country’s richest and most high-profile investors. Sam Zell’s Equity LifeStyle Properties (ELS) is the largest mobile home park owner in America, with controlling interests in nearly 140,000 parks. In 2014, ELS made $777m in revenue, helping boost Zell’s near-$5bn fortune.

        Warren Buffett, the nation’s second-richest man with a $72bn fortune, owns the biggest mobile home manufacturer in the US, Clayton Homes, and the two biggest mobile home lenders, 21st Mortgage Corporation and Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance Company. Buffett’s trailer park investments will feature heavily at his annual meeting this weekend, which will be attended by more than 40,000 shareholders in Omaha.”…

        https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/may/03/owning-trailer-parks-mobile-home-university-investment

      • white_angelos_honest_ombra

        :o:|:):D
        sul margine di lethe
        seguir vo’ l’idol mio
        che tanto adoro
        :o:|:):D

  9. As of 2016, donations total 24.6 billion. He has pointed out the reason he delays charity is that the longer the money is in his hands, the longer it has to compound at 20% per year on the long term average. It’s not being spent on his lifestyle. Why divest early when he can compound it?

    http://fortune.com/2016/07/14/warren-buffett-gates-foundation-charity/

    • white_angelos_honest_ombra

      not face-value altruism … yet another ruse in plain sight … there is a spectrum but follow the money with eyes wide open and ask yourself what these foundations (gates, soros, zuckerberg, clinton-ack!, etc.) ultimately fund … a denser concentration and consolidation of power … they’re not giving it away … how much do you already work for the govt (income/sales/hidden)? … would you like to do even more? … higher taxes? … oh yes, yes, yes please … nice mind trick, no? … beware of billionaires leaning heavily on govt assistance (eg. musk-ack!) … the warren didn’t have to … but he did

  10. Ah yes, Sam Zell – the one they call the ‘Grave Dancer’. A walking talking gnomish caricature of a capitalist.
    There’s an interesting battle between altruistic love muffin Buffy’s NV energy and Elon Musk’s SolarCity. Bloomberg has a hilarious image of the Orifice of Omaha trying to submit Musk with a rear naked choke.

    • white_angelos_honest_ombra

      the sociopath selection process superbowl … but dunno, could a contestant or 2 carry redemptive qualities? … meanwhile bits of warren hcg color via cohodes twitter feed fwiw … http://tinyurl.com/y8n8aexx

      • My son was operated on about ten times. That surgeon is a hero. A superstar. The author of this article calls the Orifice of Omaha his hero. The Orifice climbed to the top of the financialization rat pile. He profits from people selling Caca Cola while a billion people don’t have access to clean water. He profits along with the Wal-Mart cretin clan – billions and billions of dollars – while poor people suffer. A hero? Billionaires are black-hearted black hole parasites. Al Capone and Pablo Escobar had redeeming qualities too.

      • “You don’t earn a billion dollars. You steal it.” – Fran Leibowitz

  11. 3208 Euclid Ave: I was surprised when this tarted-up Van Spec turd of a house sold last year for $1.95M – about half a mil too much. It’s back for sale for $1,977,675 – and still half a mil too much.

  12. 2786 46th Ave E: another flip fail – this weird-looking house on the massive Killarney Bog was bought Feb 2016 for $1.57M – now listed at $1.599M; not enough to cover costs, but not a big haircut. $61K less than last assessed for this non-trendy charm-free viewless location.

  13. 2891 Pandora: bought (overpaid) for $1.398M in Jan 2016. Now offered as a renoflip at $1.599M. Why is it that the bullshitters do dollar store prices. The square footage indicated is a wild exaggeration. Flanking an alley, no garage, nowhere near Skytrain, and subject to the relentless cacophony and parking lunacy of the PNE, this gem is not.

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