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Don’t have $1 million: Hundreds attend affordable housing rally in Vancouver

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Brandon and Cheyenne Williams would love to raise five-month-old Sydney in the Commercial Drive neighbourhood where they live near family, but housing costs pushed them to buy in Maple Ridge.

“I’m not looking forward to moving out of here,” Williams said Sunday at an affordable housing rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery – the first he’s ever felt compelled to attend now that he’s faced with leaving the city he loves.

He wants to see some sort of tax to discourage investors from buying homes and leaving them empty when families would love to live there, Williams said.

His sentiments were echoed by a few hundred people at the busy rally organized by Eveline Xia, creator of the viral #DontHave1million Twitter campaign to raise awareness young people’s struggle to stay in a city where the average single-family home costs $1 million.

As people waved signs asking “where have all the families gone,” Xia called on all three levels of government to help locals stay as prices increase at “a pace that defies reason.” She also condemned the racist comments mostly directed at Chinese people that have cropped up in the foreign ownership tax debate.

The rally called on governments to rejig the property transfer tax to favour residents and first time buyers, tax speculation and collect data on foreign ownership to see how much it actually affects the market.

If governments want people to embrace the condo lifestyle, Xia added, the city should at the very least force developers to make them large enough for families.

“We don’t need any more bachelor pads,” she said to loud applause.

Saeid Fard, a local entrepreneur, addressed how difficult it is to keep and recruit talented young people to the tech sector due to the high real estate costs.

“Vancouver is now an asset class like gold or petroleum and people want to invest here,” he said. “It’s like we forgot what the point of a home is – it’s a place to live in, not a place to get rich.”

Mayor Gregor Robertson issued a statement saying he heard their concerns “loud and clear.”

The city is “doing what we can” to encourage rental housing and family units, but the biggest way to boost affordability is to get the federal government to recommit to building housing, he added.

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