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Documentary takes a deep dive into Vancouver’s housing crisis

No Fixed Address relies on experts as well as ordinary people to make sense of Vancouver’s real estate boom.

No Fixed Address, a documentary about Vancouver's housing crisis, takes a deep dive into how the city came to have some of the most expensive real estate in the world - and how that's impacted residents.

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No Fixed Address, a documentary about Vancouver's housing crisis, takes a deep dive into how the city came to have some of the most expensive real estate in the world - and how that's impacted residents.

Vancouver-based filmmaker Charles Wilkinson normally makes films about environments under threat: past subjects have included the oil sands, the far north and Haida Gwaii.

“I woke up one morning thinking that my environment is here,” he said.

“According to the voices we hear in the media and also in every coffee shop and laundromat in the city all the time, this environment is also under a serious threat because of commercial over-exploitation.”

Wilkinson is tackling Vancouver’s roaring housing boom in his latest documentary, Vancouver: No Fixed Address. The film premiered at the Toronto’s documentary festival, HotDocs, on May 2. Starting May 19, the film will start a two-week run in Vancouver at Vancity Theatre. Panel discussions will accompany the May 19, 20 and May 25 showings.

Wilkinson’s aim in making the film was to do the “opposite of talk radio, where people who know the least, talk the most.”

“We sat down and shortlisted the things people say when they talk about this issue:

People will say it’s all the fault of Vancouver (being) such a beautiful city, so it’s supply —that’s one. Or, it’s the government’s fault, they’re not doing anything, that’s another one. The other one is race — it’s the Chinese, they’re taking over our city.”

The filmmakers then sought out experts to tackle those explanations, including David Ley, a sociologist at the University of British Columbia, journalists Sandy Garossino and Sam Cooper, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, and real estate marketer Bob Rennie.

They also talk to people who have been directly affected by the crisis, like Maurice, who lives in a van on the beach, or Margaret, a retired insurance executive now struggling to hang on in Vancouver’s West End following the death of her husband.

Wilkinson hopes his film both informs and sparks discussion about the housing crisis.

“The conversation about housing has tended to be extremely negative — and for good reason,” he said.

“But what we’ve done is create an extremely beautiful, very musical, and in a way kind of fun movie that has a spoonful of sugar.”

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