DOXA 2017: Vancouver: No Fixed Address

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Vancouver: No Fixed Address | Directed by Charles Wilkinson | DOXA Documentary Film Festival | Screens May 6, 2017

It seems every conversation in Vancouver or its surrounding areas eventually comes around to the subject of real estate: how expensive it is, how little there is available, and, especially for millennials, how we despair that we’ll never be able to own any of it.

In Vancouver: No Fixed Address, we’re shown a variety of living arrangement s that have become commonplace over the past few years: vans parked at Spanish Banks, co-housing, living with multiple roommates, and living on a boat. With the price of housing skyrocketing, many people who grew up in Vancouver have been forced to move elsewhere.  

Talking heads include David Suzuki, Senator Yuen Pau Woo, and actor Quelemia Sparrow who bookends the film with a discussion of colonial history in Vancouver. As she says, people have a distorted view of land ownership that negates the rights of indigenous peoples who were here long before Vancouver became a “world class city” in such high demand.

The turning points of Expo 86 and the 2010 Olympic Games are also discussed as the film takes us back to the burgeoning real estate boom that has kept on ballooning as it expands to the Fraser Valley. One couple interviewed talked about their experience of almost being outbid by a last minute buyer who drove up to the house and ran past them up to the door. Thankfully, the current owners liked the couple’s sincere letter that accompanied their offer and they turned down the new bidder. But they were lucky. In a market like this, it feels almost impossible to be able to afford a home.

That’s why some people are forging a different path. At the East Van Shack a group of young, single people share a house and live within their means without the stress of mortgage payments. But that can only go on so long, and isn’t as convenient if you’re a young couple looking to have children. A couple from North Vancouver lived with roommates for years and scrimped together enough to buy a small condo. They were determined to stay in Vancouver despite the financial struggle. As David Suzuki says, sometimes “I’m staying” can be revolutionary.  

In the end, this film begs the question of what a city should be. Is it a commodity? Or a community?

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