Vancouver: A soulless city of heartless lords and hapless serfs

By Joyce Yip

The name Anoop Majithia drives fear into the hearts of renters who live in his real estate fiefdom in Vancouver. Soon after taking possession of the apartment block at 1168 Pendrell St in 2014, Majithia’s company Plan A Real Estate Services Ltd. tried to raise rents by 30% and jacked up the price of a load of laundry from $3.25 to $13.50.[1]

Following that, Majithia’s company tried to evict all the tenants and turn it into an “AirBNB Hotel”.

Then, in early in 2016, Plan A tried to increase the rents by 40%.[2]

Later in the year, the real estate company tried to evict a 69-year-old pensioner Ron Sigurdson citing “safety concerns”, only to list the unit at a much higher rent.[3]

British Columbia’s Residential Tenancy Branch has thwarted Plan A’s attempts to illegally evict tenants and unlawfully raise rents dozens of times, but Majithia seems to be waging a war of attrition, perhaps hoping that eventually, the renters will become weary and give up.

But, who could blame Majithia?

It’s just free market driven neofeudalism.

The story of Majithia and the tenants of Plan A Real Estate Services is the story of Vancouver: a soulless city of heartless lords and hapless serfs.

The king in this neofeudalistic setup, Mayor Gregor Robertson, pays much lip service to making life better for the serfs, but his party Vision Vancouver is bankrolled by, and therefore beholden to, the real estate industry.[4]

The provincial government under Premier Christy Clark, a big lover of big donations that came from the real estate industry, slashed funding to the Residential Tenancy Branch, making it easier for slumlords to get away with skullduggery.[5]

People are moving further and further away from the city and wasting hours of their lives commuting everyday as rents in the city become unaffordable.

Those who are in fortunate enough to have found housing Vancouver live precariously under the damocles sword of “renoviction”, the semi-legal process by which landlords empty entire rental buildings in the name of “renovation” and then rent out the units at much higher rates.

Landlords, including Majithia, stand accused of evicting tenants to and turning rental buildings into AirBNB hotels.

The Green-backed NDP government led by Premier John Horgan came to power on a platform that included specific pledges to ease the burden on Vancouver’s beleaguered tenants.[6]

While the annual rental rebate of $400 will hardly make housing more affordable, the closing of the “fixed-term” loophole that enables landlords to increase rents bypassing the rental control caps is expected to provide some relief.[7]

But unless all levels of government come together and recognize housing as human necessity and not a commodity, Vancouver’s gradual decay into a desolate wasteland of empty homes and homeless will be inevitable.

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