Affordable housing, not gaudy art, is what Vancouver residents need

The Granville Bridge chandelier is symbolic of a growing wealth gap in Vancouver

The decision to hang the installation under a bridge where people seek shelter is cruel. Photo: Chris Ho/The Peak

By: Meera Eragoda, Staff Writer

Picture this: a 3,400 kilogram chandelier shining brightly on the faces of those peering through the lenses of their newest iPhones, attempting to capture the best picture for the gram. On the periphery, homeless folk who once occupied the space are now in the shadows, largely ignored. This is the spectacle the city of Vancouver created when deciding to erect a $4.8 million dollar chandelier under the Granville Street Bridge.

This art piece makes a mockery of a city facing increasing unaffordability and a growing housing crisis. Under the city’s Private Development Program, developers who are rezoning areas over 100,000 square feet are required to install a public art piece or contribute to a fund for future public art pieces. These developers are “artwashing” Vancouver in order to hide the freedom they have in shaping the city to maximize their own profits at the expense of the majority of the existing population. And Vancouver is facilitating this.

Behind the chandelier’s dazzling lights, units in Vancouver House (the building the chandelier is tied to) will go for $6.9–9 million. Vancouver House and other ultra-luxury developments only attract the wealthy, which in turn will invite more expensive businesses into the neighbourhood. This makes it impossible for many to afford both housing and the cost of living in this area.

Instead of public art, why not have public housing? The city should require that developers invest in social or public housing, instead of asking that they erect garish installations to somehow make it seem like they care more about the city beyond a site of profit making. 

The chandelier installation highlights the staggering disparity between the demographics of the city and its recent development decisions. Vancouver is underperforming massively on reaching its housing targets, as reported by The Tyee. Regionally, Metro Vancouver likewise failed to build enough rental units to meet the needs of its residents. It’s safe to say that many of us upon graduation will not be making enough money to fit into a high income bracket. Unless the city wants to chase away new generations of young adults, it should prioritize much more of its allowance for private developments into truly affordable housing.

As students, if we want to live in a place without seven roommates, we need to hold city council to a higher standard. Our politicians need to be asking more of developers. Ultimately, it is our place in Vancouver that is threatened by the city being handed over to developers whose bottom line is profit.