A Rent Strike in Vancouver (1971)

A Rent Strike in Vancouver (1971)

[…] a rent strike in Vancouver, British Columbia, illustrates this ripple effect, or expanding concession principle. Direct action tends to spread. The more a landowner thinks direct action by tenants is imminent, the more likely he or she is to make preemptive concessions.

The Vancouver rent strike failed for strikers but yielded a success for many other tenants. It targeted buildings managed by Wall and Redekop for five months and began with a high degree of participation. After Wall and Redekop announced 9 to 10% rental increases for all units inhabited for over a year, 195 tenants collectively deposited their rents into a Vancouver Tenants Council (VTC) escrow account on April 1, 1971. By August of the same year, only 18 tenants remained on strike, against all of whom the court ordered eviction. Tenants failed to achieve the main VTC goal, a legal right to collective bargaining where voted for by a majority of tenants. In an illustration of the ripple effect, however, the strike did yield victories for other tenants in Vancouver.

According to the VTC, “Scores of individual tenants had their increases `voluntarily’ reduced by Wall and Redekop in an attempt to dissuade them from joining the strike …. [N]o tenant who was legally `eligible’ for a rent increase commencing on May 1 st has subsequently received a notice of an increase from Wall and Redekop.”

Even tenants in Vancouver not under management by Wall and Redekop benefited by the strike. “Corporate landlords in the city,” states the VTC, “did not raise rent arbitrarily during the course of the strike.” In an atmosphere charged with the idea of rent strike, almost all landlords perceived the danger of providing provocation for further strikes. Even those considering the purchase of rental property in Vancouver may have paused for a short period before buying. In this way, the strike’s atmosphere of tenant resistance slowed the rate of rent increases for the average Vancouver tenant. [25]

The ripple effect creates positive spillover benefits for the non-striker from the work and risks of the striker, but strikers can use the effect to their advantage. By showing how the rent strike benefits non-strikers, they win non-striker support. Supporters see the success of squatting and rent strikes as movement toward a solution to their own housing problems.

[25] Tongue, Mousey. “Redekop Drops by Flop.” Georgia Straight, 4/30/71, p. 2; Tugwell, Tony. “Rent Strike Helps Everybody.” Georgia Straight, 6J11/71, p. 9; Tugwell, Tony.”Wall Redekop Rent Strike.” Georgia Straight, 6/18/71, p. 2; Tongue, Mousey. “22,000 Withheld: Rent Strike.” Georgia Straight, 3/31/71, p. 3; Balaclava, Nigel. “Wall and Redekop is No Two-Bit Operation.” Georgia Straight, 7/30/71, p. 2; Tenants Council. “Tenants Council Statement Re: Wall & Redekop.” Georgia Straight, 8/20/71, p. 10.

by Anders Corr


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