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Rally against housing unaffordability on Vancouver’s ‘Billionaire’s Row’

A group of activists descended on an exclusive street in Vancouver’s Point Grey neighbourhood Saturday to protest wealth inequality in the city and a housing crisis that has left many struggling to put a roof over their head.

A surge in real estate wealth over the past decade has made those who live on Belmont Avenue the owners of some of the most expensive properties in British Columbia. The 10 most expensive homes on one block alone add up to a whopping $362 million in value.

“When we look at wealth inequality in B.C., it’s out of control,” said Alex Hemingway with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The most expensive home on Belmont is valued at some $65 million. Buying a property like that with a mortgage would mean making monthly payments of around $250,000. That’s the price of a modest studio apartment in Vancouver.

“At the rate I make, I would probably have to work my entire career to save up that much money, if I’m lucky,” retail worker Stefan Nielsen told CTV News.

The growing wealth has brought with it a dark side: Working people are being pushed further out by the lack of affordable housing while in some cases opulent properties in Vancouver sit empty.

And Nielsen said that’s costing those people much more than money.

“If you’re commuting two hours a day, you can’t have family life,” he said. “You can’t have civic life. It’s enormously destructive and it needs to change.”

The houses on Belmont are protected not just by fences and hedges, but also by city zoning laws which say only single-family homes can be built on each lot. No apartment buildings of multi-family dwellings are allowed.

New provincial taxes have taken some value away from high-end real estate and multiple empty homes taxes have brought prices down, but Hemingway said things are still a long way from being considered affordable.

“School tax, speculation tax – but we’re only scratching the surface of the sheer size of that real estate wealth,” he said.

With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Jon Woodward

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