The racist undertones plaguing some of the debate around Vancouver’s housing market have materialized in a message painted on a historic West Side home slated for demolition.
The so-called “Electric Home” at 1550 West 29th is being prepared to be knocked down after an effort to try and preserve it fell through recently. The owners decided to move forward with their original plan to replace it, although there had been talks with the city about retaining part of the house.
Heritage advocates say the house is valuable because it was built in 1922 and it was used as a show home to demonstrate how a house could be wired for electricity. It was also designed by a top Vancouver architecture firm of the era – Townley and Matheson.
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As Vancouver's housing market has soared, some people have blamed off-shore buyers from China for skyrocketing prices and the loss of character homes.
The message scribbled in red paint next to the Electric Home’s front door reads: “CURSE THE CHINESE GREED AND DISRESPECT.”
“UNFORGIVABLE” is painted on the back garage, as well as the sidewalk. “SHAME ON YOU” is also painted on the sidewalk.
Vision Vancouver councillor Raymond Louie said he wasn't aware of the incident but he has "significant concerns that people of any particular ethnic race are being blamed as a group for high housing prices."
"This is why we at the city have focused on the activity of the person, rather than their race," he said. "For instance, the majority of council adopted an empty home tax to limit property speculation. We did this as we also have concerns on the very high cost of housing in our city but again council focused on activity rather than race. I hope that it is a limited and uninformed component of our population that perpetuated this racist graffiti."
No one has reported the vandalism to the Vancouver Police Department.
“We would investigative the report of mischief to property. However, in this case, with the [demolition of the] house there wouldn’t be an offence,” Sgt. Jason Robillard, the VPD’s media spokesperson, said in an email to the Courier on July 25.
“… We would investigate something that could be considered a threat or promoting hate or considered racist. We would need the property owner to report this.”
The City of Vancouver, he added, has a graffiti line where graffiti can be reported. The city will document it and see that it’s removed. The VPD also has a graffiti unit, which reviews those files.
“The process to determine if the graffiti is considered hate propaganda involves several steps including a review by an expert with in the VPD and a review by the crown prosecutor’s office,” Robillard explained. “Sections 318 and 319 of the Criminal Code of Canada refer to this. Lastly, the graffiti itself and the location are all subjective factors when determining if they are hate motivated or not.”
According to the City of Vancouver, of the 3,105 graffiti reports in 2017 to date, 30 fall within the hate/offensive category. There were 5,525 total graffiti reports for the same period in 2016, of which 36 were categorized as hate or offensive.