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Review: Vancouver: No Fixed Address

May 19, 2017

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The Vancouver housing market has gotten so out of reach that the majority of young people aren’t able to afford properties in the city, and many older retirees can no longer afford to live there.

Coupled with a boom in expensive condo developments that are exploiting the city for commercial interests, and wages that stay the same as housing prices go up, this bubble shows no signs of bursting.  The market has instead opened up to foreign buyers, mainly from China, who are buying up properties in the city as a sort of investment.

These are just some of the complex issues that director Charles Wilkinson, who focused on a different side of British Columbia life in his excellent 2015 film Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World, explores in the informative Vancouver: No Fixed Address.

Through interviews with a variety of subjects ranging from activist and longtime Vancouverite David Suzuki, to real estate agents and the people who have been hit hardest by the stagnant market, the film addresses these problems head on, even though answers or workable solutions still seem frustratingly elusive.  Although the talking head interviews can get a little dry, the film is at its most effective when putting a human face on the housing crisis, and the gross inequality it has left in its wake.

The film works best in moments when we are introduced to individual subjects, including a man who sold his family home after several decades because the money he was offered was too good to pass up, a retired cinema manager who now lives in his Chevy van because he could no longer afford his place on a pension, as well as the young people who are finding their own innovative solutions through building tiny houses and setting up communal living arrangements.  Throughout the film, we see people living on the streets, under the shadow of the looming high rises that are choking out the city.

At 74 minutes, Vancouver: No Fixed Address is an interesting film that provides a thought provoking and informative overview of the city’s housing crisis, while hinting at bigger themes of needing to find more sustainable housing solutions for the sake of the environment, and offering some unsettling allusions to how similar issues are on the rise right here in Toronto.

Vancouver: No Fixed Address opens today in limited release at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto, tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

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