A hilarious video spoofing a viral TikTok ad for a $2,000 micro-suite in Vancouver’s Central Eastside has a not-so-funny point, according to its co-creator.
Trey Helten said he was inspired to make the video as an “applause against gentrification” in the city’s poorest neighbourhood, where development continues to displace some of Vancouver’s most vulnerable citizens.
“[The TikTok ad] really, really annoyed me. And a little angry,” Helten said, “that’s wrong. There is no vacancy control or protection on SROs (single occupancy occupancy) and low income housing.”
It TikTok ad, produced by a Toronto marketing firm, was widely criticized as tone-deaf and misleading. Set to the soundtrack of Sex and the City, it featured a young woman promoting a renovated 200-square-foot space at the Lotus Hotel, a private SRO building that was recently sold.
Helten’s response video uses similarly playful music and footage of him walking through various scenes in the DTES; alley, burned building, shared SRO bathroom and kitchen, small suite with mattress topper.
With a smile, he delivers devastating lines that defy the flamboyance of TikTok’s commercials.
This mock video was created in response to a Toronto marketing company creating a video to sell refurbished SRO units that were previously renting for $575 at the LOTUS Hotel as “Micro Suites” for $2,000. This is what it’s really like to live in Canada’s poorest housing. pic.twitter.com/KUdCR3MJh3
“This is a naloxone kit,” he says at one point. “Learn how to use one because you’ll be dealing with a lot of deaths and overdoses.”
The video was directed by Nathaniel Canwell and features DTES artists Smokey Devil and Edgar Allan Rossetti.
“The video was made by the people of the Downtown Eastside for the people of the Downtown Eastside,” Helten said. “The goal was not to create negative stereotypes. It was to make fun of that Toronto video and also give it some context.”
Due to Vancouver’s ongoing housing crisis, vacancy rates have long hovered at or below one percent, while the average rate for a one-bedroom apartment has climbed to $3,000 a month.
Helten says it’s not uncommon for internationally marketed subdivisions in the DTES to underrepresent developers to the neighborhood.
“For those of you thinking about moving to the Central Eastside, don’t. Don’t move into the neighborhood and start complaining that it’s terrible,” he said.
According to Helten, Lotus has historically housed people at prices close to shelter prices, until recently about $575 a month.
Toronto-based Forum Asset Management bought the building two years ago and offered tenants in unrenovated units $15,000 to leave.
Last year, the Supreme Court of B.C hit out at the municipality’s attempt to impose vacancy controls on SRO properties, which would force rents for incoming tenants to remain the same as before. The decision is contested.
“I really hope the BC Supreme Court reverses its decision on appeal,” Helten said.
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