RENT ASSEMBLY: Call for Proposals

full name / name of organization: 
The Kootenay School of Writing and The Mainlander
contact email: 

Rent Assembly: Call for Proposals
a gathering of renters in a time of siege

Deadline for Proposals: March 31, 2013
Rent Assembly: May 24, 25, 26, 2013

Vancouver, BC – Unceded Coast Salish territory

'The rentiers reap what they do not sow.'
–Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations (1776)

In the struggle for housing in Vancouver, we tend to highlight issues such as social housing, SROs, gentrification, and affordability. But what about rent as such? The act of renting occurs between those who own, and those who do not. It is parasitic, a way of extracting any remaining surplus value from non-owners. Renting is a historically produced, not-inevitable practice that has become ideologically naturalised as being ordinary and unquestionable. It is a feeling of burden and fatigue, keeping us chained to our jobs, and offering us little time for mustering up a resistance. It is invisible, and if we are to stop paying for the catastrophic damage to our own daily lives, rent must be made visible.

The Rent Assembly will be a gathering for those who are not among Vancouver's 'players' in the housing market. Many of us will never own property. We will always have to worry about our homes being sold out from under us, about being renovicted, evicted or rents inflating beyond liveability. Workers will continue to spend more of their paycheques on housing, leaving less for their families and their futures. Cultural producers will find it increasingly impossible to exist here, and will contend with their spaces and neighbourhoods being exploited by developers. Housing choices will largely be determined by the prejudices of property managers and landlords who, unlike most, can afford to say "no."

Two centuries after Adam Smith denounced land rent as an illegitimate form of accumulation, the seemingly passé 19th Century question of land ownership and rent extraction has returned in force. In today's Vancouver, social movements are attacking the basic landed relations of the city, including the upsurge of Indigenous resistance to colonial land policies through the emergence of 'Defenders of the Land', and the more recent Idle No More; marginal squatters movements; critiques of the modern nation-state from migrant justice movements; and the recent formation of the Vancouver Renter's Union.

We must understand the relationships between renters, the history of rent, and cultivate new ties between disparate groups of renters. To this end, the Rent Assembly will be an informal three-day conference and will take the form of a series of events, happenings and performances at various locations throughout the city.

Possible proposals include: workshops, theatrical productions, poetry readings, storytelling sessions, essays, musical performances, academic or critical panel discussions and presentations or organizing a collective/group panel, multi-media presentations, stand-up comedy, performance art, artist exhibits, archival research projects, as well as collective meals, occupations, direct actions, and interventions. Please send a 250 - 500 word description of your proposed event or an abstract of your paper or presentation.

Possible events, research questions or presentation topics could be:
- How is rent racialized and experienced differently by different people and backgrounds, including by ability, sexual orientation, gender, and other intersecting oppressions under modern colonialism/capitalism?
- Are the class interests of artists with renters or landlords?
- Symbolic capital and its relation to real estate
- Discourse and rent: the language of, and around the practice of rent
- Notes from the Basement Suite: A series of Poetry Readings on Rent by Renters
- Wither Landlord : A history of squats in Vancouver through Film
- Squatting rights around the world
- Opportunity Knocks: A practical squatting workshop
- Austerity and Prosperity: Increasing downward pressure and upwards redistribution
- First galleries, then bulldozers: Rent and cultural production
- History of renter's strikes in Vancouver, from planning instigation to outcomes
- Mobilize your Complex!: A step-by-step guide to organising a renter's strike
- How to Fight Your Eviction: A workshop on navigating the Residential Tenancy Act in B.C.
- Vampire or Benefactor?: How the construction of the landlord affects rent relations
- The distinction between the price of land and the price of houses
- The March of the Renovicted: A picket of rental management companies, politicians and landed elites
- What is the role of nonprofit organisations in processes of gentrification?
- Urban Renewal and Social Mixing: A study of euphemisms around gentrification, urban displacement and accumulation by dispossession
- A Renter's Life in a Landlord's World: A critical comparison of rental laws, and tenants' rights in North America, Europe and Asia

This call for proposals is also a call for spaces. We are looking to coordinate with organizations capable of opening up their spaces. This includes: restaurants, artists live-work spaces, artist-run centres, residences, universities and other institutions. Organisations who open their spaces to the Rent Assembly will be listed among its sponsors.

Final deadline for proposals: Friday March 31, 2013.
Rent Assembly: May 24, 25, 26 2013.
250-500 word event proposals or presentation abstracts
No CV is required
The Rent Assembly welcomes proposals from individuals or collectives

Send proposals to:
or by post to
237 Keefer Street, Unit 245, Vancouver BC V6A 1X6 Canada

Main sponsors: The Kootenay School of Writing, The Mainlander and the Vancouver Renter's Union.

The Mainlander is an online publication that lends progressive critique and investigation to the understanding of municipal politics in Metro Vancouver. It has been an invaluable source in the city for unpacking Vancouver's housing crisis and providing social movements with the facts necessary to push forward against political and media rhetoric. Spawning from the aftermath of Vancouver's 2010 Winter Olympics, The Mainlander continues to translate complex, and often misleading, municipal documents and policies that everyone can appreciate.

As a writer's collective that was formed in 1984 in response to the closure of accessible public education, The Kootenay School of Writing serves as a critical site for working outside the boundaries of traditional theory, practice and teaching of writing. This has informed productive relationships that have bridged working writers with alternative sociabilities, political affiliations, and possible interventions.

The Vancouver Renter's Union seeks to organize all Metro Vancouver renters into a union capable of determining housing rights, rents, and stability through collective bargaining and political action, including petitioning, picketing, and rent strikes, as well as through conversion of the city's housing stock to resident-controlled, not-for-profit cooperatives.