On June 1st, I was appalled and dismayed to read an article in a local weekly newspaper about a man who is paying $375 a month to live in a storage shed attached to the back of a house. As President and CEO of Grasp Ventures Unlimited, a large property development company developing some of Vancouver’s most luxurious and affordable townhouses, condominiums and rental properties, I am profoundly disturbed by the idea that somebody out there is charging only $375 a month for this space. With no heat, no washroom, no cooking facilities and dimensions approximately equal to the dirty double mattress the man sleeps upon, this apartment is admittedly a few square feet smaller and far less convenient than the Luxury Studio Condominiums in Gloucester Towers Estates, our latest high-rise development. Nevertheless, my colleagues and I simply cannot condone any building owner offering rental units at such fire sale prices. I find it unconscionable that this man is taking advantage of the obvious lack of business acumen being displayed by his landlord. Has this renter’s financial advisor failed to inform him that for zero money down and just a few thousand dollars extra per month, he could immediately take up residence in one of the many high-quality waterfront properties we currently have available? At the very least, if the man had any scruples at all, he would be paying the owner a minimum of double the monthly rent he is currently forking over. Please don’t tell me that he can’t afford it, just because he is unemployed, has HIV and Hepatitis C, and is currently in a methadone treatment program. Can he not simply liquidate some of his lower-yielding mutual funds until he gets himself back on his feet again?
In my opinion, this story points to a much larger societal problem: many of the so-called poor and marginalized people within our society are shockingly out-of-touch with the financial realities of the twenty-first century. Far too many of them, after graduating from whatever college or university poor people attend, simply don’t understand how vital it is for them to pull their fair share of weight within our economic system. According to some statistics my personal assistants have been compiling for me, many lay-about single parents and the freeloading mentally ill have not been purchasing a reasonable number of luxury items every week. I am sad to say that many of them, in fact, do not even have Visaâ?¢ or American Expressâ?¢ cards. All of this, of course, places a tremendous extra burden on the wealthy, who must make up for these deficiencies by spending extra time in restaurants, spas and shopping malls. Time that would be far better spent snorkeling in the Caribbean or diddling their secretaries. And don’t even get me started on all the homeless people pushing around shopping carts all day and all night, yet scarcely ever making an actual purchase.
“Shame on you all,” I say, “shame on you. High time you got with the program.”