Published Jan 13, 2020Ahead of a potential eviction, Vancouver's Red Gate Arts Society is hoping to bring awareness to the province's "archaic and pro-development" tax policy through the launch of a crowdfunding campaign.
In an open letter, the organization explained it is being asked to pay an extra $9,116 by the end of January or it will face eviction from its current Main Street location, which hosts a multitude of concerts in Vancouver.
"This figure represents just a half year's increase in property tax, which we are obligated to pay under the terms of our commercial lease," venue organizers wrote. "It's actually the tax on the empty air space above our building, due to archaic and pro-development 'highest and best use' tax policy."
Red Gate's letter recalls how it has been affected by "renovictions" and gentrification since its start in 2012, with development eventually leading the organization to its current location in the city's Mount Pleasant neighbourhood.
"Thanks to our committed group of underpaid and overworked staff and volunteers we've been able to survive here for more than a year, but already find ourselves outflanked and under siege by major property developments surrounding us on three sides," the organization wrote.
The organization then explained how those aforementioned developments have led to Red Gate being taxed on "potential" developed value, which it says has more than quadrupled in the past four years alone. "Even though we are a non-profit cultural organization in an old low-rise building," the letter reads, "we are being taxed at the same rate as the adjacent for-profit corporate megaliths."
In breaking down its own profit-sharing model, Red Gate confirmed it receives no funding from the City of Vancouver and noted the city's recent launch of a 10-year plan to "blanket the city with arts and culture" that will involve "community-led cultural infrastructure."
The organization writes that "It's a tragic irony that in the short time since this plan was published, at least a half dozen art and music spaces have shut down, with many more under imminent threat."
Red Gate is encouraging supporters to support the organization with donations through Patreon, in addition to signing an open letter that seeks to address the tax law with the city and province. You can read Red Gate's complete open letter here.
"It seems insane that the only affordable space in the city is burdened with a tax regime that seems designed to make it unaffordable, and that non-profit cultural organizations are taxed as if they were major corporations," the letter concludes.
"Vancouver's dwindling population of artists and musicians have heard enough empty rhetoric and vague pledges of support. The only thing that will bring our fragmented and critically endangered cultural ecosystems back from the brink is immediate and effective action. It really is now or never."
Late last year, Downtown Eastside concert venue Smilin' Buddha Cabaret Restaurant would stop hosting live performances in part due to provincial regulations.