BC’s housing crisis is the backdrop for new novella by ex-Vancouverite

A record number of people left British Columbia for other provinces in 2023 – a net 4,634, according to StatsCan – BC’s second-greatest quarterly dip since 2004. The rising cost of living and sky-high rents are often cited as reasons why people are looking elsewhere to live.

That is something former East Ender Norman Nawrocki knows all too well. Formerly of Hastings-Sunrise, he left Vancouver decades ago. The author, playwright, musician, and housing rights activist has since made a name for himself in Montreal.

“I originally left Vancouver for one year thinking I’d always come back,” he said. “I never came back for a number of different reasons, but one of them was I could never afford to come back. You know, I looked for places, I put the word out, and it’s like nothing’s there. So, that kind of broke my heart.”

And while he returns to Vancouver often, Nawrocki admits he doesn’t always like what he sees.

“I see newly-moneyed people walking around, driving around as if they own this city,” he said. “And it’s like, ‘Hello! This belongs to all of us. This is our city. It’s not just yours.’ It’s not just a city for condo developers, it’s a city with real people who need compassion and understanding and affordable housing.”

Now, BC’s seemingly never-ending housing crisis is fodder for Vancouvered Out: A Novella — his 17th and latest book.

Our tale centers around Steve, who left the city for 10 years, but is back trying to get to the bottom of his daughter Taka’s mysterious death. Was she killed or was it an accident? Steve has to know.

Nawrocki says like Steve and so many others, he too was Vancouvered out.

“It was obvious that the cost of housing was driving people away, driving my friends away, driving colleagues away, preventing people like me who want to come back, and preventing other people from accepting jobs here because they knew they couldn’t afford to live here,” he said.

John Ackermann sits down with Norman Nawrocki, author of Vancouvered Out: A Novella

Steve is trying to figure out not only what happened to his daughter but his place in the world.

“He grew up here, he had, you know, a great childhood, he had wonderful memories of that growing up, and he’s got to reconcile those memories with the present-day Vancouver, and something doesn’t quite fit,” he said. “There’s a jarring reality that he has to understand.”

While Nawrocki has no solutions for the housing crisis, he hopes readers stop and question what is happening in our city and how rapid development may not always be a good thing.

He points to groups like the Vancouver Tenants Union as ways ordinary people can organize.

“Because it’s all within our grasp. I mean, I really believe in the power of people coming together, collectively coming up with solutions, face-to-face, working things out, and confronting the powers that be and saying, ‘No, we don’t agree with this.'”

Nawrocki also hopes the book serves as a reminder.

“A reminder of our humanity, a reminder of the need for compassion and understanding, and a reminder of the need to stop and question what actually is going on in this city, and how maybe that’s not such a good thing, and how that needs to change.”

Without giving too much away, Steve’s search for redemption continues right until the end of the book. While he can never bring his daughter back, he does take solace in the loved ones still in his life, including his best friend Bob, his girlfriend Erika, and the grandmother who raised him. Vancouvered Out can be crude in spots, but it is a tale told with heart.

Vancouvered Out: A Novella is available from Les Pages Noires in Canada and PM Press in the US and the rest of the world.

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