The West End Residents’ Association (WERA) will be more involved in the gay community, says the group’s new lesbian president.
Longtime renters’ rights advocate and WERA director Christine Ackermann replaced Brent Granby as the housing association’s president at the group’s Nov 16 annual general meeting.
“I’m super excited to be WERA president. I think Brent had done some wonderful things for WERA, and I look forward to continuing on,” Ackermann says. “I identify as lesbian and it’s always been men as president,” she adds.
Ackermann, who came out later in life, says she hopes to inspire queer youth to get involved politically. She says youth have an especially difficult time navigating the housing system and plans to advocate for their needs.
“It’s really important that people get involved in politics, especially women and especially gay women,” she says. “It’s important our voices and perspectives are heard,” she adds.
While her focus will be on advocating for renters’ rights and affordable housing, Ackermann wants the organization to have a larger presence in the gay community, especially around issues of homophobia and violence.
“Our community has been beset by a lot of hate crimes; it’s important that WERA has a presence in this issue,” says Ackermann, adding that she’s trying to forge relationships between WERA and community leaders regarding the issue.
Granby, WERA’s president for four years, says Ackermann is well suited to represent the West End’s diverse community.
“I really have a lot of faith in Christine and her ability, [and] it is great for the organization to be having a lesbian and a woman taking over,” he says.
While Granby will remain on as a director, he plans to become more active in politics.
“Once you throw your hat into the political arena, it’s probably better not to be speaking up for a non-partisan organization,” says Granby, who recently became a Coalition of Progressive Electors member-at-large. He says he plans to run for the Vancouver Park Board in the 2011 municipal election.
Granby says he’s pleased with WERA’s accomplishments in the last few years, noting that it’s hosted five housing and community-planning forums in the past year and created a greater sense of dialogue in the community overall.
“It wasn’t about coming up with simple solutions,” says Granby of WERA’s mandate. “We really tried to conceptualize issues in a big way.”
For her part, Ackermann says her main challenge is meeting high expectations.
“My fear is that we’re not going to be able to do everything we want to do, but other than that, I look forward to what’s ahead.”