What’s in it for you?
In the context of the 2017 federal budget recently unveiled by the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, most of our citizens and residents will benefit directly or indirectly from a substantial allocation of $11.2 Billion for affordable housing over the next ten years.
The most interesting aspect of that funding is the fact that it is specifically targeted at the repair and refurbishing of our existing social housing, as well as at the construction of additional social housing units.
This measure is long overdue. It may not be enough money to properly address the country’s needs, but it is most certainly a step in the right direction.
It is, however, unfortunate that we will have to wait a while before we get to reap the many benefits of the allocation. The bulk of the money is to be disbursed as of the 2018-2019 fiscal year, coincidentally, just in time for us to have a whole year of satisfaction before we vote in the next federal election.
Nevertheless, the Liberal government deserves to be given credit for finally taking a major step forward in its national housing strategy aimed at alleviating poverty.
That strategy, when combined with policies and programs focused on attacking socio-economic inequality, unemployment and under-employment, will go a long way in neutralizing the curses that we have inherited from our inhumanely capitalistic economic system.
The direct beneficiaries of this funding for affordable housing will be our young people (including those who have recently graduated from our formal education system), our low-income families and our growing population of homeless persons.
We can no longer afford to ignore the shameful manifestations and consequences of precarious accommodation.
One of those stains on our society and on our sense of social responsibility is the injustice and indignity that precarious accommodation has on our youth.
Most affected in that regard are those young people who are employed but who cannot afford to get their own accommodation because of their limited earnings and the high cost of urban housing.
Why should we tolerate a culture of forced “couchsurfing”, a term which is politely defined as staying temporarily in a series of other people’s homes, typically making use of improvised sleeping arrangements?
Here are some policy options that our federal and provincial governments need to consider seriously for inclusion in their policy tools as they fine-tune a coordinated approach to a national housing strategy, in the interest of both home ownership and home rental:
-preferential treatment for first-time buyers
-incentives for the construction of new rental housing
-planning for the needs of the existing number of homeless people and for the projected overall increase in our country’s population
-incentives for the construction of new social housing
-an empty-house tax
-compulsory concentration on building high-density “complete communities” with all the standard services and facilities within walking distance
That last priority emphasis on complete communities is one of the most critical requirements for our society’s physical and mental health, our protection and enhancement of the environment, efficient energy use and for more effective and efficient transport systems.
The design and layout of each complete community do not only cater for mixed housing for different levels of income earners. They also cater for schooling, shopping and entertainment. They are in fact community hubs that provide facilities for sports and the arts, spaces for parks and for individual and communal food-producing gardens.
There is one more demand that we need to impose on our policy-makers at all levels of government: the various aspects of the holistic housing strategy that we recommend must not be implemented on a one- off or a stop-and-go basis.
These are the necessary components of an ongoing, long-term housing strategy to ensure the availability of a roof over every head.