by Tina Ouellette
We are in a housing crisis. Yes, it is as alarming as it sounds. Five years ago, this millennial was fortunate enough to cash out her savings to buy an affordable fixer-upper here in North Dundas.
Fast forward five years, and this same opportunity has become impossible for those who walk in the same footsteps.
Today’s skyrocketing housing market, coupled with the availability and price of building supplies, has whittled away opportunities for a place to call home. There are few prospects the average family or worker can afford.
Wait lists for affordable housing and assisted living are staggeringly long. Many of us know someone at risk of homelessness who is barely treading water, an all-too familiar circumstance.
Property owners are renovating, selling, and evicting in order to take advantage of skyrocketing profits caused by pandemic-driven inflation. Starting an Airbnb, or selling your nest-egg, is lucrative compared to being a landlord regulated by tenant protection laws.
Unless you are a corporation with the resources to invest, the trend has been to move away from offering affordable rentals, leaving people stuck in a very precarious situation. If private citizens, governments, and businesses are not willing or able to provide housing, and the banks are becoming increasingly selective about offering mortgages that can compete in today’s market, then who will? Right now, the answer is nobody.
Moving out of the community you grew up in, living with parents, or renting a room with a handful of strangers, is the new status quo.
If the living wage jobs aren’t here, and the housing isn’t here, then what is? Another suburb for city dwellers to flock to? Industrial scale farming? Developer havens, fast food joints, and foreign investors? If alternate solutions are not devised ASAP, there will be little choice for future generations to remain in the community they grew up in, or to maintain our rural roots without becoming the next Kempt-haven.
We have an obligation to develop and implement outside-the-box initiatives that can solve this crisis. Unique housing alternatives like Morninglory Farm in Killaloe and Whole Village “eco-village” in Caledon are springing up across Ontario and abroad. The tiny home creators and folks who value a minimalist eco-friendly footprint have made home ownership and sustainable community-based initiatives a reality.
We too can be innovators! Let’s dream bigger and invest in solutions that will see all of us succeed. Demand an end to systemic barriers preventing home-grown progress. Shift focus to property acquisition, zoning, land severances for community housing projects and multi-dwelling community owned lots, grants and loans for individuals to invest in unconventional housing and cooperatives, revitalize building code standards, the list goes on.
Current systems favour the rich and experienced, and disenfranchise the rest. Our governors need to be open to implementing construction standards that allow unique and sustainable dwellings, communities, small scale agriculture, and increased self-sufficiency.
If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that tightknit, self-sufficient communities are more vital than ever when disaster strikes.
Our society has much less autonomy over our own resources than we had before; we depend on governments to keep us safe, educate our children, and have the greater good at the core of its decision making.
The system we rely on should preserve and promote independence, not dependence, on outside resources. It’s failed to spend our tax dollars so vulnerable, hardworking people can all lead an equitable life. Adrienne Clarkson has been quoted as saying: “When you get on the boat that’s saving you, don’t pull up the ladder that’s behind you.”
Canadian values are about making life better for all of us, despite what we had to go through to achieve our own success. We are not prepared for the consequences the next few decades will have on our communities.
Whether we take to the streets, or fill the seats of council to incite change, I hope you will join me.