It’s a report that could change the way that homeless people are treated in Canada. Funded by the federal government, “At Home/Chez Soi” is the largest study of its kind, with five years of research conducted in five major cities. It’s estimated that more than 150,000 people are homeless across the country, costing Canadians $1.4 billion each year.
The report suggests putting homeless people in housing, even before they have dealt with other problems such as mental illness and addiction, works to improve their lives. And it saves money.
Clearly, I’m no brain surgeon. But if there are homeless people, a civilized culture would find a way to use a progressive tax system to house them. Simple.
Homelessness, however, is a magnet for reprobate poor bashers who are too greedy to part with their wealth [massive or otherwise] to solve a problem.
But guess what. Research shows it’s actually cheaper to simply house the homeless. Unless you secretly hate them, or are a supporter of the Conservative Party of Canada that rejects science, research and data from an ideological, ignorance-embracing stance.
Housing, easy to get into, if people care. Occupy Madison in Wisconsin has come up with an innovative first step of a solution [see below].
These 96 square foot homes are no long term solution, at all. But if you’re struggling to get some stability in your life and you’re homeless, it’s that much harder. Just having a roof over your head can give you warmth and a good night sleep to help you be more capable of doing everything else you need to improve your life.
In this era of hyper neoliberalism, we are so used to tax-cutting governments chopping regulations off the books to allow the Blessed Free Market to guide human existence.
This caveat emptor mentality, however, means lots of vulnerable, marginalized and economically precarious people are hung out to dry.
In BC, the neoLiberal government has spent a dozen years stacking the deck in favour of landlords and undermining supports for tenants.
Add in inadequate welfare rates and disability pension rates, and a minimum wage far below the living wage and you get hundreds of thousands of people in the province suffering from sometimes grossly inadequate housing.
But wouldn’t it be nice if some city decided that things like building codes shouldn’t just ensure things like plumbing and electrical standards are achieved in constructing buildings.
Wouldn’t it be nice if a city passed by-laws that would ensure that renters wouldn’t be victimized by their economic precariousness and a slum lords’ desire to make a buck from tenants living with mould, vermin, and other critical elements that are required for people to live in dignity.
You’d think, in this neoliberal era of getting the government out of EVERYthing, that it would be a herculean task for a city to enforce basic standards for living with dignity.
But it turns out, it’s really quite simple. Terrace, not the dehumanizing bustling Gotham of Vancouver, has decided to do just that.
High-fives all around Terrace! You are lighting the way. And any municipality or regional district that doesn’t follow should fear the righteous wrath of newly empowered citizens who can see how incredibly easy it actually is to ensure vulnerable people are one step closer to living with dignity.
The City of Terrace has taken on the authority to check on the living conditions of rented dwellings without first informing the landlord and to punish with fines.
“We want to ensure that nobody’s in mould, in the cold, without lights,” councillor Bruce Bidgood said as city council formally adopted its Standards of Maintenance for Residential Rental Premises bylaw June 24.
“In February a person shouldn’t have to wait weeks to get heat.”
The bylaw contains provisions regarding light, heat, refrigeration, ventilation, water supply, as well as services and utilities.
Most of the provisions follow a template provided by the province, however one is uniquely tailored to Terrace, enforcing ventilation standards to reduce mould—a rule to “maintain the building envelope to prevent the accumulation of moisture in the walls or drafts through the wall system.”
Heat must be maintained at a minimum temperature of 22 degrees Celsius, and hot water in a rental unit at a minimum temperature of 45 degrees Celsius, and taps and toilets must always have running water. A second bylaw passed first, second and third readings on June 24 and will change several city ticketing rules, giving both the city bylaw officer and building inspectors the power to fine landlords for not maintaining proper living standards. The bylaw raises city fine limits from $25 to $100. In the case of maintenance standards violations, landlords can be penalized for up to $2,000, with a maximum of $100 maximum per day, per problem.
Councillor Stacey Tyers said she was excited to see the bylaw passed. “It gives tenants another avenue if the landlord is grossly ignoring the quality and conditions of the unit,” said Tyers, a poverty law advocate for Terrace and District Community Services Society.
“What is really shocking is how few cities have standard housing bylaws,” she said. While most council members supported the recommended bylaw, there was discussion over the rights of landlords to know when their buildings are being inspected.
“I’m suggesting that a simple phone call to the landlord or the landlord’s representative would avoid some confusion down the road … there should be some contact with the landlord because they have rights too,” said councillor Brian Downie.
City development services director David Block said there would be communication before a fine or strongly worded letter was issued to a landlord.
“I don’t believe the city of Terrace has ever been accused of over-applying its bylaws. It won’t become a witch hunt for landlords,” Bidgood added in an interview later.
There are many aspects of housing maintenance that are not covered by the new bylaw.
Other complaints, like major structural problems, are regulated according to the city’s building bylaw.
The city does not have the power to force a building owner to fix a structural problem, it can only restrict habitation.
During discussion of the new bylaw, Tyers noted that having a rental dispute heard by the provincial residential tenancy branch could take up to six weeks which another councillor, James Cordeiro, said would be too long if dealing with a malfunctioning furnace in the middle of winter.
The Role of The State in Gentrification, the Housing Crisis, and its Ability to Relieve or Maintain the Current Situation
by Rachel Goodine
Pidgin, a new fine-dining restaurant located on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, moved in to the neighbourhood on February 1 of this year, prompting plenty of controversy. It’s located right off of East Hastings on Carrall Street, directly across from the notorious Pigeon Park. Many who do not live in the neighbourhood regard Pigeon Park as a drug haven, however for many residents the park is known as a gathering spot that hosts various festivals and street markets organized by the community. Pidgin is just one of many establishments actively contributing to the current gentrification squeeze. Although many regard gentrification as a good thing, it is ultimately contributing to the life and death situation that is the housing crisis in British Columbia. The idea that money accrued from business will trickle down to the poor through tax revenue is a common one. So is the idea that British Columbia simply does not have the money to put into social housing to address the needs of residents of the neighbourhood. In reality the priorities of this government, and the resulting hegemony seen in the majority of citizens, leaves the state with plenty of cash to be funneled to corporations as well as the military, in addition to funding coercion and repression tactics that maintain the status quo.