Editorial: We’re talking about affordable housing and homelessness

January, on a whole, felt like three months crammed into one when it came to news. There’s the rise of transphobia; the rise of white supremacy; that convoy; wealth inequality; inflation; the healthcare system is burning out; global warming hasn’t gone away, so that’s still on our plates; and, yeah, the pandemic. There’s a lot to unpack here, but taking it all together, it’s nothing new — it just feels like these issues are now reaching their boiling point. Of course, the bottom could still fall out from underneath us, but our point is that there’s not enough space to address it all here.

For now, we’re going to focus on some good news that happened in January. The House of Friendship got funding to purchase property for new supportive housing in Waterloo and announced their plans to create a community hub in downtown Kitchener. That funding does come courtesy of the Ford government, and what do you know, it’s an election year. Now as the old saying goes, “beggars can’t be choosers.” At least not until election day. Still these plans come as a great relief for street-involved folks.

We do have to take some umbrage with the framing of these announcements. In an interview, Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic approved of the new supports, saying that the process for getting people off the streets “starts with emergency shelters, moves on to social-supportive housing and then into an apartment with market rent. That’s the goal.”

Doesn’t quite sound so insidious, but take a moment to think about it. Think about how uncritically that statement frames our social support systems as just a long conveyor belt to being a “functional” (i.e. tax paying) member of society. Someone’s worth as a person shouldn’t depend on their ability to pay rent. Housing should be an unconditional, universal human right. 

As you can tell, housing and homelessness are on our mind as it is the focus of our February issue. We’re proud to publish a trio of stories by the Exposure Project. Headed up by Evangelynn Chee, she photographed and wrote down the stories of locals who have lived experience with being homeless. We also have an op-ed from Niara van Gaalen, a student of architecture, asking us to rethink the type of housing we build. Instead of focusing on the traditional nuclear family, she asks us to consider something more communal and multigenerational. We’re also highlighting a recent study on how housing inequality got so bad in the first place.

The issues around housing aren’t going to be solved anytime soon. Construction takes time after all. But the sooner we tackle these issues; the sooner we change the way we view housing – not as an investment, but as a human right – well, it will be one less thing to worry about. We have a lot on our plates after all.

~The insideWaterloo Team

The Exposure Project Vol. I

By Evangelynn Chee
A selection of stories from community members who have experienced homelessness and poverty. Read more.

Let’s think beyond the nuclear family when designing our homes

By Niara Van Gaalen
Multigenerational housing can help address the housing crisis and build stronger communities. Read more.

New study reveals intensified housing inequality in Canada from 1981 to 2016

By Yushu Zhu
Neoliberal housing policies and financialization over the past four decades has helped transform housing in Canada from human necessity to an investment opportunity. Read more.

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