New construction offers hope for affordable housing

By PAT WATSON

In August 2017, the Toronto Real Estate Board pegged the average overall price of a house in Toronto at $732, 292 and in September, the average rose to $775,546. And, there are houses, well mansions, in the downtown to mid-town area of Toronto that are listed in the multi-million-dollar range. They do not fall under the affordable housing heading.

In the face of those realities, the cry continues from the low- and middle-income segment of the population for adequate, affordable shelter. Many still aspire to the great Canadian dream of home ownership. Never mind the annual property tax, water fees, utility payments, property maintenance, homeowners’ insurance and whatever other costs come with having one’s name on the deed.

Home ownership comes with status and, more fundamentally, is considered a solid form of investment security. The message hasn’t taken hold yet that the dream is nearly impossible for a new generation coming into adulthood. The expectation is still there.

The low interest rate that the Bank of Canada held on to for close to a decade along with a surge in arrivals to this city resulted in a rush on real estate transactions that help keep the economy solvent during hard times, but at the same time resulted in ridiculously inflated prices.

Periodically, the opportunity is offered up to allow a few to be blessed with owning the dream. Along those lines, condominium units and townhouses offer better possibilities for home ownership among lower- and middle-income families. Of course, depending on willingness to purchase in the farther reaches of the city and suburban areas.

A recent planned groundbreaking is what brought the affordable shelter issue into focus. Under the Build Toronto plan, construction is going forward for 68 townhouses of one- to three-bedroom units in the Rogers Rd. and Bicknell neighbourhood with the special feature that it is aimed at middle-income earners. The units start at $300,000 and the project is being constructed on lands that had been within the Toronto Transit Commission portfolio.

Move-in is set for October next year, in time for Mayor John Tory and Councillor Frank di Giorgio, representative of Ward 12 York South Weston where the construction is being built, to highlight it going into next year’s municipal election campaigning.

An interesting feature of the purchase plan, which is part of Build Toronto, is people who earn an income below the median – that would be below $78,000 in Toronto – can receive a second mortgage from Trillium Housing that would be repayable at the time of resale. This offers hope for those who can show – whether below the media or not – that they have a stable income.

Adding to possibilities, the province is also freeing up land within the city in the West Don Lands area and at Yonge and College for residential construction for mixed income households. For those who need affordable shelter right now, that massive open space along Yonge St. cannot be completed fast enough.

So, there is room for hope on the horizon for affordable housing for some people in Toronto. The real concern is the slow pace at which these properties come into being. The Build Toronto Loop project has been at least three years in coming. Furthermore, these are projects aimed at home ownership. There are 170,000 other households that cannot afford to purchase a property. Those people just wish to be able to find a place to rent and still be able to afford a reasonably healthy lifestyle.

A note on a tipping point…

As names are revealed in the news of serial abusers, can we begin to hope that the centuries-old norm of using sexual harassment and sexual assault to exert power over women and girls is about to undergo a significant shift?

Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter @patprose.

This opinion column ran on page 6 in the November 16, 2017 issue of Share newspaper. http://www.share news.com

 

 

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Annual basic income pilot project about to take off

Annual basic income pilot project about to take off

By PAT WATSON

Four thousand households in Hamilton, Thunder Bay and Lindsay are about take part in what has been termed a pilot project to learn the effects of receiving an annual basic income.

This experiment set to run for three years has been decades in the making, with retired Conservative senator Hugh Segal having been a driving force.

The $75-million fund will give provide single persons just under $17,000 per year, equivalent to 75 per cent of an annual low-income measure of about $22,650, while couples would receive about $24,000. A feature of the plan would be to take back 50 per cent of any earned income. People with a low income, and that includes disability payments, are the priority applicants for the pilot program.

The fact that the Ontario government is even going ahead with this experiment means a level of recognition of the failure of the poverty paradigm. It actually costs more money to maintain a segment of society below the low-income median, with all the various fields that are funded to ostensibly assist those living in poverty. Note that some occupations help people who are in poverty. It does not help them out of poverty. Helping agencies are chronically underfunding so that they are never fully effective enough in their mandate. Furthermore, professionals in the social service field are chronically overworked, bogged down by whatever policy limitations exist within the agencies that employ them and endless – some would say needless – paperwork.

A recent series of reports in the Toronto Star for example detail what happened in the process of finding an apartment for one man who had been living on the streets for a number of years. The main point was the agency tasked with this is understaffed and therefore cannot be as efficient and thorough in supporting clients to a better transition away from living on the streets or spending winter nights in bug and disease infested temporary shelters.

The client eventually moved back to the streets because the $950 per month basement apartment was substandard. That is a failure of service.

The range of reasons that find people ending up within the low-income sector is varied. One in particular being felt by a broad group is the changing nature of the job market. The increasing demand for skills that service the robotics and Internet revolution has caught many entering the labour force unprepared. Without hard skills, the low-wage service industry is then the job option most widely available.

The other trend toward limited-term, project-specific employment has given rise to a population of workers newly termed the precariat, in reference to the precariousness of job stability. Precariats participate in the gig economy – as in a gig here and a gig there. This is not a foundation for a stable life.

People who cannot find a decent income are less likely to live independently. Already in Toronto, 56.5 per cent of young people in Toronto still live with their parents. People still dependent on their parents in one way or another are not about to get married and start families. That may sound nice for those who believe in limiting population, but with an aging population and not enough caregivers available, the picture begins to look different. Furthermore, these demographics are growing.

Let’s hope therefore, this pilot project shows great results. When a similar experiment was done in the farming town of Dauphin, Manitoba from 1974-79, there were significant positive outcomes including an increase in school attendance, improved quality of family life, decrease in domestic violence and markers of improved health and wellness.

The time has come for a new income distribution paradigm. Universal basic income may be an answer if it is configured for optimal benefit. My main fear has to do with what typically results when the bureaucracy takes priority.

A note on the March for Science…

The problem is not with scientific discovery; it is with formulation and interpretation. Remembering the history of scientific experimentation using Black bodies, we must be very circumspect.

Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter @patprose.

The Hangover, my version

 

washinghairDecember 31 — the last night of what had been a peculiar year, to say the least– I watched the hours and minutes run down with my typical celebration. A few hours earlier in the evening, I did what many a wishful thinker would, rushed out to the local convenience store and bought a lottery ticket. There had been cosmic signs all week prior about the appearance of a certain number that would be the key with my name on it to unlocking the million-dollar win. I did this despite a conversation with the Great Cosmic Voice that had told me earlier in the year I was free to buy lottery tickets for my own amusement but I wasn’t going to win. Yet, since a certain number kept appearing, it being the number nine, I decided that maybe there as a bit of a wobble in the space-time continuum that would let me slip through. Or maybe, I could cheat using clever insight. After all, the individual digits in the year 2016 add up to nine.

Anticipation of the result of my little amusement was more interesting to me than TV news flashes of mass midnight celebrations the world over, made effervescent by firework artistry. There was no need to keep watch for the clock rolling over to midnight with the usual 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 and musical break out of Auld Lang Syne. Like a World Cup soccer match, so many millions are fixed on a moment that you can feel when it happens without having to be tied to a television screen or radio. Instead, my media report had to be about whether or not those numbers sussed out from the ether would change my 2017.

At the stroke of midnight, with the sound of fireworks bursting somewhere in the neighbourhood, there online, appearing first, was the number nine. Nevertheless, all my other clever purmutations of the number failed to present themselves. I had so wanted to have something on the crest of this New Year to be my own version of effervescent fireworks. Instead, I felt deflated.

Checking social media moments later meant looking at short messages which, inbetween wishes for a ‘Happy New Year’, continue to ruminate over the strangeness of the electoral results in the U.S.

Although the sum total of my bubbly consumption on New Year’s Eve consisted of ginger ale thinned with club soda to mitigate the sweetness, I still woke on the first day of 2017 with a post New Year’s Eve hangover — the emotional kind.

Thankfully, January 1 was a sunny day in this region, which helped lessen the despair. The other hangover treatment that made a difference was to take a hot shower and thoroughly wash 2016 out of my hair. washinghair

Mincome – guaranteed basic income

By PAT WATSON

There is a solution floating out there that promises to be a revolution against poverty. First, an analogy: If you all agree that shelter is a condition for healthy living and a human right, then we should also agree that we must provide the means for ensuring that standard. That means we mutually ensure the universal provisions for shelter. There is no sense in saying, ‘Well, we all must have shelter as a right, but regarding procurement of the means then you’re on your bro.’

Which brings up the recent discussion coming from the provincial government on running a pilot project on ‘mincome’. That’s the term being used to refer to the idea that every household be provided with a guaranteed basic income.

The Ontario Liberal government is now doing a search for the right community in which to proceed with a pilot project on mincome payments.

This wouldn’t be the first time such a social experiment has been done. A similar pilot project took place in

– See more at: http://sharenews.com/have-you-heard-of-mincome/#sthash.Yxxq7wln.dpuf

Low-income housing? Not in my neighbourhood

NIMBY
Low-income housing? Not in my neighbourhood
By PAT WATSON

To begin with, I am not a property owner, so that makes my bias upfront and clear. I am a renter and am in the same boat as most Toronto renters who on average pay 50 per cent and upwards of their earnings toward their shelter needs. There are people in this city who pay almost 100 per cent of their monthly income into shelter.

I’m reminded of a recent Toronto Star article that refers to a 62-year-old former construction worker, now unable to work due to a back injury. His monthly support payments of $1,200 cover the $1,011 rent for his apartment in Scarborough, so he eats thanks to food banks.

Imagine a future in this city in which the majority of low-income earners will, for the most part, live outside the city centre. Bear in mind that the majority of low-income earners are members of immigrant communities and are identified as being of visible ethnicity.

Already, a silent trend of suburban homelessness has taken hold.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has declared housing to be a human right. That is, it is a human right if you hold a strong belief in the sanctity of human life. Most of us do. Yet, some human beings hold the sanctity of their individual life as more valuable than that of other human beings.

Now, there are multiple ways in which we humans select our tribes.
– See more at: http://sharenews.com/low-income-housing-not-in-my-neighbourhood/#sthash.lAZVhLpN.dpuf

Work hard, get rich: the neoliberal fantasy

Work hard, get rich: the neoliberal fantasy

One of the driving messages we hear today is that if we just work hard enough, if we just don’t quit trying, then whatever we aim for will eventually become ours to claim. It is such a motivating message. It is the kind of message that finds favour among the kind of people who leave their homelands and travel to new regions in search of a better life.

These pioneering types are prepared to give it their all to make a better life for themselves and their children in a new land.

It is a message that neo-liberals would like us all to swallow whole. We are all in charge of our destinies and whatever happens to us, good or bad, is the result of our own actions or inaction.

Really? Is that what the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was all about? Individuals empowering themselves?

Ask the people who enjoyed a middle class lifestyle, putting their eight to 10 hours of hard work on a daily basis, how much that work ethic now benefits them.

– See more at: http://sharenews.com/work-hard-get-rich-the-neoliberal-fantasy/#sthash.r7QEJqNY.dpuf