What do we want? Homes!!

Okay, so where are the activists on housing?  Why do we not see rallies at City Hall or Queen’s Park,  with Naomi Klein stirring the crowd?

Naomi:  “What do we want?”

Crowd: “Homes!”

Naomi: “When do we want them?”

Crowd:  Now!

Then again, one leader can’t do everything.

IT truly puzzles me.  We have a housing crisis that has been acknowledged by all the experts – but seldom hits the headlines.  Why is that?  My tentative theory is that we live in a culture that virtually ridicules people who speak out or express a passion.  And people who feel there’s an issue of some sort that needs public attention, tend not to speak out in case they are wrong.  They chronically doubt their own judgment.

I believe this is an understandable byproduct of a critical-judgmental culture.  And then we are also in ‘conservative’ times!  Add to that the dizzying presentation of ‘news’, which comes at us in so many forms, from so many directions.   Sometimes I feel like I’m being spray-painted with ‘information’.  Who knows how or where to follow their curiosity and learn the details about an issue.  No, it’s way too overwhelming.

The homeless are in survival mode, so they’re not yelling about it.  And people who are “underhoused” tend to say nothing about it.  Sometimes it’s embarrassment – they’ve come to believe what their accusers say, that their situation is their own fault.  They shouldn’t really admit publicly that they have a ‘housing problem’.

And most people are convinced they can’t make a difference anyway.  The government will just make the issue disappear again, by announcing another study.  If that is the case, I imagine we won’t see public rallies until there are many more people actually living in the street.  Or perhaps dying in the gutters.

Here’s a little-known fact: First, all countries that signed onto the Universal Declaration of Human Rights* officially acknowledged that housing is a human right.  Could have fooled me, here in Toronto.  Second, the UN actually recommended way back in 2006** that Canada declare a state of emergency regarding housing.

Guess what, folks.  It didn’t get better.  Seven years later, it’s worse.***  And just in the past year or two, the number of households on Toronto’s waiting list for ‘affordable’ housing has gone from over 70,000 to more than 85,000.****  Since 2009, Toronto’s “outdoor population” increased by 24 per cent.*****  There are many more interesting (potentially tragic) bits of info where that came from.

The City’s chief planner has said that the current massive level of condo development will produce about 67,000 units.   But sales slowed down dramatically, most likely because they’d become too expensive.  So potential buyers remain in  apartments that might have been freed up – apartments so desperately hard to find.  And desperate renters are paying way more than they can afford, to rent those unsold condos at a rate of 98%!

Frankly, I think the evidence is in: we’ve become so totally self-absorbed that we’ve stopped noticing, stopped caring, stopped acting.  Paralysis has set in.  All the more reason for activist-leaders like Naomi Klein to prod and poke, and get us up and shouting.

I suppose it’s possible that, like me, they see so much wrong, so much that needs changing, they’re not sure where to start.   Could it be up to you and me?

* http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/




***** http://www.toronto.ca/housing/SNA2013.htm

This entry was posted in activism, affordable housing, homelessness, Naomi Klein, poverty, urban life, world class city and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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