Sometimes in this life we get the chance to make amends. And these days, I sure feel like making amends on the issue of affordable housing.
It might have been ten years ago that we on the street banded together to protest against a neighbour’s plan to create a single – yes, one itty-bitty – basement apartment. It’s hard to believe now that we felt so threatened. And it’s hard to face the fact that I was contributing to the desperate housing shortage of today. Since then I have moved a long way from those feelings. I am about to create a basement apartment myself, and urge others to do the same.
Meanwhile, people keep coming to Toronto – something like 50,000 to 100,000 every year – pushing prices up for both buyers and renters, as the NIMBY crowd keeps the supply down. As more and more people depart, looking for more affordable accommodation, I’ve realized that I had been in denial – and certainly wasn’t thinking logically, thoughtfully or compassionately.
If we want to just do arithmetic, the number of housing units being built currently, while large, is nowhere near what is needed – and the number of units needed keeps increasing.
Anyway, I’ve had my consciousness raised. I am a convert and I hope to convert others. We need as many new affordable apartments as we can squeeze into the neighbourhood. With my mortgage paid off, a survivable income, and kids grown up and gone, I am lucky that I don’t need a basement apartment. However our high, dry, spacious basement cries out for one in the circumstances. I’d feel guilty if I didn’t do this.
I urge my fellow Torontonians to do the same – and to welcome even more. There is of course still a place for occasionally resisting a development. But let’s leave behind the silly reasons like not wanting shade on our garden. Or “preserving the streetscape”.
And forget about that old prejudice against tenants. Anyone who can afford to rent even a basement apartment in this neighbourhood is probably fairly civilized.
Housing is a human right – but you’d never know it in Toronto.