Addressing housing equitably


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/03/2022 (437 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

As a renter, I’ve followed the housing affordability conversation closely. While affordable housing is an issue for me and my family, I don’t think it’s right to just focus on the numbers. Simplifying it to “just get units built” ignores all the nuance of building community.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a fan of Jane Jacobs, the writer of The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Her ideas, and her speaking, have led me to believe that building community is not as much about planning for the end state — how many units are needed — it’s about planning the process.

One of the items on the agenda of the March 18 meeting of the Lord Selkirk-West Kildonan community committee was a variance and conditional use public hearing for Raising the Roof’s affordable rental units on Mountain Avenue.

This building at 573 Mountain Ave. is being converted into an affordable housing complex by Toronto-based organization Raising the Roof.

The proposal would see an old nail salon with a single unit of housing above turn into three units of affordable housing. In looking at the design, that’s it. The building envelope will stay identical, all that is changing is they are adding a few kitchens inside.

Inarguably, this is needed. Numbers from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation peg the average monthly cost of a two-bedroom apartment at $1,317.

But, if we truly want to address the housing affordability ‘crisis’ (as many councillors have branded it), why is this debate even needed? Why waste the time and energy of all those involved to come to the table and argue that this is a good project?

Further to this public hearing, the Winnipeg housing steering committee recently announced the Affordable Housing Now program, which would look at spending $2 million in federal grant money and $50 million in tax increment financing for affordable houses, which is a great start, but could be better.

Both the public hearing and the affordability program are two sides of the same coin. One of the reasons we need to subsidize affordable housing is because our development procedures are wasteful, cumbersome and costly. We are addressing the symptom of our own design.

The best, most equitable, way of making housing more affordable is by making it easier for everyone to build more units.

Is there a housing affordability crisis? Then why don’t we act like it? Make zoning and land use reform a matter of priority. Then it won’t be just those with the capacity and capability to apply for the grants who see the benefit.

Steve Snyder

Steve Snyder
Luxton / Seven Oaks community correspondent

Steve Snyder is a community correspondent for the Seven Oaks and Luxton neighbourhoods and chair of the Seven Oaks Residents’ Association

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