Affordable housing is one of the great social issues of our age.
Middle-income households – and probably even some higher income ones – are struggling in the face of rising home prices and rental rates, if a rental unit can be found in the first place.
And none are more affected than the lower-income bracket, far too many of which are being driven into homelessness.
There are a lot of discussions about solutions, and lots of well-intentioned and good-hearted people trying to do what they can. All levels of government are looking at the problem, and there is even some investment.
The question we would like to address is whether enough is being done, particularly by those various levels of government.
In his theory of human motivation, Abraham Maslow placed things like food, clothing and shelter in the broad base of his pyramid of need. In other words, these are elements people need to satisfy before they can move on to safety, love and more esotaric needs.
It’s not unlike your home budget. You need to cover the cost of home and food before you can think about purchasing that new iPhone or 60-inch TV.
And perhaps it is something that government need to incorporate in their planning as well. There are lots of calls on our tax dollars, and for many necessities – roads, policing, health and education to name a few.
But there is still spending in any budget that is optional. That could be steered toward building housing for the homeless and low-income sections of our society, but also for middle-income, as a way of putting the brakes on spiralling prices.
If the government offers enough rentals at 25 per cent below market rates, the market will soon adjust its prices to more attractive levels.
Land is not something governments are short of. Whether it be local or federal, they own property that could be earmarked for housing. Or, if a public building is needed on that lot, why not build three stories of rental housing on top?
Yes, this is an utopian, and probably impossible dream. But the only real solution to the lack of affordable housing is to build more affordable housing, and federal, provincial and local governments need to make it more of a priority.
We have to look after our society’s most basic needs first.