Tag Archives: housing

On Toronto housing and homelessness during the pandemic

During the pandemic, I came across many stories about homelessness and after awhile started to collect them. You can see them below. There are other stories that relate to the problem, and I’ve included them as well.

Toronto made some strides in dealing with those among us without homes and with much poverty. Much more can be done. If you are interested in reading more about this, here are fourteen stories:

  1. This Toronto hotel is going to be used as a homeless shelter for the rest of the year
  2. Toronto considering ambitious homeless housing plan in wake of COVID-19 pandemic
  3. Toronto just got its first modular supportive housing building for the homeless
  4. People are saying Toronto’s new homeless shelter looks like a prison
  5. A Maryland teen picked up woodworking during the shutdown. Now he sells his pieces to help the homeless.
  6. How a Tuxedoed Sommelier Wound Up Homeless in California
  7. Toronto landlords are offering free rent to try and convince people to stay in the city
  8. Toronto wants to build 3 000 affordable homes because shelters are now too expensive
  9. This Toronto hotel is going to be used as a homeless shelter for the rest of the year
  10. Toronto considering ambitious homeless housing plan in wake of COVID-19 pandemic
  11. More than two thirds of condo investors in Toronto plan to sell due to new vacant home tax
  12. Toronto just got its first modular supportive housing building for the homeless
  13. City of Toronto provides additional support for individuals and families in shelters
  14. Toronto is getting new affordable housing just for single moms
Quote

Can housing be affordable?

Based on many affluent cities currently, the answer is “no”. But there are exceptions we can learn from like Vienna. As this piece shows,  Vienna’s Affordable Housing Paradise | HuffPost, it’s possible even in affluent cities and countries to have affordable housing under the right conditions.

Well worth reading that if you are feeling it is impossible to have affordable housing these days.

Palo Alto vs. Tokyo: some modest thoughts on housing 

Image of Palo Alto linked to from Wikipedia

Two pieces on housing got me thinking of housing policy and what if anything can be done to improve it. The two pieces are this:

  1. Letter of Resignation from the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission — Medium
  2. Tokyo may have found the solution to soaring housing costs – Vox

(Note: I don’t have much expertise on housing policy. These are just some notes I jotted down after thinking about these pieces. Take the following with a (huge?) grain of salt.)

The first piece describes how housing in Palo Alto, California is becoming too expensive for all but the rich. Part of what is causing this is the limits placed on adding new housing in the area. The second piece describes how Tokyo gets around this, namely by removing the decisions about housing from city politics and making it at a national level.

It seems pretty straightforward then: all cities should remove decision making about housing from the local level and assign it to a body at a national level. But is this true? And would it work in North American cities?

It depends on what you expect your housing policy to be and how effectively you can impose it. If the policy is to have affordable and available housing for a city, then the Tokyo model makes sense. However, there is an assumption that decisions made at a national level will be in line with the desires of the residence of the city. This is a big assumption.

There are at least two sets of desires that home owners have for their homes and their city. One, that their homes and the neighbourhood they live in remain stable or improve. Two, that their homes appreciate in value. The first desire could be wrecked by the Tokyo model. The second desire would definitely be affected by the Tokyo model. With cities like Palo Alto, you have the two sets of desires met, at least in the short term. In the longer term, the second desire could level off as people and industry move elsewhere.

The ideal is to have a national policy that takes into account the need for neighbourhoods to grow organically, for house values to appreciate over time but still allow for affordability, and for cities to  allow for new housing as well as account for when neighbourhoods become depopulated. Having such a policy would support vibrant cities at a national level. You would treat cities as a network of systems, and you would allocate or remove resources over time to keep all cities vibrant, regardless if they are growing or declining.

This is the ideal. Practically, I just can’t see this happening in North American cities. North Americans are too strongly capitalist to allow what is happening in Japan to happen here. If national organizations tried too hard to manage cities and resulted in cooling off housing markets, people would oppose that. For many people, their house is their chief asset, and any efforts to restrict that from appreciation would be met with defiance.

Sadly, I think there are going to have to be many failures within cities such as Palo Alto and San Francisco before there is enough political will to change the way housing is managed. I think the Tokyo/Japan model is out of reach for my continent for decades, still.

It’s unfortunate: you have cities in the U.S. in the rust belt suffering great decline, while cities on the coasts struggling to come to terms with growth. A national policy on housing would help all cities and have a greater benefits for people than the current approach.

I like Palo Alto. It’s a great city, in a great region. I think it would be greater still if it had more housing.