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Monthly Archives: March 2020

Past Pandemics Have Improved Lives. Can It Happen This Time?

water treatment plant on Lake Ontario
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Entire nations that have faced pandemics have momentarily paid a steep price in human lives as well as in social and economic collapse. But these disasters have often provoked profound changes to the fabric of civilization that have substantially improved the lives of succeeding...

3D Printed Walls: Housing Technology That Plays Well With Others? Or Not.

Model house printed by 3D printer
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3D Printers capable of creating sophisticated devices such as fireable guns have tweaked the imagination of dreamers. Those with housing on their minds are not only proposing, but actually demonstrating, that scaled up printers could one day, (maybe even soon) have a meaningful place...

Homelessness: Nothing To Do With You? COVID-19 Says Otherwise

family evicted during the 1930's depression
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Concerned public health officials as well as those providing shelter and housing support are scrambling to help protect homeless people from the coronavirus pandemic.Here's just one of many examples, from the Calgary Herald: Shelters Race To Find Safe Spaces For Homeless As Covid-19 Outbreak...

When It Comes To Preserving Social Housing, What’s So Bad About RAD?

flashlit scene of two US National Guards repair a heating system
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Historically, the most effective way of creating new social housing has been national government-funded construction upon land removed from the free market. Sustaining that housing has been another saga altogether. Various techniques of managing, maintaining and replacing social housing have been employed around the world,...

COVID-19 And Housing Policy – Looking Ahead In The US

esterior of three storey supportive housing building in Vancouver
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Three researchers have just published an article that proposes changes to housing policy, in light of the COVID-19 epidemic in the US. Ingrid Gould Ellen, Katherine O'Regan and Sophie House are based at New York University. Drawing on other research, they project that COVID-19...

In Barrie, Ontario, Cash-Strapped Students May Buy Housing With Chores

a small town appearance city center in winter, a modern clock tower in background
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Social housing removes homes from the free market and so can provide an ongoing guarantee of truly affordable housing for low income and no income citizens. Unfortunately, there are few free market alternatives that provide such significant quantities of truly affordable housing. One of these alternatives...

Lloyd George Doesn’t Know My Father. It Shouldn’t Matter

a group of young women in striped shirts fight for a rugby ball
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A silly, satirical British song was still sung by drunken rugby players more than forty years after David Lloyd George served as British Prime Minister in World War I Britain. For all this writer knows, it is still sung today. It goes as follows: Lloyd...

America After COVID-19: Rental Housing Apocalypse For The Poorest?

model of COVID-19 virus superimposed over a city street
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When America decided to abandon social housing for the nation's low and no income citizens, they overlooked a fatal weakness of their plan to encourage/coerce free market landlords to take over responsibility. In passing the buck (subsidy dollars to landlords), the federal government lost...

American Public Housing Authorities: Undertakers Or Futurists?

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American Public Housing Authorities, form into a great big circle. Now lean forward and pat yourselves on the back. Oh. You're already doing that? What a clever little group of social housing undertakers you are in an era when America is desperately in need of more...

Vancouver B.C. Perfects Affordable Housing Shell Game With A Micro-Pea

one pea between two almond shells that are turned down. A third almond shell, turned up, is below the pea.
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Leave it to a city which, by some measures, is the world's least affordable after Hong Kong. Leave what to them? Why, solving an affordable housing crisis without actually creating affordable housing. Vancouver, like most North American cities, has signed enthusiastically on to the affordable housing...

One Housing Standard For All?

sketch of ladder with list of requirements
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One school of thought holds that future social housing ought to be built to a lower standard than housing where a higher price will be charged. This kind of thinking is sometimes connected with the idea that people with very low incomes don't deserve...

Less Is More: NYCHA Uses HUD Magic Math To Squander Public Housing

A mid 20th century New York City Public Housing High rise building
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The great equalities of the future as described in George Orwell's book 1984 are almost upon us. War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. The last is a tip of the hat to populism, whether politically left or right. To which we must add...

Green Social Housing: Impossible Dream Or Old News?

green housing project completed in 2002
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One way or another, many feel that social housing is too expensive for America, even as many other nations find ways to utilize this truly affordable form of housing. With climate change challenging architects and builders to make housing affordable and energy efficient, any...

Finding The Path To Belonging

Researchers based at Calgary's Elizabeth Fry Society have completed a report about how indigenous elders and knowledge keepers help people to forge paths to leave homelessness. The report focusses on cultural and spiritual practices and how they support people who have had traumatic experiences.Examples...

Social Housing Futures Confederation Takes Shape In United Kingdom

people arranged around a table listening to a presentation
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For some decades, boots-on-the-ground UK local councils and housing associations have followed orders from national government generals hellbent on creating social housing more efficiently and cheaply by hiring mercenary builders and managers from the private sector. Years of poor results has helped local councils and...

I’m Here. Job’s There. Personal And Planning Views Of Public Housing Spatial Dislocation

New York Housing Authority high rise building on Coney Island
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Two stories provide different perspectives on the handicap of spatial dislocation for tenants of American public housing. Decisions made to site public housing projects were and still often are at best short-sighted and wrong-headed. At worst they are examples of a long history of...

How Screwed Are You, Young Adults? The New Statesman Has The Stats

A pair of pensive young people set with their baby
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In the 1970's, 2/3 of Britain's renting population lived in social housing. Not surprising then, that this form rent geared to income living particularly suited young people. Low rent meant saving money for more upscale digs, or a down payment for a house. Social...

Rent Regulation: The Clash Of Housing As Investment vs. Housing As Shelter

a group of activists hold signs saying "we need rent control"
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Changes to renting regulations are becoming a hot topic in nations where the rental housing is growing scarce. Landlords without curbs on their free market 'right to profit' are taking advantage of the rental housing shortage by raising rents. For those lower income citizens without...

Homeless & Need Housing? Get A List Of Places You Can’t Afford From Your Local Gov

A blue sleeping bag on a wrought iron park bench is all we can see of a homeless rough sleeper
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Is homelessness getting your community down? You can stamp your feet, roll your eyes, express disgust, then play the blame game. In America, this technique of getting nowhere fast is currently fashionable from the tippety-top of government on down. Or, you can implement a proven...

Post COVID-19 Twofer? Tackling Unemployment And A Housing Crisis

Adam Bandt, Austrialan Green Party leader.
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In North America, the green parties are still a public curiosity rather than the muscular political force that they have become in Europe. In the fiercely two-party United States, 'green party' influence is mostly virtual, assumed by progressive climate-change activists largely resident within the...

Is Waiting 1.5 Centuries For Social Housing Good For UK Business?

beautiful summertime fields in rural Britain
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Business-friendly governments in both the United Kingdom and America cling stubbornly to the notion that mixed income housing developments can build enough truly affordable housing to ease national housing affordable crises. Statistics don't just suggest otherwise, they damn such thinking as pure nonsense. For one example,...

Social Housing Future Challenge: Overcoming Decades Of Management Contempt

Three goose-stepping soldiers perform a changing of the guard ceremony
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With growing numbers of low income residents in North America paying more than half their income in rent, there's a pressing need for scalable housing solutions that do not just stem the tide of unaffordable housing, but reverse it. Is there a bright future for...

Would A Housing Industry Unchained Be An Emperor Unclothed?

a large mongrel dog stands in the foreground. Ronca tracks disappear off into the distance behind
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The North American housing industry's current battle cry? Unchain us from pesky regulations, and we'll mass-build nations out of their affordable housing crises. There would appear to be no brakes on this charging steam locomotive.Or are there? Try: US Affordable Housing Supply — Sabotaged! But...

Indigenous Women’s Report About Housing Conditions In Canada

The Native Women’s Association of Canada recently issued a research report about the current housing conditions of indigenous women in Canada. Individual communities may declare a state of emergency because of poor housing conditions, but it is unusual to see a report of conditions...

Social Housing Reno: Service To Tenants? Or To Housing Industry?

the inside of a building stripped down to brick
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Local Housing Authorities are finding themselves in almost-impossible situations when it comes to selling long-suffering tenants on the benefits of repairs and renovations. Why are social housing tenants frightened about the possibility of renovation? They're the ones suffering from rodent, leaks, faulty plumbing, etc, etc. While...

The Mystery Of The Dog That Didn’t Bark — Social Housing

a strange statue masked in various places including muzzle and spray painted
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'The dog that didn't bark' is an important clue pointing towards the solution of a famous Sherlock Holmes mystery. Likewise, the 'dog that didn't bark' can be considered a metaphor for one clue that is seldom if ever offered to explain how to solve the...

1 Housing Voucher = 1 Social Housing Home. True Equality Or A Macabre Joke?

A monopoly game board, with houses, hotels and a 500 dollar monopoly money bill in the centre of it
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Housing support voucher programs suffer profoundly in the United States by being unacceptable to many — even most — landlords, whether landlords are legally allowed to ignore them or not. Housing Choice (a.k.a Section 8) vouchers are often touted as a substitute for social housing...

Visionary ‘Green to Last’ For Next Generation Social Housing?

A rube goldberg style contrapion of wheels and gears and windmills mounted on a pole.
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Those who have worked in the business of providing or maintaining social housing inevitably come up against a general public attitude that those in need of public assistance don't deserve 'quality.' Giving in to this belief, in the world of social housing at least, has proven...

Colorado Considers Coming Late To The PPP Dance. Should It Bother?

New deal era public housing in rural colorado
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20 years ago, the Colorado Supreme Court decided that classic public private partnership (PPP) 'inclusionary zoning' projects were a form of rent control, expressly forbidden by legislation. This year, housing activists are pushing hopefully for a change in fortunes for PPP projects, even though everywhere...

New York City Housing Plan Refocuses Towards ‘True’ Affordability

A creek in foreground winds towards public housing towers in the background
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New York City has broken some important ground with the release of a new report "Housing We Need." The City, at least from a reporting perspective, is apparently no longer prepared to recommend a kind of 'go along to get along' approach to affordable...

City NYCHA Dependence Highlights Fundamental LIHTC Weakness

A classic pair of New York City Public Housing buildings -- high rise red brick with small windows
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One less-than-obvious but by no means less-than-important takeaway comes from a New York City report on Homelessness just released. That is the inherent weakness of Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs) as a means of creating the amount of housing stock that is needed...

Co-Living: It Can’t Be All Bad, Can It?

a coffee table top littered with cans, bottles and wine glasses
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This is for those who have never been a starving student sharing a home space with one or more 'might-one-day-be-friends', but not if they carry on the same way. This is for those who have had that experience and want to re-explore a nostalgic checklist...

Choices For Indigenous Women Seeking Safety In Remote Communities?

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has recently published a report about intimate partner violence in remote communities. The report reviews existing academic research and arranges it thematically.The themes are: Housing needs of women, Barriers to housing services and supports, Challenges in rural and...

From Wood To Brick To Wood Again. Could Low Income Housing Come Full Circle?

a row of battered wooden slums
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A pair of photographs reflects a depression-era pattern: tumbledown wooden slums in New Orleans, LA, pictured above, replaced by sturdy brick government-built social housing pictured below. St. Thomas Street, New Orleans, during the Great Depression. photo by not credited/FDR Pres. Library is licensed as 'public...

L.A. Eminent Domain Fight Exposes Fatal LIHTC Affordable Housing Flaw

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The American Federal government's biggest tool for the creation of affordable housing is designed to help developers have their cake and eat it — building subsidies today, and free market profits in the future. Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) entice developers with tax savings...

Tacoma Looks To Solve A Student Housing Crisis — If Landlords Cooperate

A long walkway leads between University of Washington buildings, a few students in the distance
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Increasing numbers of college age students are either homeless, or hovering on the edge of it. Tensions over this problem have been rising in American institutions of higher learning, as evidenced by the outcry against a Washington. D.C. administrator who 'dissed' a student two...

Boutique Affordability: What Is It?

A private built gee-brick castle rises high on the Torontoskyline
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Boutique affordability is a natural outcome of a concerted housing industry campaign to devalue the term 'affordable.' Background In the most general sense, the use of the term affordable, if not valueless, is 'personalized.' A billionaire will find a multi-million dollar mansion affordable only if that particular...

What Is ‘Trickle Up’ Housing Affordability?

an inverted faucet with a drip appearing to 'trickle up' from it
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Given it's name, 'Trickle Up' affordability would suggest the defiance of gravity. That's always a risk when using physical world metaphors for the financial workings of such as a housing market. 'Trickle Down' First 'Trickle down' housing affordability has a much more pleasing relationship with gravity....

NYCHA Needs 6 Billion, Asks 2 Billion, Gets Nothing New From NY State

The frame of the picture is filled with the ornate New York State Capital Building
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When governments mortgage the future to pay for the present, sooner or later the bill comes due. It arrived last year for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) which manages a major chunk of public housing that still survives in the US. The repair...

Public Housing Revisited: Just Who Was Disrespecting Who?

a view of Halifax newer and older residential buildings
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How do you rationalize a responsible management position that impacts human lives and health when, thanks to an inadequate budget, you can't do your job either effectively or humanely? If, like much of the rest of the world, you need the work to support your...

Can Housing Markets Co-exist? 10-Pin For ‘Haves’, Gutterball For ‘Have-Nots’?

a battered red bowling ball lying in a gutter
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In that Great Big 'Bowling For Dollars' Industry that develops and builds housing, it's all just millions of happy families served by an unregulated industry that will build more and more until it undermines the profit from its own product and prices fall to...

Affordable Housing Christmas In The Long Shadow of Scrooge

The dark shadow of a tree invaded by mistletoe darkens the sky
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Communities across the US are crowding towards the mistletoe for a chilly smooch with uncle HUD,HUD — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development celebrating the late Christmas for public housing in America (prezzies coming to all and sundry in March or April). Meanwhile...

Canada’s National Inquiry Of Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women

The reports linked at the end of this post document the work of the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada. They are based on the accounts of survivors and family members of people who have been murdered or...

Tiny Points Of Light Can’t Put Housing Humpty Dumpty Back Together, But…

work tools are scattered about an unrefurbished room.
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The much-worshipped self-regultory mechanics of the Law of Supply and Demand are failing to deliver the affordable housing that free market nations need. America announced its determination to pass the buck on this problem (along with many others) when President George H. W. Bush pushed...
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