Monthly Archives: April 2020

COVID-19 Offers A Way To Wrestle Land Out Of Free Market Stratosphere

only trackless snow indicates an empty chalet in a pine forest
Investors grow cautious during global calamities. These days, land and housing prices will be falling, at least momentarily. Two articles from opposite sides of the Atlantic discuss the possible window of opportunity that COVID-19 offers. The beneficiaries can be government and non-profit agencies with a...

Different Strokes For Different Folks: Social Housing Design Lab, Mexico

A classic adobe house with roof beams projecting through the tops of the walls
Looking for a some rays of sunshine that reflect a better housing future for low income families? Different climates, different histories, different social and cultural communities: a Mexican 'laboratory for living' shows how architecture can reflect tradition, economy and energy efficiency to design homes that...

Is The Foundation of North American Health A Hospital, Or A Home?

across an intersection, a view of a classic high rise modern hospital
Two hard core All-American values — Freedom of Choice (for those who have money) and Equal Opportunity (for those who have money) have been important philosophical bulwarks against leftist ideology in the run up to the 2020 U.S. elections. This particular clash in a seemingly...

Health Crisis to Homeless Crisis: The U.S. Eviction Gathering Storm

lightening strikes over vancouver skyline at night
Yes, the American Congress has banned evictions during the COVID-19 crisis. A fine symbolic gesture for a legislature increasingly unable to pass legislation at all. But what good is it without enforcement? Read more in ProPublica: Despite Federal Ban, Landlords Are Still Moving to Evict People...

COVID-19 Calls For Start, Not Stop, Of NYC Housing Health Initiatives

with the empire state building in the background, a more modest view of apartment housing in the city
Medical facilities are working overtime to preserve human health during COVID-19. Staff are putting their lives on the line to save others. Let's not lose sight of the basic foundations of human health: housing food and clean water. Housing in particular has an important front...

Proven Yet Abandoned: Lofty Public Housing Aspirations Can Be Regained

An extraordinary collection of colourful and different apartments, interspersed with plants and trees.
In the final quarter of the 20th century, public housing on both sides of the Atlantic fell victim to "Thatcherite" small-government philosophy. Governments don't belong in the housing business. Free Enterprise could do it better. In the UK, where in the 1970's one in three...

COVID-19: Building A Life Line For All Tenants

a symbolic petition consisting of a feather pen poised to sign at a signature on a handwritten sheet of writing
A group of agencies have started a petition to help Canadian tenants during and after the COVID-19 response. Some provinces have placed a temporary ban on evictions during COVID-19. Regardless, tenants are expected to pay their rent. If they can't pay, rent will be due...

Urban Changes During And After COVID-19: Sightline Does 15 Quick Takes

A long highway between islands in the Florida Keys. A single car is in view.
Sightline Institute is an American think tank. Its mission is to make the northwestern United States a global model of sustainability — strong communities, a green economy, and a healthy environment. Read this generous bakers' dozen of provocative insights from the Sightline Institute: Fifteen Thoughts On...

Public Housing: Who Benefits? In The US, Even the Residents Are Betrayed

public housing development in Atlanta, Georgia
In America, it's hard to imagine a bright future for public housing, notwithstanding that few if any alternatives appear to match its capacity for sheltering low and no income citizens. Who wants to live in public housing that is so badly policed, so badly managed...

Lawbreaking Landlords And Agents Demand Renters’ Retirement Funds

A rather ugly looking cartoon bat-faced vampire wearing a suit with a fancy stickpin on the shirt
In the midst of a world-wide crisis, jobless and penniless Australian renters are encountering rottweiler landlords chasing a bite of renter 'super' (Aussie slang for superannuation). The government, having previously frozen evictions, is not amused at these attempts to impoverish renters' retirements, and has...

Canada’s COVID-19 Pandemic Triggers A Curtain Call For Social Housing

A mural of flames snakes up some 30+ stories on the windowless end of a toronto public housing tower.
The following article provides a clear and detailed history of one country's journey from some of the most affordable housing in the world, to some of the least. It reflects similar stories in many other countries.'s particular interest in social housing arrives just before the...

A Wooden High-rise Tower Will Offer Support to LA Homeless

a colourful row of tents ranged along the sidewalk in front of a featureless two story grey building
In March we posted a story about the possibilities of 'returning' to wood construction for social housing, as it was now being treated seriously as an alternative to more conventional concrete/and or steel high rise construction. We're not talking conventional stud wall timber construction, but...

Domestic Abuse: Can/Should Social Landlords Handle It Better?

a photomontage artwork in which a black and white struggling couple are superimposed on a full colour apartment scene
The COVID-19 response draws attention to our homes and how we live together. Some issues that we were struggling to fix before have been made even worse. Domestic violence is one example. As people have been told to stay home, incidents of domestic violence...

Rent Strikes: Could They Become An Antidote To COVID-19 Calamity?

a group of angry protestors carry a blood red banner saying 'hashtag rent strike'
Governments and business interests have conspired over the last few decades to break union influence over workers and prevent costly strikes that drive up wages. Some might argue those efforts have left workers world-wide with static salaries while they gradually become less and less able...

Gender Responsive Standards For Housing, Please!

shanty community on the edge of city in South Africa
A groundbreaking meeting was held recently between two UN bodies, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and UN Women (UN/Women). The two groups are talking about developing standards and technical regulations that are gender responsive. Read more in moderndiplomacy: A Higher Standard:...

COVID-19 Tenant Defaults: BC Provides Relief, Not Just Delay

poster showing housing with title support for renters and landlords
The provincial government in British Columbia is implementing a program that will assist tenants in the private market to pay their rent. This program complements other measures including a ban on evictions, a freeze on rent increases, and measures to assist tenants who live...

Hong Kong Social Housing: Different Strokes House 50% Of Folks

construction cranes above housing development
During the 20th century, different nations found different reasons to develop different forms of social housing. Exceptionalist America more or less did theirs one way for one reason in one form. Being American, it was inevitably considered the right way for the right reason in...

US & Canada Forbid The Financial Waterboarding of Tenants. . . For Now

A swimming instructor appears to hold a student under water
The North American bioregion known informally as Cascadia presents a useful focus on how well the Canadian and U.S governments are handling housing stability in the face of COVID-19. The comparisons are interesting well beyond the notional boundaries of Cascadia.The bioregion of Cascadia, top...

Commodification To The Max: Renting In A Wildly Uncontrolled Market 

postcard illustrating 12 months of the calendar
Not all that long ago, religions assumed responsibility for the less fortunate with local governments picking up the slack.

Evict Millions? Not Now, But Probably Tomorrow. Ilhan Omar Objects.

An Eviction notice posted in a window
There are a growing number of warnings about a gathering storm of tenant evictions unless some action is taken to move the focus of the American Congress away from an obsession with small and large business bailouts. Yes, a patchwork of governments at every level...

Sorry American Renters, Banks Must Force You To Die Homeless

Anonymous hands hold a knife to the throat of a cuddly toy.
Try not to be distracted by bank histrionics. They need you to die, not themselves. Die? Yes. There are solid statistics to back it up. Housing is a vital health requirement. Without that health, people die earlier.Try: Women Die Young In The Country Of Homelessness And...

COVID-19 Reveals Serious Flaws in Federal Systems of Government

A man lies on a disk marking the four corners of Utah - Arizona - New Mexico - Colorado
One of our writers (a renter), emailed her Canadian Federal Government Member of Parliament this past week. It was a personal concern: why had recently announced federal COVID-19 emergency plans included assistance for homeowners but not renters? The response was surprisingly quick and profoundly unhelpful....

Financing Social Housing

In the years following WWII, national governments directly funded and built social housing that was affordable for people with very low incomes. The policies, programs and funding that enabled the housing construction have been discontinued, even while the need for that housing grew and...

COVID-19 Response: How To Make It So

one of four extant versions of the Magna Carta, 1215
How long does it take to find housing for people who are living rough? Would you believe 48 hours? Faced with the COVID-19 crisis, the national government in England took this unusual step on March 27, directing all local councils to find housing for all...

What Can Be Done About Criminality Linked to Housing Instability?

four men in striped clothing with ankle chains
Housing insecurity and criminality are linked. How, and why? For decades in North America, many were quick to answer. People who are housing insecure — low and no income tenants together with the homeless — are nature's degenerates who gravitate towards social housing, which they...

COVID-19 Silver Linings? Not Without Some Changes To Our Cityscapes

lightning behind clouds paints a silver lining over a dark landscape marked by lights of civilization
In between involuntary gorging on a feeding frenzy of bad news, some media outlets are searching for the silver lining in the current corona virus pandemic. Several stories have emerged that are retrospective explorations of the years that followed earlier pandemics. They celebrate community and...

American Public Housing? Thumbs Down! Social Housing? Thumbs Up!

five storey housing building in Graz, Austria
In North America there are two ways of dealing with the term 'public housing.' One, which we've chosen of late, has been to blur the distinction between it and 'social housing.' Why? Well, current American public housing is a shadow of its original intent, but...

Modern Urbanism: Hoods Without Neighbours

A single woman looks over a balcony rail in a sea of balconies
Somewhere nearby, I can hear people beating on pans to praise health workers beset by COVID-19. From my balcony in urban Toronto, I can't see any of them. I can see only two other balconies. Perhaps the sound comes from somewhere beneath the few...

Bad Tenant Disease: Will Govt Bow To Canberra Neighbourhood-Poisoning

causeway hall, a property of historic significance, in the causeway neighbourhood
Will the government inevitably bow to developers eyeing The Causeway — a public housing estate extraordinarily close to where it's all happening in Australia's capital city? What an extraordinary profit-making bonanza for a lucky housing construction enterprise should the public housing be simply obliterated! Tacky...

COVID-19 While Living In The Land Of Second Class Citizens — Rental Housing

ticket for train trip by second class
Renter status? Over the last half century or so, free market renters have been viewed by governments, and indeed citizenry as a whole, as not-quite-ready for prime time. Not, of course, as low in status as third class non-market renters (think social and public housing),...

US Public Housing. Learning To Avoid It? Or to Build It Better?

a 1940's view of a road in Allegheny County, PA, showing a low rise apartment building that is public housing beside the road
Three decades or so ago, it suited the political times to declare American social housing dead. If not entirely gone and forgotten, still-remaining projects have ever since been treated as zombie dwelling places, to be shunned along with their hapless tenants and prodded towards...

COVID-19 & Evictions: HUD Pokes Its Head Out Of The Foxhole

The shadow of a woman holding a baby falls across a world war two monument saying 'riveted the ships and rolled the shells'
In the midst of the world's COVID-19 pandemic, congratulations to HUD (The U.S. Department of Urban Development) for seeking legislative power to prevent evictions by state and local Public Housing Authorities. The fact that it actually needs to seek enabling legislation in this matter is...

Winning Housing Crisis Whack-A-Mole With A Social Housing Mallet

at a sand castle contest, three 'whack-a-moles peer up from holes in the sand
0 has received wisdom from realtor associations, builder associations, and renter associations in order to frame a case for social housing. No, they haven't noticed what they've done. But they've done it all the same. They've titled their analysis The New Housing Crisis. (Thank goodness America...

Business Tax Activists Forced Into Mercy Detour By COVID-19

portrait of Kshama Sawant, Seattle Councilmember
Seattle activists intent on forcing major businesses to share in the local housing burden are retooling their council proposal in the light of COVID-19. Just a few weeks ago, their focus on housing for all meant actively campaigning for local government to develop funds for...

NZ: Less Government Self-Puffed, So-Called Housing Solutions, Please.

abandoned blue house with red roof in the midst of high rise buildings on a steep street in Aukland, New Zealand
Governments around the world have, for the last few decades, abandoned social housing as a kind of 'failure in progress,' helped along by conveniently diverting dollars for truly affordable housing — including funds for repair and refurbishing — to other national needs. However, evidence everywhere...

COVID-19: Social Housing As A Fundamental Public Health Need

vegetables, grains, beans and gardening equipment
With housing a vital containment against the spread of COVID-19, housing is finally receiving national public health recognition both needed and deserved. Shelter, along with food and clean water, have, for more than a century, been identified as the fundamental sources of public health...

Home Sweet Social Housing Home

birds eye view of social housing towers in vienna, with greenery on balconies. A park with trees and community buildings is the centrepiece.
Nostalgia for something never experienced? Such is the feeling of a Boston Globe article, which yearns for a form of housing never successfully taken hold in North America. The lure of this longing: social housing as it is practiced in Vienna, Austria. The article was...

COVID-19: Staying At Home To Stay Safe From The Virus May Be The Least Of Your Worries

poster with words restiamo a casa (stay at home)
Being at home may avoid COVID-19, but it's not safe for people who live with a partner who is violent. The French media outlet MTV found that reports of domestic violence have increased by one third in France since the lockdown went into effect. People...

COVID-19 + Social Housing + Fixed Income? Keep Paying Your Rent!

exterior brick semi-detached bungalow
A timely reminder comes from the Australian east coast. It is directed at fixed income social housing residents and their housing authorities. The advice works for social housing pretty much anywhere in times of crisis. A patchwork of city, state and national government directives worldwide...

How Deregulation Saved Screwed New Zealand’s Homebuilding Industry

house that appears to be sinking at one end. It actually level, and situated on a steep street.
You're not by any chance associated with a city council currently vulnerable to seduction by a housing industry solution to end all housing crises? Surely you've heard the battle cry: deregulation, deregulation, deregulation! Once unchained from pesky regulations, housing industries everywhere are promising to harness all-powerful...

COVID-19: Our Walls Of Defence Are The Houses Of Our Community

etching of a castle, drawbridge in foreground of a landscape
Retreat to the castle, pull up the drawbridge, deny entry to 'others,' a.k.a. the enemy. We all know the drill for community defence. In this age it doesn't so much come from actual experience, as from watching 1001 action-adventure movies set in 'times of...

Ivory Towers in Montreal, Quebec: Elevated Beyond Housing Responsibility?

The main tower of the university of montreal gleams in the sunlight
Congratulations to housing activists from Comité d’action de Parc-Extension in the city of Montréal, Québec, where rapid gentrification and a new campus extension of Université de Montréal are driving up evictions, rental prices and driving down vacancy rates. The Comité has proposed that the university invest...

COVID-19: Advice For Homeless Services

exterior view of four storey supportive housing building in LA
The Homeless Hub in Canada has published a newsletter with articles and advice about protecting people who are homeless during health emergencies. Needless to say, it is particularly timely to help us pull together to respond to the COVID-19 epidemic. One article discusses the reasons...

Better Late Than Never? Credit Reporting Public Housing Tenant Rental Data

storefront displaying payday loan sign
A recent study commissioned by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) introduces the issue succinctly: "HUD subsidizes the rent of nearly one million very low-income households who live in public housing. Many of the households living in public housing have thin or...

COVID-19: What’s Happening With Eviction In America?

dominoes that are set on their edge toppling over and toppling the next one in line
What's happening on the eviction front? We sure as heck don't have the resources to contact and compile all the many rapidly changing events around the world. Best we point you at a news outlet that does. For U.S. actions, read more in Forbes: COVID-19...

Australian Researchers Call For Social Housing To End Homelessness

exterior of three storey apartment house
In a recent report from Australia, researchers studied the assistance that is offered to people who are homeless and living with a mental illness. The report recommends changes to make the assistance more effective. The researchers located five treatment approaches along a continuum, with exclusion...

COVID-19: Tenants Face Eviction And Infection

Media conference with BC's Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
April 1, 2020. In countries with a substantial share of free market rental housing, that is the first day that rent payments are due in the new and unnatural land of COVID-19. Tenants have lost hours or been laid off, some are ill with...

CA Landlords: 2 Birds In Hand Worth More Than 1 In COVID-19 Bush

two birds settled on a hand
With renters in California, like the rest of North America, facing enormous COVID-19 uncertainty, at least moral assistance has shown up from an unlikely quarter. Landlord groups are advising their members to help weather the storm by implementing an unlikely series of measures in...
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