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Monthly Archives: June 2020

Can The Private Sector Build Social Housing For Profit? No.

construction crew (50 people plus a dog)
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Can the private sector ever cost-effectively AND the profitably build social housing? A simple economics-101-multiplied-over-time argument might be that if they could, they would. But they haven't so they can't. Australian Architect and Professor Tone Wheeler takes a less speculative approach by setting out the...

New Life For 100 Year Old Buildings?

street level view of Albert Road in Govanhill, Glasgow, showing tenement housing above and commercial uses at street level
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Climate change research has identified a number of emission culprits. One of those culprits is older housing stock. A team in Glasgow is setting out to figure out how to reverse that. Eight housing units in a building that is over 100 years old will...

Women’s Experience Of Homelessness: What Are We Missing?

A colleague of mine always asks two questions: what are we missing and who is being left out? These questions are especially important in an era where funders and program managers who live by "what gets measured gets done." The Women’s National Housing and Homelessness...

How We Come To Use Data To Fight Epidemics

graphs showing number of deaths from Cholera in 1849 over a 7 month period.
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Data is a big deal in COVID-19. This refers not to data plans, but the information that is collected, how it is analysed, how it is interpreted and how it is presented. William Farr, an English physician, was an early convert to using data to...

Aussie Rough Sleepers: Too Difficult To Deal With?

person sitting on a milk crate
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A number of governments, mid-pandemic emergency, are congratulating themselves for erasing rough sleeping through a dog's breakfast of temporary shelter solutions that sweep this most visible manifestation of homelessness off the streets. What next? Can governments capitalize on their blips of social consciousness to achieve...

The Police Defund Refund. Not Enough, If Black Lives Matter

Tuscon police vehicle parking lot featuring an armoured personnel carrier
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Only the wildest-eyed optimists imagine that defunding the police means abolishing crime prevention by creating a magical world in which the disappearance of police somehow creates an end to crime. A New York Intelligencer magazine article begins with the widely understood and more pragmatic argument...

Low And No Income Housing: Putting Lipstick On The Pig In The Middle

striped pig (blue and orange) with horns and a shoulder shield
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On one hand, the horrorTry: America Has A Bogeymen Under The Bed: Social Housing. Austria Sure Doesn’t! and gloryTry: Project Towers Reboot: Let’s Dump The Bad Attitude of social housing success. On the other, US Public Private Partnerships of now-you-see-it, now-you-don't LIHTC Low Income...

The Why And How Of Social Housing In The Now Of COVID-19

sticky with the words Live Now Do Now
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People with very low and no income desperately need housing they can afford. That's old news, in far too many countries. Enter the COVID-19 pandemic. National responses to this crisis have been founded on the safety of both the community as a whole, as well...

Universal Credit = Less Housing Security

line drawing of face with pinched eyebrows
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Repossession rates are up amongst people who receive social assistance in England. Repossession in England is equivalent to eviction in Canada and the US. This rise in repossessions is being linked to changes in social assistance programs. Iain Hardie, a PhD candidate at the University of...

Social Housing Vs Social Home: A Meaningful Difference

statues of Dorothy, Toto, the tin man, the scarecrow and the lion in front of a poster, which says there's no place like home
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From a likely source: how to squeeze the last drops of profit from the design and construction of a social housing project. The result is housing, but only the least possible offering that fits the description. From a much less likely source: analysis of the...

Isle Of Eigg And The Tale Of Two Landlords: When ‘Us’ Replaced ‘Them’

A sign on a pier reads 'welcome to the Isle of Eigg. A bald mountain rises across the water in the background
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Does your government really work for you and all the other people who share your corner of the world? Or does it really serve itself, and grant its grace and favour to whom it pleases, meaning just about anybody but you? One small, compelling answer...

Homeless Sabrina Bags One of Society’s Childhood Dream Jobs

Dr. Sabrina C_H speaking at a conference
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It's so dreadfully convenient to be able to dismiss the social tragedy of homelessness by harping on about the losers of society who have been condemned by fate to live out their lives in urban back alleys. Of course we mourn their ill-luck and undoubted...

COVID Evictees Forced To Gamble For Shelter? Sigh, Same Old Same Old

dog with mournful expression against a shamrock green background
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Nation, an American publication, reacts with some horror to the fate that would seem to be inevitable for no-job no-rent households, and COVID-19 moratoriums on evictions begin to expire. Depending on the state and municipality, some cash strapped governments are finding a little financial support...

Social Housing Communities: Strong? Or Strongly Maligned?

apartment building and parking lot in Mjolnerparken in Denmark
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Decades of 'small government' philosophizing has led to social housing community-bashing by the US and its fellow travelling Canadian and UK governments, among others. Suggesting that low and no income tenants are constitutionally incapable of forming healthy communities has greased the skids on existing social...

Groundbreaking Decision In Vancouver For People Who Are Homeless And People Who Are Two Spirited

several people marching in 2011 Denver Pride parade
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Tamara Loyer runs a drop-in for trans women in Vancouver. Loyer welcomed the announcement about a housing project that will be dedicated to people who are transgendered and people who are two spirited. Read more in the Vancouver Sun: New vision for century-old Ross...

Empowering People With Experience To Prevent Homelessness

A single soldier in a gas mask walks along a trail
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If we are ever going to end homelessness, we need to prevent it from happening in the first place. Getting to prevention requires changes to multiple systems, services and programs. Canadian scholars have developed a prevention framework that acts as a roadmap to figure...

Homelessness Underfoot: Grey Problems For Black And White Decision-Making

A google satellite view of A green swath of land between the rooftops of the city of kingston and the river.
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This post is about a homeless encampment in Kingston, Ontario that is operating with permission from the local council. It is about the people who are part of the story: the camp residents, the local council, housed residents and community agencies. It is also...

Green New Deal Without Buddies And Beer And Football? Forget It!

A new medium rise building looking like a high rise, probably the tallest building on a sparsely settled island
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For many, a Green New Deal is founded on new forms if human living that respect the balance of life on our planet, a life once assumed to be so robust that it could easily fend off the careless debaucheries of humanity. How to balance...

An Irish Social Housing Solution to Covid-19 Mortgage Failures?

A sign announcing a foreclosure blocks most of the view of a house beyond
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When it comes to social housing, some governments behave like Sherlock Holmes wannabes obsessed with the significance of 'the dog that didn't bark in the night.' Particularly in North America, that behaviour plays out as a continual parsing of the ruins of public housing, despairing...

Don’t Rebuild, Build Anew: Progressive Formulae For Post-COVID Canada

an orange clad continent of sign bearing NDP supporters march in a toronto gay pride parade
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Canada is a polite country and it's sometimes possible for progressives to get a word in edgeways without a nuclear blast of scorn from the centre and right. That's somewhat unlike the behaviour of our combative neighbours to the south. Besides, Canada has behaved in...

A City’s Coming Homelessness Disaster, By The Numbers

a multicoloured collection of tents jams the corner of a Toronto Park
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It's become fashionable these days for homelessness and housing activists to proclaim that once eviction moratoriums expire, 'many, many' will become homeless. Well, perhaps 'fashionable' is an inappropriate description of Chicken Little flapping about the farmyard crying out the 'the sky is falling!' Because as...

Social Housing Needs To Be A Resource Of Everyday Heroes

Volunteers loading food packages on a motor scooter
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It's always heartwarming to get a lift from the exploits of those who've seen a need to help their fellow citizens in a time of emergency. A recent article from Scotland steps away from the heroes in the health care system to sing for...

Care Homers: Lost In The Crack Between Homeless And Housed

Care Home residents sit at a table, assisting with envelope stuffing for a charity
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The shocking state of care homes in many supposedly advanced countries have so far contributed a lion's share of COVID-19 deaths. Why have these poor standards of care, as well as the poor conditions of the care homes themselves, somehow escaped notice? A large portion of...

Federated To Death? When It Comes To Housing, I Pick Québec

Québec flag
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State "A" thinks tenants should sink or swim on their own. Maybe you should move. Province "B" is handing out dollars, but stopped yesterday, you're too late. Nation "C" isn't much interested in renters, still peddling dollars and tax relief for first time buyers....

COVID-19 And Montréal’s Musical Apartment Game

a man on a bike balances a side table on his handlebars
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July 1 has long been a banner day in Montréal. It's when many leases expire and a good chunk of the 500,000 renter households move house. This year's round of musical apartments will be more complicated than usual. First, there are social distancing provisions, which residents...

Remembering To Build Community Into Social Housing Design

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If there's one thing that the COVID-19 has demonstrated, it is that humans are social animals who are prepared to die rather than go without community. This is a fact of much consternation with logical, sensible, paternalistic politicians and scientists. They would seem to...

Like Moths To A Lantern, Homeless Victorians Pay To Flock Off To Paree

two short, rather forlorn looking pink stucco motel buildings
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How Ya Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm (After They've Seen Paree?) These post WWI song lyrics describe the bedazzled homecoming of American troops. They also sum up the heady experience of rough sleepers in the Australian province of Victoria. Those lucky souls...

Australian Report Enumerates The Poor By Their Species

An older woman and man push a shopping cart together
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What does a poor person look like? In a society that dresses down, with billionaires lurking in hedges (fund, not privet) wearing t-shirts and trainers and backwards ball caps, it's not so obvious at a glance. Fortunately, a new report from the Australian Council of...

New And Old Pandemic-Inspired Architecture For Future Social Housing

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Architecture inspired by pandemics? Who knew? Serious architecture students, no doubt. But both the broad idea and the detail behind architecture that helps homeowners to cope with a pandemic should also be a study for decision makers who are contemplating the design of social...

Architects to Seek New Directions To The Top Of A Social Housing Tower

elevator with a baker's dozen occupants
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To high-rise or not to high-rise? With increasing environmental pressures to put homes near jobs, the convenience of highrises is not just a once apparent fact for social housing, but these days is a basic cost-effective reality for luxury housing and everything in between. A...

COVID-19 Rent Relief In Social Housing: Not For Tenants With Income

looking up the side of an elegant modern high-rise tower
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There were huge sighs of relief in Scotland recently when the parliament decided against giving every tenant in social housing a rent holiday during COVID-19.Social housing tenants with income in Australia aren't getting a rent holiday either. Try: COVID-19 + Social Housing + Fixed...

Will Social Housing Be Eliza Doolittled To Death?

a cheerfully grotesque male/female face belonging to a gay activist group who dress up as nuns
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Rattle a container of upper middle class citizens, and, like a basket of live clams, their shells will close to protect themselves. These are not paragons of social living, but the opposite — the reclusive snobs of the human animal kingdom. Why then the fascination...

Are There Future Needs For ‘Emergency’ Social Housing?

entrance to modular housing in Kamloops
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Architects are necessarily opportunistic guns for hire, with one project bid for and landed, only to be followed by another, and another. The events of COVID-19 have triggered a demand for more social housing to quell housing crises in many nations. Which, if any, guns...

The Greening of Cities: Social Housing Can Play A Part

heat loss from residential subdivision. Image taken from satellite.
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Many recent articles in this age of COVID-19 are touting new building. It's often considered one of the most, if not the most, important engine of an urban economy. Reflecting the uncertainty, however, of consumer purchasing power after the layoffs and unemployment of COVID-19, the...

Consequences: How Canada Came To Bless Homeowners, Ignore Others

mural showing person in a space where she can't stand up
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In one year — 2005 — The federal government of Canada guaranteed 746,157 mortgages to provide housing security for homeowners. How fared those unable to afford to buy a house? From 1980 to 2005 — 35 years — the federal government financed 633,300 social housing...

Social Housing: A Lifeline For Vancouver’s Oppressed And Overburdened

A six-story narrow flatiron building in Vancouver
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Jen St. Denis, a journalist in Vancouver, British Columbia, is investigating the triple whammy of high housing costs, COVID-19 and the current stock of social housing. In 2019, the city rose to attention as the second most unaffordable place to live in the world.Try: Vancouver...

Past Pandemic Rent Strikes. Can They Inform Our Current Crisis?

five women in discussion on sidewalk
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Rent strikes occurred in New York City during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. There are reflections in those events of current conditions that have triggered calls for rent strikes in the US. One obvious similarity: middle and upper class politicians initially presuming that a...

COVID-19 Relief For Private Rental Housing?

exterior of rental apartments and raised garden plots
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Evidence is growing that millions of unemployed renters in many nations have neither the money to pay their accumulating back rent, nor the ability to save and pay that rent in the foreseeable future. One solution that is being touted is to relieve rental responsibilities...

Foundational Provision: What Is It? Why Must We Reinforce It Post COVID-19

a hand containing a wallet with money peeking out of it
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Imagine the sunlit figure of a merchant leaning anxiously in an open shop doorway. Perhaps it is the proprietor, pleased with a government small business grant that has helped the cost of marking a pandemic-conscious pathway with social-distancing footprints upon his floor. Or perhaps it...

Prejudice And Zoning Convenience: Lower Classes Can’t Do Community?

A dog peers out between the railings of a plant be-decked balcony
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Decades of government-abetted shaming in North America have turned social housing into a monster. Its enduring image is one of menacing towers, either filled with the malignant detritus of society, or thankfully collapsing under a wrecker's ball. What is the explanation then for the image...

Social Housing: Finding Middle Ground Between Managers & Tenants

word cloud - the three most prominent words are mediation, conciliation and arbitration
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Recently we've been exploring necessary steps that will need to be taken in order to allow future social housing communities to flourish. In this regard, we are not giving consideration to the benefits, whether actual or imaginary, that derive from mixed income housing. Strong communities...

Social Housing Management: A Little More Of the Sheep In Wolf’s Clothing, Please

a cartoon drawing of a sheep in wolf's clothing
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Decades of 'thatcherite' austerity government on both sides of the Atlantic have promoted the narrowest vision of housing for the most vulnerable: while its existence may be an objective of society, it should be of no concern to government. Shrinking funding for social housing, as...

COVID-19 Sheltering Action = Homelessness Job Done? Hardly.

Plywood squares on a marking lot mark out socially distanced tent sites in the shadow city high rises
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The UK's kickass national government decision to house all homeless people in the face of COVID-19 has not been 100% successful. But it has come pretty darn close. It illustrates how a national will to end homelessness permanently, expressed by strong government action, can...

Hiding Rough Sleepers From COVID: Not Quite A Crackerjack Blessing?

A tent, blocked by a camping chair, on a downtown sidewalk together with shopping carts and other stuff
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One contemporary way of dismissing the crisis of homelessness: "They actually prefer living outdoors." Well, COVID-19 has come close to making truth out of that nonsense. But not necessarily in a positive way, as well as one that might come as a surprise to some...

Could Social Housing Kickstart COVID-Stalled Building Industries?

Three twenty-plus story fawn coloured tower blocks
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For decades, many governments inclined to goose their housing industry have favoured assistance to new homeowners, rather than stimulating the economy by supporting new rental housing construction. Australia has apparently not changed its spots now that a post-pandemic return to boom days for the...

A Fifty Year 0ld Pointer Towards Both A Renewed Environment And Global Health

wall with externally perched air circulation fans
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In a new/old Treehugger article, The Architecture of the Well-tempered Environment: a late review, author Lloyd Alter pokes fun at his reaquaintance with an article some 50 years old. That intriguing and still entirely relevant exploration of architecture of modern homes and offices lays a...
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