Affordable Housing: Can A City Be Both An Advocate And An Honest Broker?

Edmonton, Alberta likes the idea of doing its own online video channel to promote the programs that City Council has approved. However, a recent opinion piece in the Edmonton Journal uses the affordable housing crisis as a thorny example of how advocacy may clash with a city’s other responsibilities.

On one hand, encouraging and/or building affordable housing can be a council-approved ‘good thing’ worthy of advocacy. In the action of approving a motion, a democratic council indeed acts as an honest broker by considering the wishes of the city as expressed and voted on by the people’s representatives, the councillors.

But as plans develop there are sure to be individuals claiming to represent their neighborhoods who disagree on how and where affordable housing needs to be implemented.

The author of the Edmonton Journal opinion piece feels that this requires the role of City Council as an honest broker after the fact of its initial decision. So can it be both an advocate and an honest broker at the same time?

Read more on this dilemma in the Edmonton Journal: David Staples: Are you ready for Don-TV? Not the best idea for taxpayers

Our opinion? The author helps subvert his own argument by choosing affordable housing as his example.

King Solomon in his wisdom ‘plays’ the honest broker when he recommends that a baby claimed by two people must be divided in two. Not a solution for a healthy baby!

Affordable housing is the baby that everyone agrees is necessary for civic survival, and which nobody wants. After its initial honest-broker decision to build more affordable housing, must Council listen to the objections from NIMBYites, which are sure to come? (NIMBY — Not In My Back Yard)

And need council then act as an ‘honest broker’ to tell one neighborhood to take the baby’s toes, and another the eyebrows, and so on?

Listen to individuals where possible. Consult with individuals where possible. The privilege (not necessarily the right) of individuals to be heard is not the same as a council acting as an honest broker. Neverending ‘honest brokerage’ seems a recipe for micromanagement by an electorate, leading to a whole lot of stuff taking forever, and/or never getting done at all.

As to a City Council using a ‘newfangled’ way to explain what it is doing on behalf of its taxpayers, we can’t possibly see why it’s not worth a try. Build affordable housing instead? Try constructing a house with $500 necessary to buy an adequate camera and a good tripod, always assuming the city doesn’t already own such items.