Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Market is annoying

One of the most annoying statements I keep hearing in relation to the housing crisis in Calgary is "it's just the market."

As if the market were just some mysterious force outside of human control. "The market" is simply the consequence of human decisions in interaction with the environment. When people are being evicted (whether outright or through "constructive eviction" via severe rent hikes) from their homes in a "market" that does not have much - if any - options for them to move to, "the market" is not right.

Take the example from this weekend's news of an 87 year old woman whose rent is set to nearly double as of December. She's lived in her home for 40 years, but now she's being forced to move because of "the market."

Blaming the market is a denial of responsibility.

If a property owner evicts a tenant from their home, it's not the market's fault - it's at least partly the property owner's fault, and certainly partly the governments' faults (all three levels that we have in Canada) for not providing adequate infrastructure, supports and protections. And it's probably also the fault of a complicated list of other people's choices - from corporate decision makers to business owners to individual consumers, etc.

I wish people would stop blaming the market and instead look at how we can bring about changes to end the crisis and start living up to our collective responsibility to ensure that everyone has their basic subsistence met (food, clothing, shelter).

As it is, we (not the market) have set ourselves up for a real disaster - social and economic - that will leave record numbers homeless in this city, and worse when the freezing nights of winter arrive.

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Calgary Housing Action Initiative

The housing crisis in Calgary is massive. Last year alone we lost 2.2% of the total rental units in the city - at a time when we are experiencing record population growth. We have the fastest growing homeless population in Alberta - if not in the whole country.

The scary statistics, and disturbing personal stories, just keep piling up.

I've been super-busy (even by my workaholoic standards) since early August with the Calgary Housing Action Initiative (CHAI), a new coaltion that's come together to try to address the crisis both in the short-term, and to make some substantive changes to try to prevent it from happening again over the long-term.

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