EDITORIAL COLLECTIVE – Loss of shelter is a catastrophe. Shelter is one of the foundations of Maslow’s famous hierarchy of human needs that dictate human behaviour. For proof, just look around our community for the “doing whatever it takes” behaviour of the unsheltered to survive outdoors in tents and make-shift dwellings.
The Mayor of Peterborough has struck a Task Force on Housing to address our city’s crisis in affordable housing supply. Will it be enough to address the needs across all levels of income?
Task Force members are:
- Paul Bennett, Ashburnham Realty
- Chelsea Combot, Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services
- Brian Fenton, Peterborough Homes
- Hans Jain, Atria Development Corp.
- Hope Lee, Peterborough Housing Corp.
- Rebecca Schillemat, Peterborough and the Kawarthas Home Builders Association
- Brad Smith, AON Inc.
- Susan Zambonin, Habitat for Humanity Peterborough & Kawartha Region
When first signaled, the Task Force was to have been composed only of for profit sector builders and developers. Now, fortunately, we see that three of the eight members will represent the not-for-profit sector (Habitat for Humanity and Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services) and the city’s own Peterborough Housing Corporation (rent-geared-to-income).
Builders and developers represent the privatized, supply-and-demand economy that relies on profit in a market that has been known to use property deterioration and raised rents to extract highest returns on investment. Housing provision has become commodified and financialized with access only to those who can pay the best price – an investment site, like oil and gold, subject to speculation and volatility, a vehicle for wealth accumulation.
Housing is a human right, essential to human life and to peaceful, well-functioning communities. But its vital role as a social good has been obscured. This has driven home prices to crazy heights and people into tents. And it is aided by neoliberal governments as both federal and Ontario funding for not-for-profit housing construction slowly slowly dwindled over the past 20 years.
In addition to getting back into supporting municipalities to “do” housing, it is essential that the Mayor’s Task Force keep the impacts of the worsening climate crisis on housing at the forefront of its thinking and recommendations.
“The right to adequate housing is a human right recognized in international human rights and should contains key elements such as:
Legal security of tenure: which guarantees legal protection against forced eviction, harassment and other threats… and
Affordability: Personal or household costs associated with housing should not threaten or compromise the attainment and satisfaction of other basic needs (for example, food, education, access to health care). www.ohchr.org.en.housing
A truly forward-looking Mayor’s Task Force could
- look again at the not-for-profit housing model that delivered almost 2000 units of rent-geared-to-income housing in the City and County over the past 40 years
- revisit the new “government business enterprise” (GBE) model used to reconfigure the former not-for-profit Peterborough Housing Corporation for creative new affordability possibilities.
- add fairness and sufficiency and housing as a human right as the values that will guide Task Force decisions and what funding it seeks.
- for housing that is accessible and affordable to all citizens, use a “pathways” approach to explore more than the existing free market model. This could avoid the effects of a “single hazard” e.g. a housing market downturn or collapse which could demolish the best laid plans and Task Force recommendations tied only to the marketplace.
- use a climate-informed lens. The single biggest global threat, across all aspects of civic governance and community cohesion is from cascading, extreme, climate events. Climate crisis resilience must be accounted for in all municipal thinking, planning, designing, constructing and governing housing.
- look at housing as a key locus of vulnerability and adaptive capacity planning in the current review of the Climate Change Adaptation Plan (CCAP) 2.0 for coming climate catastrophes. (Research, for instance, how the impact and the city’s response to its Social Housing portfolio in the Great Flood of 2004)
- bring the voices of homeless people, residents of current non-profit housing and housing advocates into Task Force deliberations.