…Where to even begin with Canada’s disgraceful relationship with housing? We kind of fail from the word go here – this country is home to some incredibly shit housing. Starting with a fundamental lack of the stuff, a consequence of mindless suburbanization (of which Canada was a pioneer) and horrendous social housing policy (where any even exists). Probably somehow even worse than no home within the confines of caker urbanism are the absymal shacks that far too many Indigenous peoples live in. This is of course in the same country that seems to have an incredible fascination with speculating on housing markets. There’s something particularly cruel about the way that Canada effectively permits gambling with housing costs while so many of its people suffer for want of tolerable housing, and this vein of critique into Canada is basically endless. I could make this entire blog about shitty housing policy and probably still make to 200.
The best way to use this post, I suppose, is to introduce the scope of the problem. Canada has (unbelievably) developed a national housing strategy, apparently. I say “apparently” because I can’t find the actual document to review. What I’ve seen looks like a lot of handouts to developers and buzzwords, but without the actual document there’s not a whole lot of judgement that I can actually throw down. So let’s instead briefly glance at the scope of the problem that our valiant new housing strategy (which is about 50 years late) is attempting to conquer.
Before we speak of the particularly-unfathomable housing problems of Canada’s perpetual racial underclass, let’s talk about the disgrace that is Canada’s urban housing policy. As in the United States, suburbanization was practically subsidized in Canada, by both provincial and municipal machinations. Indeed, Canada was among the first places to seriously embrace this disasterous idea – as early as 1953 Toronto was getting ready to be choked by shit tract-development which was so rigidly-engineered (in exactly the kind of way Jane Jacobs tells us is a shit idea) that there were no sidewalks. As for the dreadful urban renewal which led to heartache and urban failure in so many American cities, well…yeah, we’ve got that too. And yeah, it’s pretty fucking shit here too.
Canada’s low-income housing programs are almost hilariously underfunded and are in fact total shit. Toronto’s affordable housing, run by the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, is literally crumbling due to age and lack of attention. With an overfixation on building more as opposed to repairing current stock, this problem doesn’t seem likely to go away any time soon. A fixation on maximizing profits leads to poor policy decisions which in fact encourage price speculation on housing markets. And that’s not to even mention the chronic mismatch between the building of rental units in Canadian cities and the need for said. And the scope of the problem is substantial – nearly 20% of Canadians pay more than 50% of their income towards rent costs, with small towns and suburbs playing a disproportionate role in that total.
And that, my friends, is where the good times end for Canada’s housing stock.
From here, we go to one of Canada’s most truly abhorrent sins. Indigenous housing stock, particularly on reserves is frankly third-world. In 2001 nearly half of the total reserve housing stock was in need of overhaul or replacement. More than half of Indigenous housing stock is reported to contain mold or mildew. Almost a third of reserve water supplies are unsafe; nearly 2000 housing units are without adequate sewage or water services. Shitty housing was the cause of a fire that killed four children and their father near London, Ontario in 2016; the home, which was effectively kindling was denied funding for housing improvements from Ottawa.
So that’s what we’re going to be picking at with this topic – how cakers entrenched an untenable housing system of boring, rolling suburbs, how urban centers have utterly failed their residents, how brutal the consequences of shitty policy are for Canada’s poorest, and of course the unbelieveable savagery that is Indigenous housing policy. It’s a whole seething ball of bullshit worth several posts, and you’d better believe that I intend to assail Canada’s shit housing from every angle.