Tag Archives: housing

(478) Renter Girl

Renter GirlIf suburban-poverty.com could get a long distance romantic crush going on another blog it’d probably be for Renter Girl at Blogger.  Perils and precarity mark out the renting life in a global financial uber-capital and it takes a brave bloggess to survive it all.  In big, bad London it doesn’t matter how far out you move you don’t get a break.  Fresh stresses await the working people of London, too, as prices soar, global investors flock in, wages lag, and governments ignore or aggravate the whole mess by turns.  Renter Girl’s author is one Penny Anderson who also writes about housing issues, renting, working and getting by for the Guardian.  Keep up the good blogging Renter Girl.


For more visual, North American rental horror porn in Tumblr form there is www.worstroom.com
…mainly New York City but we saw Ottawa, Toronto and dozens of other places represented in this hall of landlord shame.

(432) Suburban poverty & the environment

Homeland City LimitsGood urban design, climate change and emerging demographic shifts are cross connected in this piece in a common sense fashion.  The energy efficiency of walkable, higher density urban areas could end up being offset if North America’s lower income people are pushed to the periphery where stitching together employment, social services and community life requires mandatory car ownership.

Pushing Poor People to the Suburbs Is Bad for the Environment

Mother Jones

image: Amin Eshaiker via Wikimedia Commons

(426) Forty-nine thousand abandoned homes

Forty-nine thousand
abandoned residences can be found in suburban locations near Tijuana, Mexico.  They were part of a building boom on the outskirts of the city that does not seem to have worked out well. Poor planning, lack of services and employment and high crime are blamed for the hollowing out of tracts of small, single-family homes. The story of suburban overstretch familiar to North Americans is found in this report from KPBS San Diego.

(416) Looking for a place?

Karl Marx-HofAt times it feels as if renting in North America results in a form of second class citizenship.  The idealization of single-family home ownership is still alive here despite the economic weirdness and high prices of recent decades.  The result is a kind of dissonance and mediocrity when it comes to how we approach thinking about where and how we could be living.  It doesn’t have to be that way – going by this article from Governing.  Now, you may not be ready to live in an architectural fetish object like the Karl Marx-Hof, even with its salmon and beige exterior, but if it has dawned on you that you will never own a home because you are not well enough off you may like reading about the legal protections and good standards enjoyed by renters in Vienna.

Vienna Offers Affordable and Luxurious Housing. Vienna has figured out how to offer high-quality apartments with low-cost rent and renters’ rights that would be unheard of in the United States. Advocates say it’s a model worth examining.

image: Karl Marx-Hof via Wikimedia Commons

(396) Explaining RoFo II

X-Ray VisionHave you been wondering why Boss Ford’s low-income fan base still loves their local Big Man, the Deus Dixon, their own Rex Rexdale?  We were, too.

Rob Ford: Low-income supporters stand by their mayor. Mayor Rob Ford’s support among low-income people is a paradox to critics who say he has consistently voted against programs that would help the poor. But his supporters in Rexdale social housing complexes say they support him because he’s active in the community.

(389) Gimme shelter: on the night bus

City bus becomes rolling hostelAdaptation is expected of the poor at all times.  An example thereof was examined by a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News recently.  Lacking income and shelter people in social difficulty are hopping on the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s #22 bus for cover after hours.  It’s the only 24-hour route in the system and this double life as a rolling, diesel-engined night hostel has earned it the nickname Hotel 22.  Submitted by a suburban-poverty.com reader this item illustrates too well the housing and transportation issues of those in difficulty in Silicon Valley.

Homeless turn overnight bus route into Hotel 22

image: AEMoreira042281 via Wikimedia Commons

(368) Bad dreams

Default LineUK business writer Faisal Islam shows serious, pro-social journalistic intention with his soon-to-be-released book Default Line: the Inside Story of People, Banks and Nations on the Edge.  He calls out the crazy rises in house prices, the reckless lending, the brainwashed borrowing and sickening bail outs of deregulated private banks with public money as the social cyanide that it is.  He joins a precious few other voices decrying the economic macro mess that has been made, not just in Great Britain but in many other places, by a gold rush ethic of home ownership for all.

Mr. Islam’s book was excerpted today in the Guardian.  He doesn’t mince words:

“The recent history of property in Britain is wrapped up in notions of freedom and the social mobility of owner-occupation and right-to-buy. Yet right now, Britain faces a return to a more traditional relationship with the land, in which property is the principal agent for holding back opportunity for all. There are other options, as stable house prices, large high-quality flats and secure rental tenure have delivered in Germany, for example. The property ladder was a one-off opportunity for a lucky generation-and-a-half. Now we are back to a kind of neo-feudalism, in which your quality of life depends on who your parents are, and what they owned,” says Faisal in the final paragraph of the excerpt.

From Ireland to the UK to California and beyond, the real estate monster scorched working people and entire economies with its wrath.  A trebling of house prices in the UK has sprayed quick-drying cement on the aspiration of social mobility for many people in that country.  Other Britons find themselves significantly worse off for having entered the home ownership game at all.  A major redistribution of wealth has taken place thanks to the madness of real estate gaming in the UK and it would seem to be a very unhealthy thing on top of other economic, social and environmental challenges.

This beast, the home ownership dream-turned-to-terror model, also ravaged the United States.  Some features of Britain’s blow out, especially the shoddy and dishonest documentation behind a lot of the mad mortgaging, is just a smaller-scale carbon copy of shenanigans this side of the Atlantic.  Canada finds herself yet to really bottom out 2008-style.  The media here juxtaposes the latest soaring sales and price statistics with predictions of doom.  Our federal government has tightened mortgage regulations, again.  Do we still have a window to avoid the worst aspects of American and British experience?

Default Line is on suburban-poverty.com’s priority library acquisition list.  We’d like to see if it has some wisdom Canadians can use to protect themselves a little from the craziness.  Everywhere you turn in this country it seems like there is a sense that something is going to happen with interest rates and house prices and that it will not be pretty.  Hopefully, Canadians will look back and see what Mr. Islam is talking abo.ut as a warning sign that was heeded, that inspired corrective measures and long term planning for a sensible national economic life.

Home ownership: how the property dream turned into a nightmare

(352) Mall living

800px-Brentwood-town-ctrCanadians were in decades recent nothing if not awesome builders of shopping malls.  Most of the big regional ones are getting long in the tooth and attention turns now to what they will be going forward.  At least three big ones lying westward of Toronto are currently undergoing conventional renovations to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars to make them ever slicker seducers of shoppers.  More parking, upgraded branding, expanded hours and other attractions are being deployed almost as if a war was on between the consumatoria in question.  Some malls, perhaps nervous of a financially stressed population, retail saturation and the demographics of aging, as well as the simple appearance of opportunity, are now adding housing to the mix.

Instead of driving there and hanging out you can now live at the mall.  This idea holds value.  Why not eliminate short motor vehicle trips to make retail purchases?  Doing so saves money and fuel and reduces pollution.  A large mall with a condo slapped on top will have more viability because the patrons of its shops and services live steps away, so might the employees.

How ironic and positive that the increased density cherished by fans of European style city living comes to be facilitated by that most suburban and North American of built structures, the mall.  Is this not a good thing?  A first year architecture student is probably capable of coming up with the right approach to segregated entrances and other little details of layout that maximize the benefits of this possibility.  The mall is dead. Long live the mall!

The death and rebirth of the mall: you don’t drive there, you live there  
Globe & Mail

See also: (247) Shopping malls & (23) Shopping mauled

image: Home, sweet home? Brentwood Shopping Centre in Burnaby, BC by Arnold C via Wikimedia Commons

(346) Whitby

661px-Ashburn-Whitby_Township-Ontario-The_Illustrated_Historical_Atlas_of_the_County_of_Ontario_Toronto_Beers_1877_Just after coverage of the Homelessness Report Card for 2013 The Star published a profile of a single mother involved with social services, experiencing concurrent difficulties and said to be sleeping at night in play structures in parks while pregnant and in the company of her fifteen-month-old son.  Now, these profiles of life at the bottom in the major cities of North America are never particularly hard to find.  The hope is that such stories contribute to change.  Unfortunately, this one could have been in the paper in June of 1983 just as easily as last week.  The only real difference might be found in the setting.  Lisa Roberts has been living outdoors since May in Whitby, a satellite community lying east of Toronto.  Life in Whitby has been characterized by fast population growth, by sprawl, for years now.  We even find Canada’s Tory federal Minister of Finance to be the Member of Parliament for Whitby suggesting extra-strength neoconservative values there, values not readily attached to social spending or even sympathy for those in difficulty. And the reader comments!  …when did Canadians become such snarky, reductive, reactive, socially conservative people?  Even allowing for a certain pathology to the act of online reader commentary there is some hate going on down there, people.

Homeless in the GTA: finding affordable housing especially tough for women

See also: (317) Durham Region

image: 1877 map of Whitby by JH Beers via Wikimedia Commons

(344) ONPHA report

Bird_HousesTo see affordable housing given mainstream media attention in Ontario this week was heartening.  The occasion was the release of a major survey of the past, present and future of the issue from the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association.  The noise generated by sprawl, rising home prices, and large-scale condominium construction has drowned out the fact that the marketplace for housing as we know it at the tail end of a long boom simply cannot come up with good quality, reasonably priced rental accommodation.  The further down the income ladder you are the more likely you are to face some sort of difficulty regarding the cost and quality of your housing.  Such difficulty damages the individual and retards the performance of Ontario as an economic machine.

Ontario experienced population growth and economic expansion in recent years but has actually seen the total number of rental units decline.  By how much between 1996 and 2006 according to census data? 86,000 units is the answer.  Factor in weak wages, food and transportation costs and small wonder working and low income people are struggling.  Middle income people are on the same slippery slope.
Rental development has gone weak in Ontario and home ownership has flourished in a way that is distorting the most basic of experiences, that of housing oneself.

Do we need somebody need to invent us an iPhone application before we connect these things and see that affordable housing options could use some enthusiasm, some meaningful support from all quarters including government and business?  If the people in this society who do the work live poorly and feel poorly that brings down everyone.

Where’s Home? 2013 onpha.on.ca

Ontario’s affordable housing crisis deepens thestar.com

image: birdhouses from The New Student’s Reference Work via Wikimedia Commons