Wednesday, 15 August 2012

There are proven solutions

There is much debate at the moment about how to fix public housing in Toronto, and in particular is public housing responsible for crime. There is no doubt throughout the Anglo Saxon world and many parts of France public housing is a crime cluster. Inevitably the usual suspects see the only solution is to sell the property and give another voucher to the poor.  The poor are going to need a huge filing cabinet to store all the vouchers the rich want to give them.
This is especially false in the case of real estate; you know that stuff they are not making any more of. Property prices in Vancouver and Toronto have skyrocketed due to supply and demand.  Most of the demand side has been driven by Hong Kong. Look to that city for the end result of letting the free market operate unfettered. The people who gamed that postage stamp applied the same strategy to Vancouver but where stymied in Toronto. However when the absolutely necessary greenbelt legislation created an artificial land shortage the speculators pounced and despite the beneficial damping effect of higher land transfer taxes we arrived at our current destination.  Ceding all to the free market will only exacerbate the negative outcomes of letting the free market destroy the collective good.
A disenfranchised nihilistic underclass was not created by the last ten years of TCHC mis- management.  The proven solution is projects like Regent park, we need more money for these types of projects, not easy money for what inevitably become slumlords.
The Gold standard for sustainable shelter for all is Singapore. The Gold standard for many things is Singapore, but for our not invented here politicians and the special interests that live off the public largess its a non-starter to solve problems. The larger plan of the right is to destroy the credibility of government, so a Ayn Rand Potemkin village of the individual can rule the 99% collective who cannot possibly compete against the inherit advantages of those very few who rise or the more numerous whom are born at the top.
There is a very simple way to find billions of dollars to solve many of the social ills caused by poverty. Legalize Pot. This will create thousands of urban jobs in the agricultural and processing industry. This will eliminate most of the entrepreneurially attractive drug trafficking jobs that are the default opportunity for most TCHC youth. On the supply side the justice system becomes much more productive, so billions spent futilely pursuing Pot can be devoted to creating a culture of collective responsibly and respect for country and community.
There are no downsides to legalization. First where Pot is legal use amongst youths and the general population is lower than Canada. No one is going to recommend drug use. Nevertheless, if the goal is less drug use the pathway to this is legalization. Secondly the argument that the bad guys are just going to find some other crimes to commit is totally moronic. The war on drugs is 90% a war on pot, declare victory and move on.
I agree that single family homes should not be used for housing the poor working or not. However this base of affordable housing should be used to balance the market forces of speculation that create a city of two solitudes: a working class that commutes to service a privileged class that rules like feudal lords.
My solution is to sell these houses to teachers, policeman, firemen and nurses. The sale would be some combination of lease and partial ownership. So the owner has the incentive to repair the house, but when the property is sold the city has the ability to afford to keep it for this defined public good.  How many Toronto police live in Toronto, I am guessing less than 25%? What are the stats for the others? To create a sustainable healthy progressive society there should be no disagreement that the most valuable citizen employees of a community, should live in that community.

The right often throws up its and hands and shouts "bad parenting", "lack of responsibility" and blames the nanny state for prolonging the existence of poverty.
Its hard to be a good parent when you are working three minimum wage jobs, or you can barely read or write. Its hard to be a good parent when you can’t see a future where your daily life is constantly worse than the miserable existence that passed for yesterday. So it really is all about raising good citizens.
Therefore society must accept the fact that bad parents exist, always have an always will. Dalton McGinty has wisely championed a real solution, all day kindergarten. If all children starting at age 3 are provided with at least a few hours of a responsible nurturing environment, there will be dramatically less generational poverty. The cycle of bad parenting can be broken. Good citizens are made; they do not magically emerge as the self-made products of an opportunity vacuum.
So one of the solutions is already in place, the funds to invest in the second part of the solution are the lowest hanging fruit on the opportunity tree.

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