Learn more about curbing urban sprawl via substantial completion from my colleague Councillor Salvador:
Learn more about Zoning Bylaw Renewal from her as well:
Learn about the public engagement process from my colleague Councillor Hamilton:
We are in a global affordable housing crisis, and Edmonton must take steps to ensure we don't follow the same path as other cities such as Victoria, Vancouver and Toronto.
Even if you own your own home, it is increasingly harder and harder to imagine what housing options will be available to your children or grandchildren. Since 1980, home prices have escalated 400% while real disposable incomes have only risen 100% (Polling Canada). With questions about a looming real estate bubble, many young adults are even wondering if home ownership is a sound investment.
Too many of our neighbours are experiencing housing instability while Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS) are siphoning profits out of the global housing market (check out the TVO documentary: PUSH).
We are also in need of housing choices for all ages, abilities, and stages of life. That could mean housing for you or your parents as they age.
Are we offering choices for those who wish to downsize?
And there is much more to be done for inclusive and welcoming housing. If you had a friend who used a wheelchair, could they come for dinner at your home? Visitable homes includes a few design modifications so that anyone can enter and access the main floor of a home without obstacles. Learn more: https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/professionals/industry-innovation-and-leadership/industry-expertise/accessible-adaptable-housing/accessible-housing-by-design/visitable-homes)
As this page develops, I'll be sharing more information about the spectrum of housing from our dire need for permanent supportive housing to fixed-income affordability, to increasing housing supply to fair taxation on mansions. Please sign up for email updates and for invitations to future meetings.
Let's talk about non-market housing:
We deserve more options than renting money from a bank or floor space from a landlord. Non-market housing such as co-op housing or public housing help curb the excesses of the market.
One of my favourite models is co-op and non-market housing alternatives, such as co-ops or urban co-housing. Here in Edmonton, there are a number of opportunities, although sometimes wait lists can be daunting. The Breach wrote about the growth of the Co-op housing movement in the 1970s:
‘An affordable and democratic alternative’ to the private market
The 1970s and the 1980s were a unique time when governments of various political stripes were open to experimentation in housing. That included co-ops like Greenhill, which were geared for families and singles living on different incomes.
Starting in about 1974, the federal government began underwriting the construction of co-op housing across Canada. The funding of housing co-ops was pushed by the NDP, led by David Lewis, which was holding the balance of power in Parliament. The new co-op program continued after the Liberals returned to their majority two years later.
Bob Luker, a retired Toronto community college professor, recalls that easy access to federal money in this time period led to the nurturing of a social movement for co-ops.
Activists came onboard from labour movements, socially conscious churches, anti-poverty groups and Indigenous rights, said Luker, who managed the Neill Wycik student co-op in downtown Toronto in the 1970s. “So, we had one of those moments when things come together.”
All shared the concept that co-op housing could be provided on a non-profit basis to ordinary people without the involvement of speculators seeking to make a return on their real estate investment.
Another initiative growing in popularity that is challenging the traditional housing market is home share, or billeting. Learn more about a special home-share program to help seniors age in place, Canada Homeshare: https://www.michaeljanz.ca/helping_seniors_age_in_place_through_canada_homeshare
Let's talk affordable housing:
For ideological reasons, the provincial government is not providing adequate mental health support, shelters, or other supports– creating a hellscape of human suffering as financially foolish as it is cruel. Homelessness doubled during the pandemic, trapping many in a cycle of survival, addiction, trauma and suffering. In lieu of housing, we get expensive emergency room visits and incarceration at far higher human and financial costs. Last year there were record numbers of amputations due to frostbite.
Housing the unhoused is central to health care. Housing is the most dignified and cost-effective solution to social disorder. Edmonton must provide catalyst funding and bring every willing partner to the table centered on a “housing is a human right” approach.
Let's talk about better urban planning:
It is not only the kinds of housing types, but also their locations. Urban sprawl costs the city enormously and leads to increased taxes. Each expansion leads to more costs for road maintenance, snow removal, waste management, and cutting the grass. The footprint of the city has doubled, and so will our costs to service.
We must rigorously pursue a more compact urban form, curbing urban sprawl, building up and not out. We can have smarter infill for better communities with meaningful engagement, improving enforcement and holding bad actors accountable.
Land use planning is intrinsically linked to transportation planning, and both play a key role in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and building a sustainable city for everyone.
Let's talk about renters rights:
Given the fact that 37% of Edmontonians rent, we must do more to offer protection and support for renters. Just south of us, many Calgarians experienced massive rent hikes, some as high as 20%. I've already heard about a number of "renovations" this year in Edmonton, including Learn more about my efforts to demand a fair deal for renters at www.michaeljanz.ca/renters
Housing justice is climate justice
Book: Homelessness is a housing problem:
Using accessible statistics, the researchers test a range of conventional beliefs about what drives the prevalence of homelessness in a given city—including mental illness, drug use, poverty, weather, generosity of public assistance, and low-income mobility—and find that none explain why, for example, rates are so much higher in Seattle than in Chicago. Instead, housing market conditions, such as the cost and availability of rental housing, offer a more convincing explanation.
INDIVIDUAL VULNERABILITIES LIKE POVERTY DON'T EXPLAIN REGIONAL VARIATION. Contrary to expectations, rates of homelessness tend to be lower where poverty rates are higher.
HOUSING-RELATED FACTORS PREDICT RATES OF HOMELESSNESS. Over the course of the book, the researchers illustrate how absolute rent levels and rental vacancy rates are associated with regional rates of homelessness. Many other common explanations—drug use, mental illness, poverty, or local political context—fail to account for regional variation.
Book: The Affordable City
Supply is about having enough homes for everyone. When housing is hard to come by, all other obstacles to affordability and accessibility become exponentially more difficult to overcome. Rents and home prices rise as a result of scarcity, the cost of construction balloons as land and labor grow more expensive, landlords gain leverage over renters (and sellers over buyers), and poorer tenants are replaced by higher-earning households, with the less fortunate pushed to areas with fewer amenities and limited access to jobs, education, and community. Many cities have limited land available for development, but housing can always be built up rather than out. Oregon’s ban on single-family zoning is one example of how we can make more space on already developed land, though more aggressive tactics will also be required. Providing an abundant supply of homes is about growing the pie for everyone’s benefit rather than dividing it into smaller and smaller slices as a population grows. Supply is about recognizing the economic and physical realities of housing and making the most of both.
Stability is about recognizing the dignity of housing—that it’s more than an investment vehicle and a means of creating personal wealth, as it is often treated today. It relates to tenant protections and rental housing preservation, two overarching programs that ensure all residents have access to safe, clean, affordable housing without fear that the rug might someday be pulled out from under them. Just-cause eviction protections and rent stabilization programs, found in Oregon, California, and elsewhere, are a few examples of stabilizing policy. Providing stability to those who want it, and to renters in particular, is how we turn housing into homes. The people who most depend on this stability are neither wealthy nor politically connected, but their well-being is the barometer against which we measure our commitment to basic human rights and dignity. If supply is about the economic and physical realities of housing, stability is about our moral obligations to those who live in it.
Subsidy is about ensuring that everyone enjoys the benefits of abundant housing and stable communities. A well-regulated private housing market can serve a large portion of our population, and tenant protections paired with rental housing preservation can assist even more. But there will always be people who are left behind by these efforts—sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently. Acting through the collective will of our local, state, and federal governments, we have a responsibility to provide support to those who need it and to live up to our professed belief that housing is a human right. This may take the form of rental assistance, publicly subsidized housing construction and acquisition, and a host of other programs. Local efforts, such as Los Angeles’s $1.2 billion measure to fund homeless housing and Durham, North Carolina’s $95 million housing bond, exemplify such programs, and proposals such as US Representative Ilhan Omar’s $1 trillion Homes for All Act would expand such programs to national scope. Supply and stability are our goals, and subsidy is an essential tool to ensure that they’re delivered to every member of society regardless of income or background.
Supply, Stability, and Subsidy are all indispensable ingredients in the affordable city recipe book, and each is discussed in much greater detail in the sections that follow. One without the others will not bring true affordability and stability to a community—certainly not to all who need and deserve it. Nor can we simply enact the strongest possible intervention for one goal without considering its impacts on the others. Often, the most aggressive solution to one problem will undermine the best response to another.
Without the support of tenant protections and public subsidies, unfettered development may keep prices from rising but also may raise concerns about displacement and community disruption. It may stabilize rents, but by itself be unlikely to dramatically lower them. And it almost certainly won’t create housing that’s affordable to those subsisting on poverty-level or working-class wages. Supply may depend on the market, but advocates for supply should not be solely and slavishly devoted to the “free market.” Pro-supply housing policies are essential, but they’re not enough by themselves.
Without supply to stave off scarcity and public funds to support those with the greatest need, the benefits of tenant protections and rental housing preservation will be unnecessarily constrained. Policies such as rent control help existing residents stay in their homes, but they do little to accommodate future growth from native-born children, new residents from other cities and states, and immigrants. They may keep things from getting worse for many renters, but they have little power to make things better. Designed poorly, price controls may also replace income-based discrimination with other, more insidious forms of discrimination, such as those based on race, gender, family composition, or other perceived markers of “good” tenants. Tenant protections and rental housing preservation are essential, but they’re not enough by themselves.
Without an adequate supply of housing and robust tenant protections, additional funding will mostly be absorbed into higher rents and construction costs. We’ll end up pouring huge sums of money into assistance for people who, if not for poor policy decisions relating to supply and tenant protections, would never have needed assistance in the first place. And we’ll have less money left over to assist the people who truly need it. Public subsidies are essential, but they’re not enough by themselves.