Innovative and aggressive measures are needed to tackle slum housing.
Honest, I try to keep my cool as your representative at City Hall.
But there are days.
One such day was October 29th in Urban Planning Committee. We discussed a report on how government tracks, inspects, and enforces safe conditions in what we politely term “problem properties.”
Such properties are known to us as derelict housing or slum housing, or by terms unsuitable for general audiences.
My frustration? The report was so vague in its language, so bland in its terminology, so bureaucratic in voice and structure, that it defied understanding.
Example: The Problem Properties Task Force was renamed the Residential Living Governance Committee.
I’m a fan of plain language. Plain language allows us to understand issues, develop opinions, and convey those opinions to decision makers.
The report – and the rebrand to Residential Living Governance Committee – failed completely to convey: A) the problem; or B) government response.
Why the weasel words and jargon? I suspect it’s because we lack conviction to follow through on slum housing.
Why? Imagine if the City shut down each and every substandard house. Where would the residents reside? We have few options at this point, outside of shelters. And as the recent tent city in McCauley reveals, scores of homeless folks refuse to stay in shelters.
I remain hopeful. City staff will have reported on December 4th concerning options to safely house vulnerable people in the short- and medium-term, as we plan the long-term: building 900 units of permanent supportive housing.
I’m also hopeful because governments around the world are using the lens of human rights on housing. Our most wounded citizens deserve to be cared for with compassion and with their health and humanity respected. This is in line with the federal government’s announcement of the National Housing Strategy based on Canada’s obligations under international human rights law to implement the right to housing.
Research on vacant or problem properties shows that partnership between city agencies and community members is critical in devising a strategic plan. The Safer McCauley meetings organized by Mark Davis and REACH are a great example of that. It was through one of those meetings I was alerted to the limitations of the Residential Living Governance Committee.
So I tabled a motion, supported by committee, asking administration to create an action plan with innovative and aggressive measures to tackle the scourge of slum housing. We need to call out exploitation for what it is.
Councillor Scott McKeen represents Ward 6 on City Council.