Nelson city council, prioritize affordable housing

From reader Charles Jeanes…

Re: “Will downtown revitalization make Nelson even less affordable?” (Column, April 26)

and: “John Paolozzi is wrong about affordable housing” (Letters, April 28)

The Dailly-Paolozzi exchange about affordable housing is very important, since the issue was so salient in the last election here. I too was a candidate then, and I too heard often from voters how much the issue matters to them, regardless of whether they have housing or are looking for it. It hurts Nelson socially and culturally if we cannot provide housing within the means of Nelson’s actual wage structure; it demands a minimum of $18.50 per hour for the real cost of living here, not the minimum wage in force.

If you are a councillor, you should pick one clear cause and declare your priority, in my opinion. We could help Pastor Reimer with his affordable-housing plans, for example, or we could build tiny houses costing around $10,000 per unit, I’m told. We could make developers pay much more for affordable housing levies than we did for upscale condos such as Nelson Commons or units near the waterfront east of the bridge.

Business profitability, bureaucrat-professional employment at city hall, and developers’ marketing strategies, compete for politicians’ favours. Politicians seek a “balance” where business and landlords, renters and taxpayers, might find harmony. I ask politicians to prioritize. Will government here act differently from the examples of towns like Canmore or Whistler where money dominates and poverty is treated as pathology?

Nelson is a hot market for the gentry who can afford our prices. But a lot of other folks lacking gentry incomes but needing a home want to live here. We are known around the English-speaking world as a desirable “lifestyle community” – only for the affluent? I would love something radical in the way of affordable housing strategy here, not the mediocre mix of politics and social conscience towns similar to Nelson have adopted.

Canada’s fantastic bubble in home prices (Toronto, Vancouver) is a disgrace of capitalism. Money spent on development plans for Stores to Shores or Baker Street is money not spent on housing. It seems that simple to me. Who will shape this region — the capitalist market mechanism or the moral obligation of society to house its citizens? That is the global question posed by capitalist norms. Money or people?

Social needs are not inferior to economics. Make the rich finance housing for the poor who are their neighbours. Bring Robin Hood into City Hall social policy with “Democracy, not plutocracy” on council T-shirts.

Charles Jeanes

Nelson

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