Archives for posts with tag: affordable housing

ESTATERS

Today’s edition of The Grid features an excellent article by Micah Toub about the escalating costs of rental housing in Toronto and its detrimental consequences.

To summarize:

– Renting a single bedroom unit in Toronto for $3000/month is common. Between 2010 and 2012, the price of renting doubled.
– Toronto has become a “landlord’s market”: landlords call the shots and can be painfully selective about who they want to rent to, and how much the unit will be
– Since Ontario’s Condo Act in 1967, Condos have been constructed instead of purpose built rental properties, as they are more profitable for investors. They are more expensive and less secure for tenants.
– 1997’s Tenant Protection Act threw out provisions that limited rent increases to reflect the inflation rate
– Other cities, like Boston and Montreal, are better at ensuring affordable units’ inclusion in new builds. As of 2010, Toronto’s condo boom contributed zero affordable units to the market. Legislated provision of affordable units in Toronto is based on area rather than number of units, and can be easily traded for other “community benefits” like public art, which make for a much less risky investment.
– A city without modestly priced rental units leads to exacerbated inequality, social unrest and straight up dullness.

Though my experience of finding rentals in Toronto is limited, I have been witness to a wealth of friends’ experiences who confirm the above unfortunate realities. Transit accessible, centrally located rental units are scarce. When they are available, they are too expensive or are dirty and dark basement apartments. When they aren’t too expensive or dirty, dark basement apartments, there are hundreds of hopeful applicants, and chances are slim that you will be the lucky chosen one.

It is in these situation that one of the most egregious, disdainful events occur, something that makes me mourn for the lack of soul and decency in Toronto: the rental unit bidding war.

I understand why it happens — how do you stand out amongst a sea of undifferentiated hopeful renters? Money talks, especially in this town. But in doing so, you are contributing to the rapidly soaring price of living in Toronto.  Total self interest stands over the well being of the entire city. One’s comfort is more important than an affordable, inclusive city.

Rental bidding wars inevitably happen. There are no mechanisms to keep rent down in Ontario, and when people get a chance, they look out for themselves. When I hear of rental bidding wars, it confirms my suspicions that Toronto is an overwhelming private place, where there is little sense of a wider civic-identity. A place where money is more important than vibrancy, care and community.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Next time you are looking for a place in Toronto, avoid rental bidding wars! Tell all the good people who come see the apartment to refrain from this behaviour. Tell them that collectively, we can keep Toronto affordable.

Wishful thinking, maybe. But the introduction of this thought has the ability to change the culture of renting and living in Toronto. It could lead to pressure for more tenants rights, and the public demanding more affordable housing in this city. There are effective urban planning mechanisms that ensure low cost housing, that have failed to do this in Toronto. But this is content for another post.

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Cross-posted from Spacing Atlantic

HALIFAX – For those who haven’t been scrutinizing the urban landscape for the last few years, the appearance of a centuries’-old house, stilted and shunted to the edge of the parking lot across from the Trident Cafe, must be a mighty strange site.

Having survived the demolition of the neighbouring Victoria Apartments in 2009, the Morris House has since found refuge on an adjacent parcel of land.

Spacing Atlantic reported extensively on the loss of the Victoria Apartments, a beautiful heritage property that has connections with the Morris family, the first and only Chief Surveyors of Nova Scotia. In its later years, the Apartments were a hub for musicians and artists and one of the last vestiges of affordable housing in the city’s South End.

An emotional affair, crowds gathered to share the Victoria Apartments’ final moments.

The historic Morris House, the second oldest wood structure in HRM, seems to have been dormant in the years since its rescue from the bulldozer. But appearances are deceiving, and over the last three years a buzz of activity has been surrounding the Morris House, its preservation and its future.

Since they saved the house in 2009, a Joint Action Committee comprised of the Ecology Action CentreHeritage Trust of Nova ScotiaMetro Transit Non Profit Housing Association, and the ARK have been busy preparing for the Morris House’s next life.

It took some time, but the donation of a lot at the south west corner of Creighton and Charles Streets in the North End secured the Morris House’s fate. When it’s moved in early 2013, the Morris House will be expanded and developed as (energy efficient) affordable housing  for nine young adults.

A rendering of the Morris House’s new home, at Creighton and Charles Streets, with an addition still in the design phase

The project is a beautiful mix of elements that would make any local urbanist melt: the preservation of the city’s heritage built environment, the marriage of old and new architectural styles, adaptive reuse of recycled building materials, the provision of affordable housing, and the monumental filling of one of Halifax’s infamous vacant lots.

It’s no wonder the Morris House has been the subject of countless academic and art projects. (Its allure most recently attracted Anna Sprague, who surrounded the house with whimsical white balloons for Nocturne 2012.) Since it was rescued in 2009, the sight of the lonely house has embodied a powerful energy, it’s back turned to the street it used to be an intimate part of.

There’s something captivating about the persistence of the Morris House, its insistence that it continue to be a conspicuous member of the cast of characters that make up Halifax’s built environment. There will also be something magical about witnessing the historic house sail three kilometers through the streets of Halifax when it is moved to its new home in the North End early next year.

With these qualities, the Morris House project is capable of catalyzing a deep conversation about affordable housing and inclusivity in Halifax, a conversation we desperately need to have. The project is also a dramatic testament to the idea that the “greenest building is the one still standing”.

In efforts to raise funds for moving the house, an Indiegogo campaign has been set up. The house is scheduled to move in early January. 2013. Check out the Morris House website for updates and more information.