Friday, May 14, 2010

Sophy Yeung's Presentation to the Executive Committee, April 21

April 21, 2010 Executive Committee
10:30 am: 5.2 Non-Market Housing Ratios – Future Directions

Sophy Yeung, McCauley Community League, Communications Director

As Wendy has said, our community is clear about the need for a moratorium now.

What concerns me the most at this point, after all the energy we have put into this issue, is the extent of progress that this discussion is achieving.

I am most disappointed that the discussion is centering on why a simple STOP is too much to ask for in the extremely distressed neighbourhoods.

Please let’s regain some perspective.

We are talking about stopping the building of any more subsidized housing in, really, only a very small fraction of the nearly 300 neighbourhoods that are within city limits. What is the big worry about having a dozen neighbourhoods be just off-limits? There would still be hundreds of other neighbourhoods. After all, it is well acknowledged that given choice, people overwhelmingly do not choose housing in the inner city. ...not to mention the dignity that comes with choice.

I urge you to keep in mind that the reason these neighbourhoods have been identified is because they have reached the tipping point of extreme neighbourhood poverty rates, a well known symptom of ill-health and dysfunction.

So, given this, why we continue to sponsor projects that contribute to the increase in the spatial concentration of poverty, specifically in neighbourhoods identified as already in a deep imbalance?

Why take the risk? ...a big risk.

What is there to lose by simply stopping?

Rather, I see there is only a very impressive list of things to gain, with pretty much nothing to risk.

The funding is still there.

The funding can now be even more powerfully leveraged by tapping into the strengths of our communities..... the strength of our healthy communities to welcome those in need and to be a very real contributor to their recovery and integration. Continuing to marginalize those in need is not helpful for anyone and is a tragedy of human endeavour. In a healthy neighbourhood, everyone (at all stages of life, from all walks of life) can thrive. Why not maximize the leveraging of tax dollars in the endeavour to get people out of the trap of poverty?

Only with a firm moratorium can all these benefits be had. The real risk is to leave in the loopholes.... which won’t realize a change in the inertia. Fool ourselves into thinking we’ve done something. Then watch everyone’s disappointment once the promise wears thin. Ironically what is being sold as the “safe” thing to do, is exactly the most dangerous thing to do.

Without a simple policy, how do we make sure we’re continuing to move the bar up higher? How do we make sure proposals are good enough to be accepted in any neighbourhood? Instead of depending on neighbourhoods that can’t complain. That’s just not going to be good enough anymore. It needs to have some connection to outcomes, to community integration, to the bigger picture.

Without a tangible policy that shows you will not knowingly concentrate poverty, how can you with credibility ask for the trust of all the neighbourhoods across the city?

Finally, I ask how is a regulated moratorium in the worst neighbourhoods not a beautiful, confident first step in this direction towards diverse inclusive neighbourhoods across the city? It can be this simple. Can you think of a better way to begin? This is easy, cheap, right and effective.

To move forward, we don’t need a policy that is complex. Before deciding to move ahead, we don’t need to figure out how to frame a policy that can fix every social problem, as measured by poverty .... an exercise that would have to involve more than just the Housing Branch. And, honestly, we don’t have the time. McCauley cannot take anymore. We cannot continue like this. We need this just so that we can take a breather. Then, we have the opportunity to plan beyond this.

I do not buy into the fear mongering that is suggesting McCauley is not a beautiful neighbourhood. That we are somehow blighted and will never amount to anything. That we cannot flourish. That families won’t want to come raise their children in our old houses. That we are addicted to charity. That we cannot attract quality investment. That we are better off as an institutionalized neighbourhood. That people cannot fall in love with us the way we are. But, the government needs to take the first step by demonstrating for everyone to see that you believe too.

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