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PAINFUL TRUTH: Just build the houses, bill Victoria

Experts have failed to solve the housing crisis. Here’s an idiot’s idea.
A homeless man pushes a cart during a snowy night in November 2022 in downtown Langley City. (Langley Advance Times files)

Many, many people, the majority of them smarter and better educated than me, have tried to solve B.C.’s housing and homelessness crisis.

They have all failed.

In fact, they have arguably made things worse. Homelessness keeps rising, and the cost of housing keeps rising.

If things keep going like this, in 20 years, 10 per cent of the population will be on the streets or living in their cars, and no one younger than 50 will own property.

A small bungalow in Langley City will be listed for $8 million before the bidding wars start.

Given this dire situation, I think it is only fair to let idiots like me take a crack at fixing this mess.

We can hardly do worse, can we?

So here’s my idea: our cities build the housing we need. They send the bill to the premier.

I figure a good ratio would be that during the next two years, municipal governments should build one unit of supportive housing – for the homeless – for every 1,000 people in the community, and two units of affordable housing, mostly co-op apartments with some seniors housing.

In Langley, population approximately 175,000 people, that would mean 175 units of supportive housing, and 350 units of co-op and seniors affordable housing.

We’re going to have to do that a couple of times, frankly. There are well in excess of 200 homeless people in Langley alone right now, so we’re going to need a couple cycles to really get on top of that.

But at the end of it, Langley would have a roof and a bed available for every homeless person in the community.

And we’d have hundreds of units of newly built affordable housing. To which we could, and should, keep adding, every year, if at a slightly more sedate pace – say, enough to keep up with population growth, plus a little bit extra.

How will local governments afford it, you ask?

Like I said, send the bill to Victoria. Demand they pay up. This is their problem, they’re in charge of the housing file. If both of our parties, NDP and BC United, née Liberals, hadn’t displayed a shocking lack of action on this file going back 20-plus years, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

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Perhaps Premier David Eby feels the real problem is that the federal government dropped the ball on housing in the early 1990s. Well, he can fire that bill off to PM Justin Trudeau if he likes.

Municipality, province, feds, I don’t care who pays for it. I know it comes from taxes (more could come from the rich) but in any event, I’m willing to see my taxes go up.

Yes, tax me more! I want to pay taxes, and I specifically want to pay so that everyone in my community has a home and the supports they need.

I am willing to pay for the privilege of never again having to check if someone in the office parking lot is dead, or just sleeping face down on the asphalt. I am willing to pay for dignity and security and a community worth living in for every citizen.

And our leaders should be willing to pay for it, too.

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Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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