Editorial: Housing crisis needs creative government policy approach

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There are no shortages of crises in the world today. The COVID pandemic is, of course, on top of just about every government’s agenda. Then there is the terrible opioid crisis that was propelled to hitherto unheralded heights through corporate greed abetted by blind deregulation. So many urgent forces are pulling our leaders at all levels into knots, but one of the crises with the longest potential reach to create future problems is not getting anywhere near the love from the political class that is needed—housing.

Having a roof over your head and food in the cupboard are pretty much top of the list of most important items on a human being’s need-to-have list—right up there with air in your lungs—but housing has not been given the attention it deserves and needs.

Without adequate, affordable housing, hope quickly leaves the building. Without hope, despair settles in to stay and with that comes substance abuse, crime and so very many deaths—most of them cutting short the lives of our youth.

At first blush, housing would not seem to be such a difficult knot to unwind, especially given the impact it could have in ameliorating many of the ills that plague our society today.

Housing is making some headlines these days, especially in the major urban centres of our nation, but this is nothing new. Those of an age might recall the NDP slogan of the 1970s, often cited by the late John Rodriguez, sometime mayor of Sudbury and Nickel Belt MP, “if the government can guarantee you a six-foot hole in the ground, it can guarentee you a roof over your head.”

Of course, that was just an example of proliferate spending ideas of the socialist left and was quickly tossed into the dustbin of political history. But here we are, 50 years on, and the issue is still one bedevilling our society.

Now the idea that the government can somehow find billions upon billions of dollars to throw at an issue is, of course, quite silly—oh wait, COVID. But realistically, just throwing money at a problem is rarely a sustainable solution on its own. What is needed is some creative thinking and political will.

This week the Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board passed a motion to proceed with a seniors’ housing project in Little Current in partnership with the Northeast Town.

The Island owes a huge debt to the Lily Fielding Foundation and the Wallace family for their generous donation to the Northeast Town of a major building site located near Low Island and to the members of the Northeast Town council for their wisdom in holding that land back from several (rumoured) development offers until a viable project came before them.

This project is a prime example of what can be accomplished if the will to come together to find a solution to an issue is strong enough and the powers that be think beyond the simple bottom line.

This nation and this province could use a lot more of that kind of thinking, especially as our economy begins to dig ourselves out of the pandemic’s legacy.

There will be forces that say we cannot afford to tackle these issues, that the costs are too high, but the reality is that the cost of not tackling these issues, of not finding innovative solutions to the crisis we face today, are much, much higher.