If Housing is a Right We Should Take It

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1969 ... January 6, 2020

If Housing is a Right We Should Take It

John Clarke

In Toronto and across Canada, homelessness has reached proportions that no rational and just society would tolerate and it constitutes an emergency situation. The Trump Administration, seeing levels of destitution in California that are producing social dislocation, is preparing for a brutal crackdown on the homeless. We would do well to understand how close we are in Toronto to a comparable situation. The political agenda of austerity and social cutbacks is getting worse, the extreme commodification of housing continues to drive up rents and forces people onto the streets and, globally, conditions of economic downturn are unfolding. As more and more people are rendered homeless, the kind of incarceration option that Trump favours will undoubtedly enter into the plans of the more centrist representatives of the neoliberal order.

If we are to avoid, in the next period, a dramatic intensification of homelessness, a public health tragedy and the adoption of draconian measures against those thrown onto the streets, it is obvious that significant... action must be forced out of governments at every level. Wages and social benefits must be raised to levels that enable people to meet the costs of rent and, in place of the farce of ‘affordable housing’ the poor can’t afford, social housing must be built on a scale that meets the need that exists.

At present, some important struggles are underway to win concrete gains in the provision of housing. The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) is campaigning for the creation of social housing at a location in Toronto’s Downtown East. In the face of determined and sustained community pressure, Vancouver City Council has voted to expropriate two badly neglected hotels in order to create viable housing in the Downtown Eastside. As significant as initiatives like this are, it is clear that we need to move on a much wider front and win much more substantial gains, if we are to seriously address the mounting crisis.

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