Somebody help me with this before I leave Vancouver and no longer care: If we spend “x” million dollars on a building that is fully subsidized for the lowest earners or non-earners and that gets “y” people off the street, then how much (xz) dollars would it take to subsidize middle class housing to get “y” people off the street? What I mean is this: When we use a brand new building to house the “homeless” or “mentally ill” or people who just need some help (like the ones in Olympic Village), we create room to take people out of the crappy street living conditions and into something that helps them, and helps us administer the help they need more efficiently within a building. But my question is this: If we spent the same amount subsidizing…say… two adult, income-earning families with no less than two dependents…. would the end result mean the same “y” number of people end up off the street? If if the answer is yes, should we do that instead?
There are lots of types of dwellings: luxury homes, luxury apartments, single family homes, multi-room town homes; two bedroom condos; one room condos; bachelor suites; shitty bachelor suites; SRO’s and shitty SRO’s. When we build a high rise to house the homeless, we are spending a lot of money, and it benefits a few people who get off the street or get into a better situation. (I am not arguing the benefits of helping this population…it is essential and characteristic of an enlightened and first world country). But the benefit ends there. The residents don’t pay taxes, don’t contribute and housing them together (besides thinking it helps with administering social services) actually contributes to the problem. So, I am wondering, if we spend the same amount of money on houses for the people who are contributing… (and yes, I am picking middle-income families, because I think “if you build it they will come”: Build for the homeless…more homeless come; build for working class families….more working class families come.) ….then if those people leave two bedroom apartments to get the subsidized 3-bedroom townhome (or whatever it is), then that frees up their apartment to people who were in one bedroom places. The one bedrooms go to the bachelors; the bachelors to the SRO’s, the SRO’s to the people on the street. The question; finally: Is the benefit the same? Better? Worse?
My guess is: instead of benefiting one group, my proposal benefits each group of people but in a smaller sense. Each person in the ‘trickle-down” had an smaller, but nonetheless better change in quality of life. I also assume that it ultimately costs less as peoples’ expectations of “a better place” is a single step up. And if that building stock already exists, it is no extra cost. So, tax money spent is somewhat good for many, or really good for the few…
I am extremely left wing, so this is hard for me to throw out there. It sounds like I don’t care about those who need the most help. But this is really just a question based on economics, housing and city planning. The thought popped into my head, and I am genuinely curious if I am on to something. And if your answer is “we can’t track that complicated and economic trail,” then I guess that’s where I am at too.
Some additional food for thought: I know there is a logical flaw in my idea, because if you applied the same principal to luxury homes, the cost of hosing so few, while considering the trickle-down effect, would result in very little benefit to the end-group. And yet, when I apply my idea of subsidizing the middle class, it seems to work. So feel free to explore that fault. Furthermore, you may be wondering how I propose to administer who gets this middle class housing. My answer is I don’t. This is a theoretical exercise. Don’t get bogged down on specifics…yet.
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