Pellerin: Limits on housing in Ottawa can’t just be left to homeowners
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It’s understandable, but it has nasty side effects, the most important being that we inadvertently become selfish and short-sighted. We don’t want change, intensification, bus routes, homeless shelters or safe injection sites anywhere near our backyard. From an individual perspective, it makes sense. But when everyone reacts the same way, what does that do to our ability to offer decent housing and services to those of us who cannot or do not wish to become owners of a single-family home?
To paraphrase Denley, few people buy a house and think: Finally I’ll be able to make life harder for the young, the poor and anyone in a situation of vulnerability. But that’s what happens anyway. And of course as our appetite for more and better housing grows, we destroy thousands of acres of forest, swamp and farmland which were homes to a variety of wildlife that, absent a habitat, die.
And we haven’t talked about traffic yet.
Few homeowners think of themselves as privileged capitalists, but the laws certainly treat them as such, for instance by not taxing the profit they make selling their house.
Housing is a basic need we all have. We should all be free to choose what kind of housing we want and can afford. But that does not give anyone the right to make other people, or the environment, pay for their preferences.
That’s when planning comes in. It’s the only tool we have to protect that which cannot be commodified and used as an investment vehicle. Like public health, human happiness, compassion and protection for the natural environment we all share.