Pellerin: Limits on housing in Ottawa can't just be left to homeowners

By Brigitte Pellerin, Ottawa Citizen, January 24, 2021

There’s a line in Randall Denley’s recent column on the fuss about that modest development proposal in Kanata that really got my attention:

“Selling intensification in existing neighbourhoods is a tough challenge. Few people buy a home, then say, ‘Boy, I hope this street really changes in the future.’ They are unlikely to be swayed by the argument that apartment buildings should be constructed next to their house to protect some unspecified piece of rural land somewhere else.”

True. But why do we think it’s OK for housing to be such a heartless capitalist venture?

Two-thirds of Canadians are homeowners. It may sound like a lot but when you compare with other countries we’re nowhere near the top. Unsurprisingly, the higher the income, the more likely a person is to own a home. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has details in beautifully coloured graphics, if you’re curious. For most homeowners, their house is by far the biggest asset they’ll ever own. So naturally they do everything in their power to protect that investment.

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?

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