Room for Everyone

29 Apr

A City with Room for Everyone

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of [her or] himself and of [her or] his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services…” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights). On the highest level, I support a Housing First strategy as part of my commitment to affordable living because it is our collective responsibility as signatories of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

However, there are many other reasons that I support a strong affordable living strategy, including a Housing First approach. One of my primary volunteer and professional commitments over the last number of years has been in working with young people who are marginally housed, and with organizations that support those young people. My first hand experiences with people who experience homelessness or near homelessness has made it absolutely clear to me that the causes and consequences of homelessness are very serious, and rarely the fault of the person who is homeless. We absolutely have the ideas, the resources, and the hearts to address this issue. We need to go forWARD. 

Fredericton has already made some moves towards more affordable housing; you can read more about some policy changes that took place about 2 ½ years ago here. There is also some great information about affordable housing, and about the city’s committee on affordable housing here.

One of the ways we can go forWARD is to embrace a Housing First strategy, by asking our provincial and federal partners to support Housing First, and by facilitating more initiatives like the John Howard Society’s new supportive housing project. Data from the first year of operation of the John Howard Society’s 12-bed supportive, affordable housing unit indicates that when people who have been chronically homeless are housed, they require: 88% fewer police services; 96% fewer nights in emergency shelters; have 94% fewer interactions with the justice system, and need 50% fewer detox services. This can be coupled with increasing the number of outreach workers, and working to provide further support to the emergency shelters, which play a critical role in helping people move from high risk situations into housing.

Beyond issues of immediate homelessness, many people I speak to on doorsteps are worried about being able to remain downtown. Rents are rising, or property taxes are rising (more recently based on assessment value than on tax rate increases), or access to services that keep people in their homes are hard to come by.

We can move forWARD on these issues too. Promoting responsible and mixed-used urban development is part of the solution. Increasing the number of homes and businesses paying property taxes allows us to provide increased services, or to decrease individual tax burdens. Keeping people closer together helps us improve public transportation options, and decrease the infrastructure costs associated with urban sprawl. Involving people in a vision for a vibrant downtown core can help us answer questions about what we want new developments to look like, how we want them to incorporate green technology, and what we want to do inside them (e.g., shared office space for small and medium sized businesses and non-profit organizations, community meeting space, mixed-income housing).

For me, it is exciting to think about the possibilities for making our great city even better. I look forward to your thoughts. 

Leah

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