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LETTER: During this 'fog of uncertainty,' now is the time to address affordable housing

'Federal and provincial governments have been faced with an affordable housing crisis for decades and the political game of 'responsibility ping-pong' has not served anyone well,' says reader
2019-05-15 Coral development RB
An affordable housing project slated for a property at the corner of Bayfield and Wellington streets in Barrie is shown in a file photo. Raymond Bowe/BarrieToday

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COVID-19, and now the variant popping up, is hitting us hard. Front-line health care is pushed to the brink, seniors are isolated under precarious circumstances, and students struggle to learn from home.

Financial stress, homelessness, rising addiction rates, and mental health concerns are also tragic byproducts of the new normal.

Small business, the lifeblood of the economy, has taken a beating, retailers large and small are seriously rethinking their business models and commercial landlords are about to suffer a knockout blow.

So much has changed in the way we think, behave, interact, and work.

Fifteen years ago, less than four per cent of us worked from home. Clearly, that percentage is exponentially greater during the pandemic, but who is to say when life returns to normal what that normal will look like?

On the bright side, during this fog of uncertainty, there may be a silver lining to address at least one festering problem: affordable housing.

Federal and provincial governments have been faced with an affordable housing crisis for decades and the political game of “responsibility ping-pong” has not served anyone well.

That said, I see an opportunity to get ahead of the curve.

As commercial landlords start to cut bait, there will be a glut of built assets ready for market in the very near future.

Could some of these properties be reimagined and repurposed for affordable housing?

Over many years, suburban sprawl turned city finances upside down and as municipalities struggle with growth, they are at the same time scrambling to increase their tax base. It is an uphill battle.

Buzzwords like “high-density" and “intensification” rule the day and towering highrise schemes dominate the debate. But does anyone believe these projects will be “affordable”?

The pandemic has taught us many lessons. Not the least of which is the need to adapt quickly, to think outside the box and to imagine a future that is different than the past we have known. I understand there are a boatload of challenges to tackle, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could at least check one off the list?

Shawn Bubel