The opening of my latest column in The Independent.
"Last week the CBC held their annual pancake breakfast to raise money for the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing & Homelessness Network. They organized pancake breakfasts around the province and ran
Regrettably, the CBC has chosen to frame the housing squeeze mostly as a poverty issue. This framing lends itself to human interest stories about poor unfortunate people who are couch surfing or sleeping at the post office or loitering at the mall to keep warm. Surprise and concern is expressed about the way "those people" live and an appeal is made for charity. Give a few dollars at the pancake breakfast or drop off some canned goods at your local soup kitchen and come away with a sense of pride that you have made a difference. A week later the issue falls off the radar and we get stories describing our property market doing "twice as well" as the rest of Canada, as though the surging cost of housing is terrific news.
I should clarify that I do not mean to discourage media outlets from covering what is a very important issue. I certainly do not want to belittle the efforts of church groups and community organizations who are doing all they can with meager resources to mitigate the most severe effects of the rising cost of living. My point is that the scale of the problem is far too great to be solved through charitable giving (incidentally, CBC is estimating about $35,000 was raised from those pancake breakfasts). This issue will not receive the attention and resources it deserves if we keep thinking about it as "their problem" rather than "our problem", and I fear that focusing only on those worst affected will keep us in the wrong mindset.
As a purely practical matter, activists must appeal to the self-interest of the wealthy and upper-middle class, because in our imperfect democracy it is only their opinions that have much influence on public policy. Fortunately, the better-off have good reason to prefer lower housing prices. The ballooning cost of housing, particularly in the North-East Avalon, may be the single most important drag on economic growth and job creation that we face today."
The argument supporting the preceding sentence can be found in full column here.