Mirrored panels reflect views of the surrounding gardens around the lower half of this star-shaped office designed by Josep and Gerhard Haumer for a plant nursery near Vienna. The 52 Kubik building is located in the town of Mödling, around 14 kilometres south of the Austrian capital, and was designed by local studio Josep in collaboration with architect Gerhard Haumer.
Nicholas Ree is an intensely hard-working, 23-year-old theatre student at Simon Fraser University who is currently homeless.
For the last three months, Mr. Ree has been sleeping inside SFU downtown, because his meagre student budget can’t support the growing cost of shelter.
Mr. Ree, who is from Japan and has lived in Vancouver for four years as a Canadian citizen, is one of a growing legion of people who have been pushed out of rental properties for any number of reasons. Most often, they are “reno-victed”, which is what happens when your landlord wants to renovate to charge a higher rent. With a vacancy rate of 0.6 per cent, landlords know they can demand more money. The situation is pushing students, and other low and average income earners, into a precarious and stressful survival mode. Mr. Ree sometimes couch-surfs, or, in winter months, during off-season, he might stay in a hostel. During summer, the downtown campus is quiet.
“Once it gets busy it’s not possible to have my stuff in school, so I’m taking for granted that there aren’t many people at school right now,” he says. “I don’t have much stuff. I have a suitcase and a box, because I’m a student from another country.”
His professor, Cole Lewis, says she’s horrified to see some of her students pushed into this state of semi-homelessness as they struggle to get through school. Looking for answers, she’s written letters to government officials and housing activists. Some of her students are getting up in the small hours of the morning to commute long distances from Surrey and Abbotsford, where they either live with relatives or rent places that are more affordable. She sees students couch-surfing for months. Another student has up to 16 people at a time living in her apartment.
Canada should consider taxing uninhabited houses as well as profits from the sale of high-priced homes to reduce the risk of a housing bubble, Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says.
Stiglitz, a former head of the World Bank and current adviser to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, made his comments in an interview with BNN on Wednesday.
“One of the policies that would actually be good, not only for [reducing] inequality but for overall economic performance, is a tax on capital gains on wealthier homes, higher priced real estate [as well as] taxes on these uninhabited homes,” he said.
Stiglitz has been concerned for some time soaring house prices in Toronto and Vancouver — as well as in certain cities all over the world — are increasing wealth inequality and diminishing ownership opportunities for younger generations.
In an interview last year, he called for a “very progressive" property tax that would see owners of multi-million-dollar homes pay higher property taxes than others. He suggested the revenue be used to subsidize affordable housing.
Stiglitz also addressed the phenomenon of investors buying homes and leaving them empty on the expectation they will rise in value. A recent study found one in 10 Vancouver condos are unoccupied, exacerbating a shortage of housing in the city.
“It’s not good to have the centre of cities emptied … forcing ordinary citizens to move way out to the suburbs,” Stiglitz told BNN. “We should encourage more economically integrated cities, and this is doing exactly the opposite.”
Update: As of September 4th, to be able to go through with my move to Portland and attend PSU, I will need the following…
$250 - Housing Deposit
$450 - First Payment for Tuition
$550 - Food plan
$200 - School books
Because of the donations I have already received, I was able to buy a plane ticket and luggage to ensure my move to Portland, but I need some more help to make this dream a reality. Once in Portland, thanks to my work study and other job prospects, I will be able to make it on my own. I just need some help to get there and get settled.
You can help make a difference for as little as $5 or $10. As a friend of mine has brought up, I can even offer to send a personal letter of thanks for your helpful donation, if you so please. Please reblog, share, and personally send the link to any friends or family you believe may help.Thank you so much in advance.
Earlier this week, people relying on supplemental social assistance started receiving letters saying they would no longer be receiving extra living income benefits beyond the standard living income benefits.
One letter shared with CBC stated to the recipient:
“You will no longer receive the extra living income that was provided because you received a rental increase notice from your landlord at a time when there was a severe shortage of rental properties in your community. In recent months, the rental market has improved and there are more options available across the province.”
However some recipients and caregivers are taking issue with that.
“My SAID payments and my Saskatchewan housing supplement allow me to purchase groceries and pay the rest of my bills. Without that SAID payment, I’m in a hole that I’m not going to be out of,” said Will Dinu, who says he has a brain injury, is able to work, and needs assistance to make ends meet.
Dinu added that his rent has increased by around $50 per month annually over the past six years.
“Cheaper housing that’s out there— I’m supposed to be in affordable, low-income housing with the City of Regina. I’m with Regina Housing. Right now they’re increasing their rents. So I don’t know how they determine low-cost housing.”
But the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s latest rental report in Regina shows that despite an increase in available rental apartments in Regina from October 2014 to October 2015, it also shows rental rates have increased overall, and in bachelor, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartment categories. The average two-bedroom rental in Regina is at $1,097 as of 2015, up from $1,079 in the same category the year before.
“Mr. Wall I challenge you. Come live with us for one month,” Dinu said to reporters on the Legislature steps Friday. “I have a bedroom. You can have my bedroom. I’ll sleep on the couch. That’s my challenge to you, sir. I dare you.”
“Our constituency offices have been swamped,” said Saskatoon Centre NDP MLA David Forbes, who is also the provincial Opposition’s Critic responsible for Housing, Diversity, Equality and Human Rights. “In many ways the stories that we’re hearing— and 2,700 people are receiving this— all have their own personal stories about how this extra living benefit really is an essential living benefit.”
Peter Gilmer, of the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry added that governments have three main options to make sure people are able to find housing, including: rent control, social housing and ensuring those who are unable to pay rental rates are allowed enough income to do so.
“Rent controls are not on the agenda, expansion of social housing is not on the agenda, in fact it’s being cut. So what do we have left?” he asked, adding that many people receiving SAID money are still 'well short’ of covering rent.
“When governments have a tight financial time because of their own mismanagement where do they look first? They look to the most vulnerable people. And to be talking about cutting from the most vulnerable people and calling it about equity and fairness is just the most awful use of language I can imagine. Shameful.”