[Hpn] FW: Reflections on NIMBYism in Toronto

Graeme Bacque gbacque@colosseum.com
Fri, 9 Jul 2004 23:36:49 -0400

-----Original Message-----
From: burch@web.ca [mailto:burch@web.ca]
Sent: Friday, July 09, 2004 11:05 PM
To: burch@tao.ca
Subject: Reflections on NIMBYism in Toronto

Reflections on NIMBYism in Toronto
by Brian Burch

Note:   If picked up for publication, please send a copy to:
	Brian Burch, Editor
	Resources for Radicals
	20 Spruce St.
	Toronto, Ontario
	M5A 2H7

           If posted on a website, please send the web site details to:

	If I wished to buy a small hotel in the downtown core and planned to
renovate it to be used as an exclusive spa/home away from home, my
efforts were be greeted with pleasure by neighbours.  If I wished to buy
a small hotel in the downtown core and planned to renovate it to be used
to provide much needed affordable housing, I’d be subjected to abuse by
neighbours.  It doesn't matter if the hotel was to be used to provide
for seniors on a fixed pension, single mothers, those living in shelters or
those coming out of prison—housing those without money is vehemently
	This opposition is rarely based on logical concerns.  Instead,
fears are
played upon; exaggerated concerns over property values expressed and
hypocritical statements given, claiming that they are not opposed to
social housing but that such housing is not suitable for their community.
 One of the more blatant examples of this was a successful argument at
the Ontario Municipal Board by the owners of the Air Canada Centre in
their raising concerns that possible terrorist attacks made a seniors
non-profit not suitable for an area that includes condos and luxury
	Not that long ago, the government of Canada argued successfully
at the Habitat II conference that housing is a human right.  This is the
that Canada has consistently held on the global stage.  Like all rights,
governments have a positive requirement to ensure that these ideals on
being met.  On a practical way, this means money for a national housing
programme.  It should also mean actively supporting efforts to provide
housing, restricting the ability of neighbourhoods to press for exclusion
of housing for lower income people from their communities.   It should
also mean that access to affordable housing should not be faced with
barriers that those accessing other rights and services do not
face.  Access to safe, affordable and decent housing should not be
subjected to a process that, at best, slows down the process of developing
new housing for the homeless, and all too often discourages affordable
housing while embracing condo and other forms of housing for the
privileged of our society.
	We do not require a community consultation before a right to bail
within 24 hours of arrest is given.  We do not require a community
consultation meeting before a human rights commission appeal is made.  We
don't require a community consultation before someone attempts to access
health care under the provisions of the National Health Act.   However,
a series of community consultations are required if people are to be
provided safe, secure and affordable housing.  This statement that some
rights are
subjected to community veto is a true indication of class bias.  Those
with wealth and access to power do not have their rights, whether to heath
care or to housing or to basic civil liberties, held at the whim of others.
Low income people and those otherwise marginalised do have their rights
only to the extent that there is good will towards them, something that
can be withdrawn or limited at any time.
	The right to safe, secure, decent and affordable housing for all is
something that, with a bit of effort, is achievable.  1 percent of the
tax revenue Canada takes in would provide the resources.  In recent times
larger amounts have been cut from the tax base; a minor return to
the idea of social insurance would ensure the resources are available for
all of us.
	A much harder effort is required to remove the consultation and
power that at best interferes with and all too often derails new
affordable housing projects.  It requires reconsideration of some of the
arguments that organisers such as Saul Alinsky and others have
raised about community control and community empowerment.  It requires
putting human rights ahead of property rights.  It can result in many who
claim to be supporting new housing being forced to chose which side they
are really on --- process or justice based compassion.