Who’s experiencing the real housing crisis? The homeless or young professionals?
Are young professionals who can’t afford to buy a single-family home in a similar “housing crisis” to people who sleep on the street? When I did a Google News search in the early Fall of 2015 I found “housing crisis” + “homelessness” yields 1,550 results, while “housing crisis” + “ownership” produced 1,850 entries.
From a quick skim, many of these articles overlap. A number of articles that connect the housing crisis in Canada with the Federal election focus on a Big City Mayors’ declaration calling on action from the Federal government, because young professionals (in the 1980s they were called YUPPIES) in large urban areas can’t afford to buy the homes they feel are their due. The mayors also mention homelessness, but it did not get the attention that the call for action on affordable home ownership did.
This despair about the falling land-purchasing power of young professionals hit a highpoint this year with the emergence of the #DontHave1Million social media campaign and protest. This trend was characterized by selfies of people with signs declaring their professional accreditation and demanding government action to support their personal investments in land. An OpEd published by two prominent voices in this trend called on young professionals to stand up, refuse to be “the ‘Generation of Renters’,” and stop “the exodus of young professionals from Vancouver.”
Owning land, particularly on unceded Coast Salish territory occupied and parceled out to settlers by Canada, should not be a goal of our social justice movements. Rather than accept framing of the housing crisis as a denial of the liberal “right” to own land, anti-displacement movements are rightly insisting the struggle for housing prioritize those most vulnerable to homelessness. This will be done by taking property out of the private market, not by demanding a new generation of Yuppies get included in it.