Thursday, October 11, 2007

Suburban growth funds Inner City stagnation. Again

No matter how many times it's announced, it's still bad.

On April 13, 2006, the provincial NDP government annoucned that "LEGISLATION WOULD DIRECT MHRC LAND-SALE PROFITS TO HOUSING IN AREAS OF NEED"
Then Family and Housing Minister Christine Melnick said: “By continuing to develop Manitoba Housing and Renewal’s land banks and also redirecting profits into needy areas such as Winnipeg’s older neighbourhoods, we can further strengthen families, while helping to build vibrant communities.”

This press release also points out that "Manitoba Family Services and Housing, through MHRC, has a number of significant land holdings in the city, such as Waverley West in southwest Winnipeg, to help create more housing."

This time, it was new Family and Housing Minister Gord Mackintosh's turn to provide the cheesy soundbyte: “We can build vibrant new communities while renewing existing neighbourhoods,” said Mackintosh. “This legislation will allow us to direct suburban land development profits to support areas in need such as Winnipeg’s older communities.”

The last paragraph of the press release simply regurgitates what was said a year and a half ago, and causes one to wonder if this new announcement will be acted on anyway: "The proposed amendments to the Housing and Renewal Act would establish a new housing and development fund which would utilize a criteria-based approach to support housing projects in areas of need."

Not that it matters if it does or not, since new immigrants and a healthier real estate market are doing more to revitalize old central neighborhoods than all the billions of dollars that could be mustered to feed the city's masive Affordable Housing Industry. It is deeply ironic and offensive that the provincial government will use money from the very thing that caused the central core and North End to become so de-populated and de-valued--suburban sprawl that greatly outpaces growth.

This isn't to say that no public money is needed in poor neighborhoods. After decades of disinvestment, there are many properties in need of improvements (and I am grateful to the exterior fix-up grant available that this summer helped me pay to replace the ancient window panes on the main floor of my house). But to rely on growth patterns that de-value and de-populate existing neighborhoods; to profit in the suburbs to pay for the welfarization of the Inner City--which only makes the need greater--is insulting. Its insulting not only to middle class tax-payers accross the city (even those that live in non-Inner City neighborhoods in the inner city, like Wolseley or Crescentwood), but to tax-payers who live in poor neighborhoods that want to see them succeed by way of tangible changes, not by way of the same old funding announcements every year.

Wouldn't it be better to have property in the centre of Winnipeg be worth something, to be able to pay for its own improvements? Wouldn't it be better to get to the point where it makes financial sense to invest private money into fixing and building properties?


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