12 March 2022

Short Supply

 There's been some online muttering about housing shortages, taking care of the existing homeless, and so on, due to the announcement of an open visa program for Ukranians who wish to come to Canada.

There's a political answer -- housing, in all its multifaceted glory, is a provincial responsibility; ask your premier what changes they're making -- but there's a systemic answer, too.

After the Second World War, the chosen engine of economic progress was houses and cars; the cars would get you to your house in the suburbs.  Building roads, making cars, and pumping gas would drive an increase in prosperity.

This has a bunch of consequences; aside from breaking agriculture and killing us all by atmospheric carbon load, it means that "middle class" now means "owns a house".  It means that the return-maximising strategy for housing doesn't house everybody, so there are negative incentives for housing the homeless for every individual actor in the system. (From a systemic perspective, there's no end of "that costs less", but status! but system? that can tax!, and so on prevent this from having much meaning.  People act out of a pragmatic construction of self-interest and effectively nothing else.)

Then you throw in the "real estate as money laundry" problems and you've got an active mass of agency working to prevent anything from ever working differently.  And how it works now works to guarantee that short supply because a shortage increases prices and all the agency rests with people who have the perspective of sellers and controlling the supply.

The fix for housing shortages isn't keeping refugees out; it's to stop treating housing as a profit centre for the overclass.

Public-backed (and thus regulated) housing collectives; buy a building, buy a bunch of buildings, whatever scales well with thermal batteries, local energy storage, and handling the drainage in a time when a foot of rain in a day is going to happen.  People can pay into that, have transferable shares, and so on.  None of this is difficult, none of this requires public ownership, pretending there's no market, or even all that much alteration of land tenure.  It does take looking at "get everybody a place to live" as a material objective.


Seruko said...

Re-reading the march north, again. It's soothing to dream of competence and wisdom in the face of existential horrors. I recon you're probably still busy with the business of working to keep the lights on, but I want to drop a note and say thank you. Thank you for this little taste of wisdom and people facing hard work straight on.

Graydon said...


You're most welcome!

On the plus side, the lights are on.

Next volume is accumulating words; slowly, but eventually I will escape the perception that it needs more.

shirleyallan said...

Back when, the CMHC had a budget line to finance residential co-operatives. I should like the idea revisited.

Graydon said...


I think that would be an excellent thing!

Especially as people start to realise that houses dependent on fossil carbon furnaces to function might not be retaining value, and it becomes politically necessary to do something about that, as well as the drainage.

Harold Henderson said...

Boston Review has a sharp assessment at 3 Quarks Daily: https://bostonreview.net/articles/our-global-food-system-was-already-in-crisis-russias-war-will-make-it-worse/?utm_source=Boston+Review+Email+Subscribers&utm_campaign=d7fb6c87b6-newsletter_5_5_22&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_2cb428c5ad-d7fb6c87b6-40733269&mc_cid=d7fb6c87b6&mc_eid=20bc04a1d1