Housing For All! (The greener the better)

I quite like Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner. He’s been up to see us at CFRU several times over the years and is a heck of a nice guy. It’s always a pleasure to talk to him. He’s a genuine dedicated Green. I happened to see an article in my Dad’s paper this week about the renovations Mike and his family made to their house in Parkdale to massively reduce their energy consumption. Fantastic stuff. You need to walk the walk as head of Greens. If we were all able to retrofit our places on this scale, Ontario could probably shut down some nuclear generators and make fracking for natural gas a memory. But there is a bit of a catch to this success story.

There was a time when living in Parkdale was affordable. I worked in the neighbourhood before the condo boom and was contemplating buying a dump of a place to fix up because it was so reasonable. It was very similar to The Ward here in Guelph but with far more crack houses. Gentrification and condofication has eliminated any bargains, pushing the price of real estate in all of Toronto through the roof. I randomly googled “Parkdale real estate” and the only place I found that I could remotely afford within walking distance of my old workplace is a condo listed at $309,900. If I bought the place tomorrow, I’d be mortgaged for years and constantly bitching about crushing condo fees. The price of this dwelling is almost the same as what Mike Schriener’s green reno cost him, which according to the article was $300,000. And there’s the catch. For that chunk of change, I would need the complete package, an affordable super efficient green house free and clear. But that’s not going to happen for the working schlub demographic anytime soon, if at all.


The Greens have written good policy in the area of housing. They mention incorporating alternative technologies into dwellings, beefing up the Building Codes to include efficiency and encouraging cooperatives. That’s all great. Countless people would vote for them on these things alone. Trouble is, on the whole, developers and investors do not give a shit. The current focus is on “luxury”. Here’s some bio of the builders up the road from us : “The Tricar Group is an award winning developer that specializes in the construction of luxury condominiums for sale and rental apartment homes throughout Southwestern Ontario” Those investing in these places (they aren’t buying them, it’s all about the investment) don’t really care about solar power, super insulating and geothermal heating. It’s all built on minimum standards for maximum capital gain. To their credit, these buildings will definitely be greener, as they will be connected to the district energy system. So, they will be luxurious, somewhat greenish and hardly anyone I know will be able to live there – and not just because Phase One of the build is sold out.


The only shot the rest of us have at experiencing this level of luxury would be to rent from one of the investors. I’ll hazard a guess though that the rent will be set too damn high in order to keep the unwashed out. Ages ago, out of curiosity, I wanted to check out the plans for these places when there was a sales office in the Old Quebec Street Mall. The clerk at the desk wanted to see my ID before I could go in and have a look. Didn’t happen. What’s with this long haired / freaky people need not apply business? Should I have worn a suit? Learned the secret handshake? They might as well have put a classic restricted sign in the window similar to this gem:


At this rate, we won’t see widespread affordable green housing for the rest of us anytime soon. I’m a firm believer that housing is a right and that there is no good reason for anyone in this nation to be without the option of a home of their own. Until we have a large scale program to build decent, efficient and reasonably priced public residences for all who require them, with wide incentives for existing stock to be renovated , it’s going to be more of the same. A luxurious carbon saturated dream world dominated by the 1% and countless wannabes. How do we turn the tide?





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