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Mia Cama, Mia Casa

Solving the housing problem one bed at a time.

It was reassuring to see how quickly and expertly the provincial government (the Doug and Vic magic pony show) picked up the pieces of the comprehensive, complicated, spread-over-eight-years Federal housing plan that carried a price tag of untold billions of dollars. Housing was/is a provincial and municipal responsibility, passed down to the private sector as a growth initiative, under the BNA or some other agreement from the days of yore when people built their own houses out of hewn trees (the Book of Doug, c.6, v.12-15).

Somehow, the tried and tested economics of supply and demand got out of synchronization over the past couple of decades, and we ran out of affordable beginner homes for young people to buy or rent when they were starting on life’s journey. If there was money to be made, someone was supposed to jump at the opportunity and build houses. That’s the capitalist way. Didn’t happen.

Well, they did build houses, but not ones that people on lower incomes could afford. There was apparently a bigger margin or return on investment in building and selling big, beautifully appointed houses in pleasantly manicured neighbourhoods. This met the needs of the DINKs (double income no kids) cohort who were edging past the Upper Middle-Class market. Consortiums did build hundreds of cookie-cutter, rabbit-warren houses crowded into suburban slots in the GTA, but still not enough.

Added to the conundrum of short supply was an influx of newcomers that we needed to replace our aging demographic, a statistic that had slipped through the cracks in the house-building-planning department of governments as well as entrepreneurs. This was further complicated by the pandemic, supply problems, and then growing inflation. Added to this was the loss of homes due to floods and fires, and we have a perfect storm in housing.

The solution was to throw money into the wind to encourage builders and buyers, who, in turn, would encourage suppliers, tradespeople, mortgage companies, and the whole supply chain that one needs today to accomplish much of anything. The wet blankets on this were written in small print: added carbon taxes, green environmental rules, capital gains and income taxes, and the fact that the money was not available just yet – but soon – spread over 10 years.

Some of that fine print said that the amount of grants and loans depended on the results: the number of beds constructed. Low-rental units and fourplexes were encouraged. Wooden apartment buildings were good. Using the wartime housing plans from the late 1940s and 50s was good. Mia casa, sua casa, Justin said, thinking that he would gladly share 24 Sussex when renovations were complete – sub-letting to avoid the capital gains tax – if he could find a compatible renter.

Meanwhile, in North Bay, the politicians (federal, provincial, and municipal) and administrators were struggling in search of a solution for a number of dogging issues: Long-term Care beds, homelessness, rental occupancy rates, hospital overcrowding, and primarily, how to get their hands on some of Justin’s billions of dollars for housing so they (we) could pay for the solutions.

Our indefatigable Member with his ever-sharp pencil, going back to basics, asked himself, “What is a home?” Pictures of hovels to mansions passed through his mind but ultimately it came down to where a person slept at night; where a person kept their belongings; maybe a chair to sit in; a window to look out; a washroom would be nice, but thinking back to his childhood, a person could share that.

Essentially, Vic reasoned, a person living in a long-term care home was in their house. Ergo, if they had more people housed in said warehouses, they would be in ‘homes’ as defined by the bureaucrats in Ottawa.  Each bed (room) would qualify as a home or a ‘house’. Each 10’ by 12’ room – home - could get a grant! If they partitioned the semi-private rooms or wards into two units, they could get a grant for one more ‘new home’. This would work in the Old Folks Homes, hospitals, jails, motels, shelters – think of the potential!

And suddenly that idea about small wooden houses makes more sense. They must be large enough for a bed and not much more. A communal shower, toilets, proximity to a fast-food emporium – and Bob’s your uncle! Mia cama, mia casa! It was all just a matter of semantics when filling out the many forms the bureaucrats designed, in triplicate, so they would have something to file and hold up as proof of success in the House.

It is a sobering state of affairs, when in our dotage, after we have downsized from the family home to a smaller house, to an apartment, to a rented bed you call your home in an institution. But on the positive side, your final home, an LTC bed, will not attract a capital gains tax. You will have paid that when you disposed of the things no longer needed or had room for in your new ‘home’.

Of course, one must pay for the rental of that casa, which comes with such amenities as three square meals a day, weekly clean linens and laundry, meds if needed, personal cosmetics, utilities, and so forth – all to the tune of about $5,000 a month (cash, cheque, or subsidy). You will be covered by the Renter’s Bill of Rights as that is part of the Billions-for-Houses plan.

The only fly in the ointment might be whether the renting institution will be subject to capital gains when they flip your bed. Just saying.

Bill Walton

About the Author: Bill Walton

Retired from City of North Bay in 2000. Writer, poet, columnist
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