The simple answer? House everyone.
In 2020, there were 2,095 homeless people in Vancouver, though this is likely an underestimate. The number of homeless people in this city has tripled since 2002. Unhoused people in BC have half the life expectancy compared to people with secure housing. The existence of homelessness in a society as wealthy as ours is unacceptable. Housing is a human right, and everyone should have access to safe and affordable housing.
Ending homelessness through a mansion tax
With mansion tax revenues of $225 million/year, we could build up to 750 units of modular housing per year. That means it would take under 3 years to house every single unhoused person in Vancouver and virtually end homelessnes, even without any funding from senior levels of government.
If senior governments also did their part and matched Vancouver’s funding efforts to end homelessness, homelessness would be virtually non-existent in this city within a year and five months.
The short term, insufficient, band-aid solutions to homelessness that are currently employed by the city (relying on shelters, inconsistent food and medical resources aid, etc.) are woefully inadequate. We need the additional funding from a mansion tax to build long term social housing, as well as safer transition housing with dignified infrastructure.
Ending homelessness is entirely possible, and it is feasible to do it within one election cycle. It’s just a matter of raising the money through a mansion tax, and having the political will.
Beyond ending homelessness
We also need a more holistic approach in addition to the housing solution. Luckily, there are already networks organizing to this end. For decades in Vancouver, impoverished communities have had to fend for themselves with an abysmal lack of government services to help them out. Despite a low amount of funding and limited access to resources, organizations of poor people for poor people have formed, and it is these people and their organizations that know what is best for their own community.
It is time to consult these organizations and let them guide how the funds from a mansion tax are put to use best. Access to a safe supply of drugs to users to help end the toxic drug epidemic, the strengthening of community self-defense structures to ensure safety, and the allocation of resources to other community led services are all needed to ensure dignity and community be a part of the transition of these residents from homeless to housed.
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