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Visions Journal

A reminder that this article from our magazine Visions was published more than 1 year ago. It is here for reference only. Some information in it may no longer be current. It also represents the point of the view of the author only. See the author box at the bottom of the article for more about the contributor.

Editor's Message

Sarah Hamid-Balma

Reprinted from the Rethinking Housing issue of Visions Journal, 2019, 14 (4), p. 4

The last issue of Visons looked at loneliness and social connection. Given our homes are an extension of ourselves and our networks, you will see that theme pop up several times in this issue, too. Housing is about so much more than just shelter: Our homes are integral to our mental, physical, economic and social well-being.

I know I am privileged to live in a small urban townhouse. One of my relatives likes to tell me if she won the lottery she would buy me a detached single-family house: to her, that’s the pinnacle of housing and what everyone must aspire to. I’ve tried to explain to her why that’s not ideal for me or even sustainable for the planet anymore. I love not having to drive everywhere and being a 3-min walk to a school and park, but mainly I love the sense of community on my street and all the people I run into on the sidewalks. I have the kind of neighbours whose kids play with my kids daily. (We’ve even joked that one 8-year-old is like Kramer (of Seinfeld fame) because she’ll stick her head through our kitchen window unannounced sometimes!) I have people a few metres away who I can relate to, who I can borrow and loan stuff to, who’ll dogsit. The homes are all so close together and near the road that I never feel scared walking alone at night (except when urban coyotes are out stalking). Our mortgage doesn’t break the bank. Every housing type has its drawbacks, but basically I feel safe, happy and connected in my home. Everyone should have that feeling.

The housing affordability crisis is forcing us to rethink housing solutions. Ideal housing looks different for everyone. In the pages ahead, you’ll meet David who felt pushed toward a bachelor (single-room) apartment when all he ever wanted was his motorhome. You’ll find out why Holly gave up a fancier house for low-income housing or Lorna’s dream to just be treated fairly by her landlord. Housing without a support worker alongside likely won’t help Dale’s clients. Youth and older adults are living together in new and creative ways. There is more demand for tiny homes and co-housing communities. We can’t keep assuming the kinds of housing people want. What people want and deserve are real choices—affordable choices, sustainable choices and choices that give them freedom and connection to the people and supports that matter.

About the author

Sarah is Visions Editor and Director of Mental Health Promotion at the Canadian Mental Health Association’s BC Division

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