May 282023

Homelessness bugs me.

New York. San Francisco. Ottawa. Ottawa!

What on Earth is going on? Seriously, when did we turn the dystopian vision of a crumbling society in Infocom’s classic 40-year old text adventure game, A Mind Forever Voyaging, into a reference manual on social governance?

The fact that in wealthy societies there are thousands living on the street, not by choice but out of necessity, is beyond shameful. And it’s not like we don’t understand the causes: the rising wealth and income gap, rapidly increasing real estate prices, the lack of affordable housing.

Especially that last one. The lack of affordable housing.

Because, you know, it is so hard to solve. I mean, maybe we need divine assistance, the help of space aliens, artificial intelligence or perhaps good old magic?

Oh wait. It *is* a solvable problem. And you don’t even have to turn into a full blown Marxist to find it. A proven solution can be found in decidedly capitalist Vienna. A solution that, apparently, has worked well for over 100 years.

Though I lived in Vienna in the 1980s, I never knew the nature and extent of its public housing program. Just the other day though I read about it in a Hungarian-language Facebook post that I decided to fact-check. Sure enough, it’s true. Vienna’s solution is real. It works and it works surprisingly well.

I barely finished reading this undated article (on a US government Web site no less) when a friend of mine also sent a link to another. This one was published in the The New York Times just a few days ago. They, too, praise Vienna’s ability to maintain high quality public housing for hundreds of thousands of their residents, with principles that were originally established all the way back in 1919.

So yes, it can be done. Maybe it is time for cities like our very own shiny Ottawa to wake up and get real. Instead talking about it, instead of using it as a political platform or a platform for pointless virtue signaling, instead of building shelters, instead of moaning about the homeless, instead of building subsidized housing from which you are rapidly booted (so that the project remains slum-like, with only low-income residents) perhaps it is time to learn from those damn Austrians.

I, for one, as an Ottawa taxpayer, would happily contribute more of my taxes if our fine city were to adopt a program like Vienna’s, aiming for a stable, long-term solution.

 Posted by at 8:33 pm