Housing Solutions

“Camp, what do you think of the argument that all these Airbnb’s should be permanent rentals, instead of temporary holiday rentals?”

Campbell, Camp to us all, took a long swig from his cold beer and sat back in his chair.  This was going to be a long answer. “First of all you can’t force people to rent out their extra apartments or rooms to people who can’t find affordable housing elsewhere,” he pontificated.  “You cannot roll off a communal and collective responsibility onto the shoulders of individuals. You can tax holiday rental income and put that money to work and you can limit the amount of Airbnb’s in specific communities and maybe even give out licenses but then you’ll have the big operators buying up all the licenses and leave the mom-and-pop operations out of the loop.”

“There were always B&B’s and holiday rentals and exchanges. I remember my parents renting somebody’s flat or farmhouse in the mountains for ski holidays. Cheap and affordable.  Nothing new about all that except Airbnb have really cornered the market with their user friendly and peer reviewed platform. We use it all the time when we travel.”

“It’s a shame how the real estate and housing market has managed to price people out of house and home,” Camp lamented, “and no developer, investor or speculator will solve the crisis. Not as long as the rules and laws turn the whole housing market into a casino where the highest bidder always wins and dirty money can be laundered in a simple real estate transaction. You do know that they call Vancouver a Casino, ready and willing to accept anybody’s money.”

“I tell you how to solve the housing crisis,” I said, just after Vicky set down a couple of fresh pints for us. “Housing co-op’s that’s the way. It works in Switzerland and in Finland and it guarantees housing at stable, affordable rents without speculator landlords and realtors involved. Here s how it works: 100 people put in $ 5’000.- each and together they borrow 10 million from the bank or a government fund. First time buyers can get a grant or a subsidy, depending on income. For the next 25 years, the rent, tied to a fixed interest rate, pays off the initial loan. Now the co-op owns the buildings and the land and now the rent, which doesn’t fluctuate, pays for upgrades and renos. If you move you sell your initial share and that’s it.”

“That sounds just too simple and perfect,” Camp said. “Why don’t our governments adopt this strategy? Everybody wins. The renters, the builders, the banks and the government.”

“I have a suspicion that the developers which own the civic governments would viciously oppose this kind of socialist idea,” I said.

We both paused, took a drink and looked out at the pristine vista spreading out before us.

“Did you know that more people have cell phones then a toilet?” I said, changing the subject.

“That’s a shitty statistic.  No pun intended. Where did you get that from?”

“From an interview in National Geographic with Matt Damon.”

“The actor?  What does he know about plumbing?” Camp asked, downing his first pint in one long gulp.

“His charity is called water.organd that’s what he does. Helps to provide sanitation where it’s most needed.”

“You know our regional district provided hundreds of free low-flow toilets to anybody who qualified. One of the best conservation programs, better then water meters.”

“You two boys talking about water toys?” Vicky asked while setting down a couple of fresh ones. “I wish I could just float around on a water-toy all afternoon.”

“Not water toys Vicky,” I laughed, “water conservation. We were once again at stage 4 water use in the regional district this past summer. The fourth time in 6 years. And nothing is getting done to improve the supply. Hopefully the newly elected district members will do something.”

“You two boys need to chill, join my yoga class,” Vicky said.  “Good for your inner balance and your circulation. Maybe this will also help.” She put down two frosty pints with a wink at me.

The image of Camp doing yoga was hilarious but I hid my merriment by lifting the cold glass full of liquid gold in front of my face.

“No need to hide your laughing at me,” Camp blustered. “I’ve joined Muriel once at her Tai Chi class, did an exercise called: Stones falling through water.”

I was impressed. “I’ve tried yoga with Clare but had to stop because of cramps.”

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