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LETTER: Inflated property values don’t increase the nation’s wealth

(Black Press Media file photo)

Housing is infrastructure. People dwell in it.

Rent seekers repurposing housing as financial assets and inflating its price based on its present and estimated future availability cannot and does not house Canada’s population.

Evidence for this is everywhere: homeless people (whom rent seekers blame for their homelessness); not enough housing to accommodate immigrants whom Canada needs to perform necessary work or foreign students whose exorbitant tuitions keep private educational institutions afloat; rents so high that wages and therefore prices have made manufacturing Canadian goods for global markets uncompetitive; and essential workers such as teachers, nurses, and first responders, not to mention working people of every description, unable to find affordable housing in an ever-growing number of locales.

Municipalities prop up housing prices by approving unaffordable housing developments; the Bank of Canada manipulates public-sector interest rates to prevent the floor from collapsing under ridiculously inflated housing prices; and CMHC makes a market in mortgages under the rubric that wealth equates to houses held in private hands. The assumption underlying all of these behviours is that “wealth” resides in individuals’ personal portfolios, not in a strong economy that provides on an ongoing basis necessities of life reliably to everyone.

Yanis Varoufakis, in a recent speech to the National Press Club of Australia, suggested public-sector investment in renewable electricity to generate green hydrogen, not for export, but – and the same could be adapted to Canada – to refine precious metals and aluminum mined here to export as green metals. Private-sector capital should be developing novel construction materials such as photovoltaic cladding for buildings, manufacturing green steel, and developing new technologies and environmentally friendly products that would bring revenue into Canada, actually increasing the wealth of this nation.

Private-sector housing developers say again and again that they are not able to build affordable housing. Yet government, which can build affordable housing easily, refuses to finance the construction of public housing as it did on a massive scale in the 1960s and 1970s or develop a rational industrial policy.

Real wealth is shared wealth. A few extremely rich people and financial institutions are not prosperity. A private sector employing workers to manufacture valuable products people everywhere want and need; a tax system that properly funds health care and education; and a publicly financed not-for-profit housing sector that actually houses all Canadians adequately and securely are wealth, not zeroes in a few rentiers’ portfolios. It amazes me that adults need someone to tell them this.

Bill Appledorf