To tackle the homeless epidemic, local and senior levels of government need not freeze rental rates nor try to compete with private sector landlords, nor should they try to take over the whole housing market.
Rent freezes as well as any other type of price controls have proven counter productive and defeat their intended purpose anywhere they have been tried in the world.
I see nothing wrong with someone who borrows from a bank to buy a rental property — whether it is one house or a highrise apartment building — from making a modest profit on it.
But municipalities and the region can use their borrowing power to build or buy housing at a much more favorable rate of interest, like one per cent from the Municipal Finance Authority, possibly with grants from higher levels of governments.
Now why would municipalities or the region want to do that? After all there is nothing in our constitution that requiring any level of government to do anything for the homeless.
We can let the poor starve in the streets or leave them to the mercy of charities like they do in a lot of third world countries.
That would work fine if you are running a business and want a downward pressure on staff wages. But that would cost more in the way of running homeless shelters, or of increased crime.
In short homelessness cost our society more than the alternative. If people do not have legal means of support in time of high unemployment, people will turn to illegal means to make ends meet: theft, armed robbery, drug peddling, cheque fraud.
This is the risk we run if we persist on ignoring poverty and persist with the attitude that to help one man or women the government must pick another’s pocket to do so.