Monday, May 25, 2009

Housing Part One: Types of Housing

CB’s recent post about housing inspired me to do a short series of my own on housing, from a few different perspectives and looking at different types of housing as well as the different problems facing those who are looking for and attempting to maintain housing.  For today, we’ll start by looking at the different types of housing available where I live. 

Private Owned Property

This is very basic.  You buy a house or a condo and you live in it.  This is perhaps the “ideal” for housing, and what many people aim for.  Buying property enables you to gain equity, rather then simply having your rent sucked away. While housing can still be in a bad neighbourhood, you are free to make improvements as necessary. 

Private Rental Property

Again, basic housing, a house or apartment you rent.  These of course vary in their quality and location from the lowest of the low to first class furnished apartments.  In a rental suite, you pay rent to the landlord or rental company and in turn they are supposed to do necessary repairs, maintain the building and treat you fairly.  Obviously, this does not always happen.  For the most part, the more you pay, the more you get. 

Subsidized Rental Property

This is a system in which the government subsidizes some suites in a variety of buildings and areas through private companies.  Basically, you pay a certain percentage of your income; the government covers the rest (and property owners may give a discount) and get to stay in a nicer place then you could afford on your own.  I personally think this a great system, although many people have a huge issue with putting “poor” people in with “normal” people.  When they move to a building they don’t want there to be welfare recipients or low-income earners there. 

Public Housing

This is housing run by the government.  It operates on a percentage of income; you don’t have to be on social assistance to live there.  Often these buildings are grouped together, or a large amount of row housing is in a common area creating a little “town”.  These places are some of the most dangerous places in the city, and many have a police office in one of the row houses, or if nothing else, reserved parking for the police.  It’s just expected that they’ll be needed.  Many of the buildings are totally overrun by bedbugs and mice and are in awful states of disrepair.  I’m not sure I could actually spend the night in one.  BUT some people really like the sense of community they feel living in these areas.  Often family is living nearby and neighbours become friends. 

Rooming Houses

Just as it sounds, a rooming house is a house in which you rent a room.  While some are okay, most are the kind of places I won’t go visit clients alone.  Shared bathroom, shared kitchen, little enforcement of rules.  Dirt, bugs, filth, rodents, drugs, prostitution, exploitation etc…  At some the conditions are inhumane with little running water, poor insulation and other structural problems.  The fire risk is huge, and when there’s fire, people often die. 


Then there’s the hotel system.  Many hotels in the core area offer rent by the month.  These are ancient hotels in bad repair.  A lot of them don’t have separate bathrooms, or any kitchen facilities.  The most popular establishment is the bar on the main floor.  I remember when doing practicum, one of my clients would meet me at the door and walk me back out because he didn’t feel that I was safe walking down the hallway alone. 

Room and Board

I don’t know how to even begin to describe these places.  Picture a large house, a cook, and a whole bunch of people many of whom are extremely mentally ill.  For a person entire rent and food budget from social assistance, they can stay there and get their meals there.  Often these places are two to a room, and you don’t get to choose your own roommate, and all meals have to be served within the cook’s eight-hour shift.  Rice and frozen vegetables are often served at all meals.  Dinner’s at 4, and then there are no meals till morning. 

Group Homes

Housing for the mentally ill or the psychically disabled.  From what I’ve seen, people with an intellectual or physical disability are treated much better then those with mental illness.  Many group homes are run for profit, so the owner tries to do as much as they can with the least amount of money.  If they can find a staff person to live there and cook there, well, they’ve covered the requirement for 24 hour staffing.  Clients often have roommates, and once again, they eat a lot of rice.  They are certainly not anything resembling therapeutic. 

The Shelter System

No reserved beds.  No privacy.  Everything shared.  BUT, it’s often better staffed, cleaner, safer, more friendly, more homey, and has better food then a lot of the other options out there. 



cb said...

Really interesting stuff.. thanks for this. It's interesting on a compare and contrast basis really because there are some differences that really jump out at me. Firstly, some of our public housing is bloody nice! I would kill for some of the housing that I visit 'on the rounds'! Of course, there is some pretty awful public housing as well but some that really beat out any private accommodation by a fair shot! Also here, sometimes fairly unique (I think) is that a lot of London anyway, is a mix of types of housing so even the most exclusive and expensive areas tend to have public housing scattered with private housing developments. The government also have a development programme where in order to get permission to build, a certain number of houses/apartments on any land need to be used for public housing. It's an attempt to mix things up.
There is a massive massive shortage of public housing though due to a policy of the last Conservative government to allow residents of public housing to buy their own properties at VASTLY reduced prices which has led to lower stocks of public housing all round (and some of the housing that was sold off when on to make hundreds of thousands of pounds).
As for me, I live in a kind of subsidized 'half-rent/half-bought' type of scheme set up to help those with necessary but lower paid jobs to stay in London (where the costs are high) and we have a massively subsidized rent but take a mortgage on the other half of the property.. it means I'm living somewhere about double the size of my private rented place for the same price but have rent AND a mortgage to pay!
On the other hand, the block is full of nurses/police/social workers/ambulance staff/firefighters etc because the system is only available to people in these kinds of professions so it's quite a nice little community!

Still Dreaming said...

Wow, I don't think we have anything like that here for professionals. I wish we did!

For the most part, our public housing sucks. I can think of a few places that it's okay, but for the most part...

Carolyn said...

Trying to catch up on your blog. You have missed a form of housing that exists in Canada, but may not (I'm not sure) elsewhere. This is cooperative housing. Your monthly housing charge covers your share of the mortgage, and the costs of running the Co-op. Mortgage, in Canada, comes from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Commission (arms-length governmental agency). Typically costs are subsidized to 25 or 30% of your income up to a maximum. My husband and I have a three bedroom townhouse (including basement) for only $785 per month. We are not subsidized at this time, but have been in the past and it has been a life saver!