Where the other half lives: Lower income housing in a neoliberal world (2009)

I was born in Sweden in 1946 after my parents and brother and additional members of our extended family fled Estonia in 1944 before the Soviet occupying forces sealed the borders of the Baltic states. I grew up in Montreal.

A memory from the first five years of my life, in Sweden in the late 1940s, is the frequent observation of hundreds and hundreds of people riding bicycles on the streets and roadways. In this memory, the sun is shining; it’s a colourful, lively scene; the routine nature of the engagement with bikes as a standard means of postwar transportation also stays in mind.

Many things have changed in Sweden in the past sixty years. What is of interest to me in particular is what is happening now. I much enjoy keeping up with information about places where I’ve lived.

Case studies: Real lives and real estate

Chapter 7, in Where the other half lives (2009), is entitled “Circumventing circumscribed neoliberalism: Sweden.” Eric Clark and Karin Johnson conclude, in this chapter, that “While Sweden remains one of the most equal societies in the EU and the world, the politics of neoliberalism have rapidly  transformed housing policies and the provision of housing in directions conducive to increasing inequality” (p.189).

The destruction of Canada’s social housing systems

I picked out this book because it includes a chapter by Jason Hackworth, a Canadian urban geographer who has co-authored with Erin Gullikson an informative article about church redevelopment in Toronto.

The chapter by Jason Hackworth in Where the other half lives (2009) is entitled “Political marginalization, misguided nationalism and the destruction of Canada’s social housing systems.”

The chapter refers among other things to the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), which dates back to the late 1980s. Hackworth describes OCAP (p. 272) as one of “the most interesting and direct groups aiming to provide a more militant vehicle for low-income people (both inside and out of social housing).”

In the conclusion of the chapter, Hackworth notes (p. 274):

“Social housing did not organically develop in any country. It was the result of low-income people and their advocates fighting to show how the private market had failed. OCAP and organizations like it embody this spirit of highlighting injustice and advocating system change, rather than advocating soft reform and waiting for Canada’s social democracy to solve the problem organically. If neoliberalism is going to be seriously contested in Canada, a strategy of confrontation rather than co-operation is surely the necessary condition.”


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