(News Bulletin file)

(News Bulletin file)

Column: Affordable housing funding is long overdue

Earlier low-income projects like these could have prevented much of the homelessness crisis.

This column was going to be a lot angrier.

The announcement of another batch of affordable housing projects by the provincial government – 4,900 homes across the province, including 191 right here in Langley – has drawn out a little spite.

But trust me, I’m still mad.

Almost 200 housing units in Langley will go a long way to helping affordability here. Those units will be for seniors, families, and people with disabilities. The provincial funding, part of $1.9 billion pledged over 10 years, is aimed at people from a variety of income levels, including the increasing numbers of working poor who can’t afford housing at the wages they earn.

These units will stop some people from falling down the slippery slope towards homelessness. That’s one part of the need. Vulnerable people who have housing now need to be assured they’ll continue to have somewhere to live in the future.

Next Monday, we’ve got the other piece when Township council votes on the plan to convert the Quality Inn into a supportive housing project.

That project, if successful, will take people who are homeless now and take them off the streets. It will put them closer to programs for drug treatment, mental health, and basic health services.

As I’ve learned from talking to homeless people, one of the most basic human dignities is simply having your own bathroom. Imagine not having access to a toilet, or having that access be dependent on when the library or community centre was open, whether a business wanted to let you inside?

Projects like these should have been built years ago. The provincial Liberals paid lip service to the idea of supporting housing, but never put in enough funding as homelessness climbed year after year after year.

Who wants to pay for helping people who can’t help themselves, after all?

We could have prevented the level of homelessness on our streets. An extra few bucks a year in taxes on us middle class folks who can afford it – and a few more dollars on the rich who would barely notice its absence – could have kept the crisis from happening.

Selfishness held us back. We hate taxes, and a lot of people just hate the homeless. We’d rather have a 50-inch TV than settle for a 46-inch, and the price we paid for that was thousands of people without a home to call their own. For years.

I’m glad the money’s being spent now. But I reserve the right to be angry if we don’t keep it up.

Matthew Claxton writes for the Langley Advance.