I wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Winnipeg Free Press regarding an issue I feel very strongly about- Winnipeg rooming houses. I worked very hard to make West Broadway rooming houses safer places to live and I fear that the work of this city councillor is setting that work back. Here is the letter below which was published on Monday, September 4th, 2017.
Rooming-house shutdown an error
Re: Rooming houses “death traps” (Sept. 1)
Coun. Janice Lukes (South Winnipeg-St. Norbert ward) has shone a spotlight on illegal rooming houses in south Winnipeg, but has neglected the reason for the continued existence of rooming houses in the first place: poverty and a Canada-wide affordable housing crisis. The underlying social issues that surround rooming houses cannot be separated from the bricks-and-mortar, bylaw and zoning issues that create them.
Rooming houses are a legitimate — and much-needed — form of housing that occupy an important space on the affordable housing continuum that is unlikely to be filled by any other form of more “traditional” housing. Lukes’ approach and understanding of this issue are short-sighted and merely address the surface of a very complex situation.
While it can’t be denied that buildings considered dangerous and risky for human habitation should be closed, a mass shutdown of rooming houses is not the answer and would cause greater problems such as displacement of vulnerable tenants and an increased strain on our social systems.
Instead of shutdowns, the city must be proactive and assist landlords to come into compliance with building and zoning standards in order to make these houses safe, while at the same time preserving the city’s affordable housing stock. Our government must think of this more holistically and develop a tailored and understanding approach to ensure rooming houses remain an affordable, safe form of housing in Winnipeg.