Column: Income prejudice is alive and well in Cowichan

Her argument was that apartment buildings inevitably lead to the deterioration of neighbourhoods.

Column: Income prejudice is alive and well in Cowichan

A woman came into the office the other day and told me she objected to the paper’s recent editorial (yes, written by me) about how, on balance, the proposed 112-unit apartment building on Paddle Road in Duncan is a good idea.

No, road infrastructure for the development isn’t great, but the argument is that we are in desperate need of apartment stock in this town, especially good apartment stock, which this promises to be.

But road infrastructure was the least of her concerns. (She does not live on the road.) Her argument was that apartment buildings inevitably lead to the deterioration of neighbourhoods. Why? Because poor people live in rental apartments, and her view was that we don’t want anyone here except rich people who build big homes.

While most people won’t say it flat out like she did, this woman is far from alone in her view, even if it’s only subconscious.

I’ve seen it far more than once, usually talked around and expressed as a variety of excuses about traffic or neighbourhood character, when various development proposals have come to local councils.

Just note the reaction if there is any kind of mixed housing (duplexes, townhouses, condos, apartments) included in the proposal if it’s in an area of largely single-family homes.

All of a sudden, an elitism I wouldn’t have thought was there begins to change the temperature of the room. While nobody wants to say it in so many words, the feeling is clear: residents don’t want people of lesser economic means (heaven forbid poor people who have to rent apartments) moving into their neighbourhood. I was always tempted to stand up and tell the room that I lived in an apartment (at that time), why shouldn’t I be their neighbour?

People of all stripes live in apartment buildings. Yes, the woman who came to talk to me is right that far too many of the buildings in Duncan are run down and poorly maintained. But I blame the often absentee landlords who do the bare minimum to keep the doors open and the rent flowing, counting on the lack of options renters face to keep their sub-par units filled, not the people who live there.

Mixed neighbourhoods offer opportunities for families just starting out and seniors to age in place. Heck, some people just don’t want the hassle of home ownership.

Take a good look at what’s proposed to be built on Padde Road. An apartment complex, animal friendly with a pet wash outside the doors, and a gym for residents. Not too shabby. Time to confront our prejudices.



editor@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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