Written by: Imanzi Kayitare, from CivicAction’s Emerging Leaders Network
If I were mayor of a municipality, one issue that I would seek to champion is affordable housing, with a focus on supporting residents in precarious situations.
I believe that a city mayor can have a big impact on creating a caring and nurturing city that builds people up, rather than tear them down. In many cases, access to affordable housing is a huge burden for people struggling to get by due to life challenging issues (refugee status, underemployment, etc) is slowly pushing them out of the city.
There are many pressing issues that a mayor will face in running a city and negotiations and comprises will need to be made to try and win support for a particular agenda or vision for the city, but the issue of affordable housing should always be a top issue that focuses on delivering solutions to those in need. One idea I would implement as mayor would be to embrace the lived experience of many residents living in precarious situations by utilizing under-used land to build more affordable housing and to be the champion voice to bring together collaborative decision makers to achieve urgent transformation. By doing nothing for affordable housing or not seeing the urgent action needed to address affordable housing, we risk becoming a city that falls short in realizing the full socio-economic potential of all its residents.
I’ve personally seen the effects of a lack of affordable housing within the City in my community and the challenges that people go through to get decent housing. With a short supply of affordable housing being built around the central and surrounding core, I’ve seen friends settle for undesirable housing far from the city or units in neighborhoods in need of serious repairs from the City. Without access to safe, livable, and affordable housing in the city we are disenfranchising a segment of a society that needs to be included in all aspects of the city.
One of the ways I believe young people can make a difference in the affordable housing debate is to speak up and mobilize our elected officials and real estate development companies to make clear and targeted affordable housing strategies that put vulnerable and middle-income residents at the forefront. I strongly believe that the affordable housing issue will be a defining issue for our generation and that future generations will judge the action taken by us to make our cities livable and attractive. The opportunity to act is now.
The “If I Were Mayor” blog series profiles the ideas of youth and rising leaders from across the GTHA as a way to add their voices to the municipal conversation. Posts have been curated by CivicAction’s Emerging Leaders Network, For Youth Initiative, Laidlaw Foundation, Toronto Youth Cabinet, Citizen Empowerment Project, Young Women’s Leadership Network, and the Centre for Community and Immigration Services. The views contained in this post are the author’s and are not reflective of CivicAction or the CivicAction Leadership Foundation.