Housing crisis

From the housing crisis to the climate crisis, the future looks uncertain for our children. How do we prepare them?

This story is part of Amy Bell’s story parental guidance column, broadcast on CBC Radio One The first edition.

I think at this point we could all use a textbook to navigate the current state of the world.

Something like Parenting through an endless nightmare. Or maybe Dystopian Parenting 101.

With one pandemic, one environmental disaster after another, and war in Europe, it’s been hard to find hope or imagine what the world will look like as our children grow up.

These fears also increasingly include one of our basic needs: shelter.

We have always expected our children to move out and find their own place. But in light of the increasing difficulty in finding or affording housing, does this expectation become more unrealistic?

In many ways, yes.

Carmen Lansdowne, who works in affordable housing with the First United Church Social Housing Society, is aware of the irony that her own family is facing eviction from their current home in North Vancouver and struggling to find a decent new place within budget.

Her children are no strangers to moving – as tenants, the family has faced a lot of upheaval. This prompted her to speak openly to them about the economy and the need to change our current view of housing.

“The capitalist system is broken in the way we try to extract profits from housing, which is not seen as productive economic growth, says Lansdowne, an Indigenous scholar.

“You look at how our economy is based on this unproductive economic growth and something has to give.”

“The way we work and live is changing”

Lower Mainland real estate agent Al Krueger agrees that our mindset toward housing needs to change.

There will always be a transfer of generational wealth for those lucky enough to own properties. But that’s not a reality for many, so Krueger says we’ll continue to see a shift toward building around transit hubs, where smaller, more inclusive communities will thrive.

Parks, shared amenities and a greater supply of smaller apartments or townhouses will help balance supply and demand, he says, but so will heavily populated, overpriced areas like the Lower Mainland.

“A good thing about the pandemic is that it has shown that a lot of people can work from home. And that home could be downtown Vancouver…it could be Prince George,” Krueger said.

“Where they end up going, the world changes and the way we work and live changes too.”

Generations share the blame

Beyond housing, parents have of course always worried about everything from the Black Death to black holes. What’s so different now?

Vancouver dad Alex Dove is aware his nine-year-old son could inherit a much tougher world to navigate than previous ones.

He says it’s the cumulative effect of so many generations taking more than they’ve given that has left a very bleak reality for our children.

“The quality of life will decline if we do nothing,” says Dove.

He encourages his son to ask questions about what’s going on in the world and to find people in his community who can help make small changes.

“There are ways for kids and people to get involved and make changes so their community can have a better way of life,” he says.

Prepare for the unknown

So how can we encourage children not to get discouraged?

They need to understand exactly what is going on in the world around them. And that means honestly outlining all global concerns and guiding them to be involved and proactive. The reality is that children must work now for the future.

Diamond Isinger, BC provincial commissioner for Girl Guides of Canada, says she sees how the most proactive kids are the best prepared — “those looking at social issues, environmental issues, others around ‘ them and saying, ‘I know what steps I want to take to shape a better future.'”

Isinger stresses the importance of preparing our children for any future.

“Here’s the problem, we don’t actually know what all the problems of the future are, so it’s not very helpful to teach kids today a specific set of problems,” she says.

“But if we give them a toolkit, in terms of problem analysis and action…it has a much more lasting impact in their lives.”

Nothing in life is guaranteed. Many families already know this all too well. The lives we have led for generations have had far-reaching and devastating effects on our planet and all that inhabits it.

But here’s the weird thing about the human race: sometimes it takes really dark times for us to finally realize that we have no choice but to make dramatic changes. And I think we’re actually at that point.

So no, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I do have hope that, as sad as today may seem, there may be better tomorrows for future generations.