Paterson Park in Ladner. (James Smith photo)

Paterson Park in Ladner. (James Smith photo)

COLUMN: Idle land wanted

ML Burke writes that without a place to call home, no matter how humble, everything else is at risk

By ML Burke for the North Delta Reporter

“When I’m old and gray, I want to have a house by the sea, and paint, with a lot of wonderful chums, good music, and booze around. And a damn good kitchen to cook in.” — Ava Gardner. (For younger readers, Ava Gardner was a famous movie star in the 1940s.)

To my mind, Ava’s mission statement is similar to my own. Yes, she could afford a grand house by the sea, but what she’s wanting is pretty basic and should be possible for all of us. Just change “house” to “home,” which could be a cottage or apartment you own or rent.

In Metro Vancouver, we all live “by the sea.” As to painting, friends, music and booze, these perks are available to most of us, and so too is a kitchen to make good meals to share with our chums. I have a small galley-style kitchen but I can still create a smart meal for my peeps.

My point being that without a place to call home, no matter how humble, the rest of Ava’s list is not possible. Without the security of having or keeping your home, everything else is at risk — your job, your mental, physical and financial health.

Renters are the most at risk for being displaced, but even owners of older homes in Vancouver are being forced to sell and leave their communities because their incomes cannot keep up with the rising cost of land and other taxes. Yes, they may be leaving with a large chunk of change, but not by choice.

Definition of “ghetto” — A part of a city occupied by a minority group or groups. The irony here is in our fear of creating ghettos for the homeless and displaced, when Vancouver is actually becoming a ghetto for the ultra wealthy. Will we be a city where its long-term residents and workforce can only afford to visit as tourists?

The $40-plus billion earmarked for affordable housing over 10 years won’t have an impact for many years to come. The housing crisis is upon us now and growing by the day, and the issue of “idle” land is emerging from the cobwebs.

Simon Fraser University president Andrew Petter stated that, “Canada’s public universities, colleges and institutes have an obligation, as well as an opportunity, to harness the instruments at our disposal to the greatest extent possible to benefit the communities we serve. In addition to fulfilling our core educational and research mandates, we bear a responsibility as public institutions to exercise our full capacities as community builders, especially at a time when the needs are so great and the sources of social infrastructure are in such short supply.”

Kudos to SFU, which has already delivered on this challenge through its Burnaby Mountain affordable, sustainable housing development, including an elementary school, childcare facilities and other social amenities.

Hello City of Delta and Kwantlen Polytechnic University. You both own large sections of Paterson Park, the 24-acre piece of “idle” land in Ladner. Since this is public land, you might collectively convene some workshops where we, the community, can share our best ideas. Maybe have a Paterson Park visioning competition. I know my chums and I would come.

ML Burke retired from the health sector to work on issues such as affordable housing. She sits on the Delta Seniors Planning Team and the BC Seniors Advocate’s Council of Advisors.

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