The Canadian Government announced a $75 million investment into affordable housing in B.C. on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019. (Devon Bidal photo)

COLUMN: Time to re-brand outdated terms

Columnist ML Burke ‘debunks’ myths, meanings and misnomers, starting with a meaning of the word social

This column is dedicated to debunking a few myths, meanings and misnomers. Let’s start with a meaning of the word ‘social’: “Designing activities in which people meet each other.”

Socialism — I would say this is the granddaddy of misinterpreted terms. So many people are stuck on the Karl Marx meaning of overthrowing capitalism with state-run communism. Trump has furthered this misnomer by labelling anyone not adoring of him to be socialists or leftist extremists. I consider myself a social democrat and Canada to be a social democracy, similar to the Scandinavian countries. We are a mix of both socialism and capitalism, with the freedom to choose our leaders. In this context, social democracy is a good thing.

Social media — More like anti-social media. I have a love/hate relationship with the internet, Facebook, etc. I love how it opens the world to all who are able to connect, but not how it doubles as a platform for hate propaganda and scams. I love how social media has kept me in touch with friends and family, but hate how most everyone has their faces in their phones instead of “being here now,” as the Gestaltists used to say. I’m concerned we are losing the ability to have face-to-face substantive conversations beyond the short vacuous commentaries so common to sites like Twitter.

Social housing — Another misunderstood and misused moniker. There’s an assumption social housing is only for the very poor or chronically ill. In fact, almost all non-profit housing is a form of social housing. This includes co-op housing or really anything that is below market cost through government subsidies or management structures.

Gated communities — I often hear people say they would never live in a gated community. I’m not sure why, other than it may have at one time been considered elitist. In today’s world, any complex that can be locked is basically “gated,” and that includes highrises and townhomes.

Trailer parks — This is another term that gets a bad rap. Trailer parks were synonymous with trailer trash, a derogatory term embraced by the hit Canadian comedy Trailer Park Boys. In fact, there are some very respectable mobile home parks, such as the Squamish First Nation’s development under the Lions Gate Bridge.

We need to re-invent, re-zone and re-brand this affordable concept. For the homeless transitioning from the street, imagine different stages of supportive tiny-house villages with community bath-houses available for toileting and showering. Ditto for the stable folks like the gainfully employed who are living in their campers or RVs. But please, do not mix the addicted and mentally ill with the working and low-income folks. That will never fly.

Affordable housing — This is now a laughable term in our current housing climate. “Affordable” simply means whatever you can afford. In Metro Vancouver you have to be pretty wealthy to buy, or even rent, a home. Despite the massive building boom producing so many new townhouses and condos, those homes are not affordable for 80 per cent of the population.

CAVE people — On a lighter note, we have a trending new acronym: “Citizens Against Virtually Everything.” But you’re not one of those, are you?

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

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