Why we can’t get distracted by nonsense and nastiness – Week 1 reactions to a Million-Dollar Homes Surtax

It’s been one week since Gen Squeeze released a new report on housing inequity that is the product of dialogue with over 80 experts in housing, taxation and finance.  We think this is a good time to share some reflections on the reactions we’ve received to this work.

It’s been one week since Gen Squeeze released a new report on housing inequity that is the product of dialogue with over 80 experts in housing, taxation and finance. We think this is a good time to share some reflections on the reactions we’ve received to this work.

First, hats off to all of the media who’ve delved into this important – but complicated – set of issues. We’ve done a lot of interviews, and the resulting coverage has been broad and strong. Not everyone agrees with the recommendations, especially the idea of a Million-Dollar Homes Surtax. But reasonable debate is a key part of a well-functioning democracy, so thanks to the media for fostering this public good. If you want to see some of the media coverage, we’ve included a few links at the bottom.

Second, we applaud those who have raised clever critiques of what we are proposing – including this piece by Better Dwelling, a group we admire a lot!

Some have rightly pointed out that our proposed price on housing inequity doesn’t distinguish between the family who bought a $1.2 million home recently and now have a $900k mortgage, versus the family who bought their home decades ago for $200k and it’s now worth $1.2 million. And they’re totally right. We know this isn’t ideal – but we also think it’s something we have to tolerate for now. But we’re searching for further ways to distinguish between these two households.

Others are questioning whether our proposal is bold enough to shift the housing market. We certainly welcome that view, and would love to see more people champion doing more to fix our broken housing system! It may be that an annual surtax of $400 on a $1.2 million dollar home is NOT a large enough price signal to dampen down home prices. But we know that change is won slowly and incrementally, especially on controversial issues like taxes. This first proposed step may be small… but if it creates space for rationale debate, that’s a win.

That’s where the kudos stop though. And the reasonable debate. We’re sad to report that there are many people who have used this study as an excuse for incredibly rude, demeaning and downright nasty comments.

We’re prepared for the terrible things people want to say about Gen Squeeze and our work. After all, we’re in the business of making the politically impossible, possible. And that requires disrupting the status quo with hard truths about the solutions we need – even if they’re not easy or popular.  

So to those of you who feel the need to replace civil debate and disagreement with vitriol, we say – bring it on! You’re not going to dissuade us from our efforts to foster informed dialogue about how to build a Canada that works for all generations.  

What we’re never fully prepared for though, is the scorn that some people feel the need to heap on young people and others struggling to afford a home. Across social media – and in some astonishingly offensive emails – young people are being called lazy and stupid. If only they worked harder, they could find a home. If only they were smart enough to pick the right career path, they could make enough money to access a home. If only they didn’t waste so much time and money on coffee, all housing problems would be solved.  

 

Wow.

 

It’s hard to even know where to start to counter these silly claims. Clearly, the people making them aren’t concerned with facts or evidence, so it’s likely of little use to point out that it now takes over 15 years of full time work to save a down payment on an average home – up from 5 years when Boomers started out. Or that earnings from this full time job are down thousands. Or that young people today are 3 times more likely to have pursued post secondary education to get the full time job that doesn’t come close to paying enough to allow them to buy a home.

Nope. They’re convinced that today’s younger folks must be at fault. After all, not much else has changed since the baby boom generation became adults in the 70s (!). So what else could it be?  

Here’s our question. Gen Squeeze will always have the backs of millennials, Gen Y and Z… and all those who want to leave a proud legacy. But are you really going to stand for such demeaning and insulting treatment?  

We can’t let people who make no attempt to really understand the problem get in the way of real solutions. Young people are working hard, but hard work no longer pays off the way it used to. Young people are making smart career choices, but the quality of jobs is deteriorating, along with wages. Clearly, coffee doesn’t cover the scale of the problem!

We need a real debate about housing affordability, wealth and taxation in this country. We can’t get distracted by nonsense and nastiness.  

Raise your voice to challenge growing housing inequity, and to defend young people who feel that they’ll never be able to afford a home, by joining the conversation on social media (instagram, twitter, facebook).  

Tell your housing story. Your experiences are the best way to show that coffee isn’t a substitute for the 15 years of full time work it now takes to put a down payment on an average home.  

Tell your kids’ housing story. Your concern about what the future holds for your kids is the best way to show how our broken housing system is harming the legacy you want to leave for younger and future generations.  

The power of our movement grows with your voice.


Sample media coverage

Financial Post: CMHC-funded group proposes surtax on homes over $1 million to address housing inequality

Toronto Star: Would a surtax on $1-million houses stall home prices? This UBC professor thinks so

Globe and Mail: Tax on homes worth more than $1-million could be key to reducing housing inequality, report says

The Tyee: ‘Tax Me,’ Says Prof Whose Home Jumped $500,000 in One Year

Iheartradio: ESS: Canada urged to create surtax on $1-million homes to fund affordable housing.

Paul Kershaw
About
Dr. Paul Kershaw is a Professor in the University of British Columbia's School of Population and Public Health, and the Founder of Generation Squeeze.
Why we can’t get distracted by nonsense and nastiness – Week 1 reactions to a Million-Dollar Homes Surtax
Why we can’t get distracted by nonsense and nastiness – Week 1 reactions to a Million-Dollar Homes Surtax
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