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Affordable Housing

I read a couple of recent articles in the newspaper that reported on a possible plan to include affordable housing in most/all new developments. Sounds like a great idea, since integrating different economic statuses has been proven effective; see St. Lawrence Market (and the opposite idea ineffective; see Regent Park).

Okay, but then developers say that’s not fair, whine whine, etc. It might not be fair to them, but it’s my understanding that development is a fairly lucrative business. Especially when you’re building condos that are sold before construction even begins. Hell, I could theoretically afford to build a condo if I make $35M in revenue before actually building anything.

So the developers say that the revenue lost by having some cheaper units will be passed on to the rest of the buyers. And I think they say the same thing when regulations force them to build green roofs or any other “inconvenient” extra expense.

To me, on one hand, fine. Either the buyers pay a bit more, or the government has to subsidize the affordable housing / green roofs / other, which comes from taxpayers anyway. You can’t really force the developers to lose some profit because of our equity agenda.

On another hand, this seems underhanded of the developers. Even if governments say, for instance, ‘1 of every 3 buildings you do must be affordable housing, and it must represent 20% of all units’, then they will sell units from the other 2 for more money to compensate. So if we make developers contribute to affordable housing, the costs are just passed on to others anyway.

So the government almost might as well build it themselves. But why should they be responsible for building housing that probably generates a net loss, and not be in the lucrative part of the business? Seriously, can’t the City of Toronto develop its own land, with mixed income housing, and actually generate itself some profit? There must be some reason… I’m guessing there’s a law on conflict of interest, except that it would allow the city to provide more social services, which seems too beneficial to ignore as a possibility. Seriously, whose interests are at risk, other than developers? The city would just be competition.

Maybe the city gets a tax from development, and that’s why they’re ok with the status quo.

…hmm, maybe those taxes are ALSO being passed on to the other buyers. Now I think that the tax developers pay is effectively 0%. I might be cynical, but perhaps with good cause!


Facebook Shouldn’t Have A Dislike Button

For at least a few months now, people on Facebook have been clamouring for a “Dislike” button to match the “Like” feature that’s been rather popular among users. I think this idea is stupid.

Reason #1: It’s been done. Reddit, Digg, and other social bookmarking sites, and probably many more such things, have points assigned to posts. I’m talking posts of all kinds: links, photos, notes, just like in facebook (and this website, even). The points are given by users, who vote up or down. The most popular posts rise to the top of the lists and get more views. It works well in filtering out less interesting and less funny material, and helps a browser (you know, a person who browses) find the best stuff quickly.

But on Facebook, the only posts you see are from friends and pages/groups that you choose to add. And sometimes also 500 other people who you met once but just had to add to Facebook so you can stalk them or appear more popular (omigod you have 879 friends well actually i have 933 i guess i’m just cool like that). But anyway: the whole concept of Facebook is to connect to things you already like. It’s its OWN quality filter. And you probably know what friends are more likely to post stuff you’re interested in.

Reason #2: Online bullying. When they stopped only accepting university and college students on the site, high school students flocked to it like pararazzi to Britney Spears. Just think of the ways to be cruel with this button. Think of your recent status updates or posts, and imagine your feelings if you received even one “dislike”.

And high school students can be mean as fuck. So can adults, of course, but we’re less likely to click “dislike” on everything the unpopular kid does. I can even picture innocuous “dislike”s creating firestorms of rage and broken friendships, due to simple misunderstandings. Yes, I’m being extreme, but a dislike button would have the potential to devastate. And yes, there is already the option to comment, negatively, but the dislike button is a quick-and-easy weapon that requires no thought. That is yet another part of its power.

The dislike button is sought-after in part for quick-and-easy responses to posts like “Ross has to work until 8pm tonight :(” or other things that merit sympathy. But the disadvantages of implementing this feature far outweigh any benefit. Facebook, if you’re reading this, I am available to work in your development department. From home.

The Breast Cancer Meme

Breast Cancer: a real problem, with a lifetime risk of 1 in 8 women. Can be deadly. Inspires: meaningful action.
Meme: a fad, with little to no substance. Can be boring and overdone. Inspires: bandwagon jumping.

Recently on Facebook, girls have been posting their bra colour thanks to a circulating email, much to the confusion of many girls and most boys. This is purportedly meant to raise breast-cancer awareness. But without reading the email, how are people supposed to know what this is about? When I asked a friend what the colours meant, the answer was anti-climactic. I wasn’t inspired, I was annoyed.

This isn’t because I was jealous to be left out, unable to participate. A slew of sarcastic posts came to mind, but I ignored the idea, because the whole thing is meaningless. This is just a meme. Girls are posting the colour of their bra, getting some “likes” and comments. That’s it. This isn’t raising awareness, this is just basic social networking. I seriously doubt that more than 0.01% of the population will be more aware of breast cancer next week.

So girls, are you going to do something for breast cancer? Self-examine? Donate money? Run for the cure?
Your participation in this meme means nothing.


I saw Avatar recently. Fantastic movie, by the way. Anyway, what struck me as noteworthy was the social commentary. On another planet, a mining company has hired mercenaries to help them procure a rare and valuable metal from the sentient species of the planet. The company manager is only concerned with profit, and the general is a war-hungry American. When the native populace refuses to cede their land, the mercenaries attack mercilessly. The message is essentially, “One way or another, we’re getting what we want.” It seemed like a pretty obvious commentary on the Iraq war, and how the Americans bullied until they got their way.

That wasn’t all, though. A friend pointed out the commentary on the environment. The humans were very destructive, and did not appreciate the connections between species of the planet (one of the main themes of the movie). That was a trait that only the native species seemed to possess. The point is developed further (for instance, why the humans were on this planet, and even social values) and I can’t believe that I missed this at the time. It reminded me of my disenchantment with the human race, especially shortly after the Copenhagen summit, where Canada’s political leaders offered so little that I was ashamed to be represented by them.

It seemed that most nations were either finger-pointing (“They caused this problem, so why should we pay for their mistakes?”, or leveraging (“Are you really asking us to commit this much? Country X has committed far less. We can’t afford such disparity.”) Fine, so money’s a concern. This really won’t do much good unless the whole world comes together.

I need to figure out how I can be part of the solution.