KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – There is this notion that rooming houses are bad news, but this is unwarranted. Often they’re the only affordable option for single people on income assistance or a federal disability pension. If not a rooming house, then homelessness and a life in shelters is the next logical step.
The bad news is that rooming houses are disappearing from urban HRM. In 1995 there were 156 rooming houses in Halifax and Dartmouth. In 2016 there were fewer than 20 left.
A partial explanation is the mechanics of gentrification, there is more money to be made from tearing a rooming house down and selling its replacement, one condo unit at the time.
As this video points out, there are other drivers as well. The narrator mentions planning policies that make it difficult for rooming houses to operate, reinforced by a consistent media narrative that equates rooming house populations with the presence of crime, vermin, and every other platitude associated with poor bashing.
In June 2019 I interviewed Jill Grant, the lead author of a study, Regulating marginality: how the media characterises a maligned housing option, co-written with Janelle Derksen and Howard Ramos. This is the study the video alludes to.
So check out this 2017 video, it’s a good quick look at the complex issue of the disappearing rooming houses. The video was produced by Planifax, directed by Uytaye Lee, with funding by the United Way.
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