Pete McMartin, Housing and Knowing So Much That Ain’t So – Part I of III

Unmistakably apparent, at least to a creatively maladjusted polymath, in the smooth flow of Pete McMartin’s ‘A Limit to Social Housing’ on housing in Vancouver is the root cause of the deterioration affordable housing, homelessness, the economy, Canada’s standard of living and so much of Canadian life suffers.


Actions and policies cannot effectively address the challenges and issues facing Canada and Canadians [governments, businesses, citizens] when the decisions, policies and actions are based on myth.

Not myth as in Zeus, Thor or Merlin but myth as in unproved or false collectively held beliefs.

In Josh Billings 1874 Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor he warned of the consequences when so many “….know so many things that ain’t so”.

People knowing so many things that are not so results in collective beliefs that are false and decisions and actions being made on what is believed to be true, while what is true is ignored.

Since the accuracy of what everybody knows for sure is a given, REALITY is lost or ignored as a result of the conflict between what everybody knows for sure and a REALITY that disagrees with what everybody knows.

Complicating matters further is that, as Tolstoy expressed it, “The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him.”

And when humans know something for sure, no matter how false or flawed what is known is…. “Faced with changing one’s mind, or proving that there is no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof.” John Kenneth Galbraith

Whether the promises made by the City of Vancouver to the protesters will result in a project that is good, bad or downright ugly is, in this context, neither here nor there. The focus is the jarring disconnect within “….a government rent subsidy of at least $285 per month per unit, in perpetuity.”

A disconnect that is highlighted by the picture of the protesters sign proclaiming ‘Homes Not Jails’ accompanying the article.


When evaluating the housing versus not housing options we know that housing requires ‘…at least $285 per month per unit, in perpetuity’. But the article gives no indication of what the other side of the equation is, what the cost of not housing someone is on a per month, in perpetuity basis.

In fact, in ignoring the other side of the equation, Pete McMartin’s words promote the idea that there is no cost to not providing housing; that if the $285 per month per unit is not spent on subsidizing housing, that money will not be required to be spent elsewhere and will be available to be spent on housing subsidies for the “squeezed middle class [that] has a right to ask where the government’s priorities lie.”

Among the so many things that ain’t so known by Canadians is that taxpayers money is only spend on the homeless when providing shelters, social housing or other services.

Before mental health dispelled what I ‘knew’ of homelessness and replaced it with personal knowledge and experience I had 25 years of experience as a Chartered Accountant, executive and businessman.

Whether it costs taxpayers, on average [and depending on the study], $39,000 or $57,000 or $60,000+ per homeless person per year in perpetuity it is unequivocal that there is significant cost in choosing not to act effectively.

And, as the protest sign noted, when we choose to use the legal system to address a health issue the cost of our badjudgment is all the legal costs plus a minimum of $100,000 per year..

The accountant in me is insulted by and deplores the waste of billions of dollars and the cost in human suffering and lives that result from the knowledge of so many things that ain’t so, when the results of a 5 year Canadian government research study demonstrate the philosophy, policies and actions that stop recycling the homeless and enable them to achieve stable, permanent housing.   

 “…if the numbers of homeless continue to grow, as they will,…” remains true only so long as we choose to let it be true. The problem is not that we cannot reduce the number of homeless, we can. What we lack is the Will to do so.

Part II: Creatively Maladjusted and everybody knows the economy……….


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