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Why do social housing tenants think of their unit as “theirs?”

Because it’s their home: the place where they live, cook their meals, sleep at night, raise their children, and invite their friends.

Some people think that social housing belongs to taxpayers. Taxpayers do contribute to the subsidies that make housing affordable. But that does not make them owners.

Individuals and organizations do not surrender the ownership of their homes simply because they receive government funds. Taxpayers will not own The Remington Group’s new development at 8 Chichester Place, although they are contributing $28.2 million towards its construction. Nor will they own the 3 million homes that recently benefited from the Home Renovation Tax Credit.

Interestingly, social housing has been criticized for failing to foster a sense of ownership, where tenants take responsibility for their units and their neighbourhoods. We can promote a sense of ownership, or we can tell tenants they ought to be transients. But we cannot have it both ways.