Policy Statement on Shelter
Shelter as a Fundamental Right
The basic need for shelter - "a roof over your head" - is also very much about having the personal and family space that we consider "home" and the relationships with others we call "neighbourhood" and "community".
One central test of any society is, therefore, the extent to which it provides safe, quality, affordable housing in stable, liveable neighbourhoods for all its citizens - as part of a mandate to improve the quality of life of its citizens.
Shelter as a Social Demand
Our experience has taught us that we can not leave this right to speculators looking for a fast buck, to developers planning for profits not homes and communities, or even to well-meaning bureaucrats writing blueprints from afar.
We cannot deal with this issue if we leave it to the marketplace, or leave it to others. The CAW has therefore lobbied governments for programs and structures that establish shelter as a social responsibility and, in particular, that include the direct participation of citizens.
The CAW and Non-Profit & Co-Operative Housing
This emphasis on direct participation has lead the CAW to join the housing movement and to create the CAW Community Development Group (CAW CDG). The CAW-CDG acts as a resource for local CAW and community sponsored housing.
It provides advice and expertise for developing and operating housing communities and other innovative housing and social initiatives.
The principles and guidelines behind this initiative to achieve quality housing are:
A. Affordability by eliminating speculators, so that people have the ability to afford decent housing accommodation in the communities in which they live;
B. Diversity and Freedom from Discrimination (on the basis of income, gender, disability, race, ethnicity, creed, age, family status, sexual orientation, presence of children, receipt of public assistance, citizenship, employment status, or social condition) by fighting against segregation into ghettos and encouraging accessibility for all those in need of accommodations;
C. Democratic Accountability by providing for wide-spread participation in decision-making by those who live in the development and by insisting on a code of conduct and the tightest checks and balances for those who service any housing developments;
D. Innovation by encouraging experimentation in integrating various related needs in the various housing communities: childcare, health centres, the special needs of the aged or persons with disabilities, community education and development, sports and entertainment, rehabilitation of older communities;
E. Security of Tenure by encouraging communities where all residents have the right to a home free of violence, harassment, war or destruction of the environment and a home which is part of a safe and healthy environment, by ensuring that there can be no evictions for reasons of profit or convenience, or through sudden or high rent increase; and by encouraging special rights to land and habitat for aboriginal communities.
F. Planning which respects rights of all people and the environment in the development of safe, affordable housing communities; and which eliminates controls that stop disadvantaged communities from meeting their own housing needs and the needs of their communities.
Should Unions Really be Involved in Such Broad Social Issues?
The CAW believes that not only should unions be involved, but that we must be involved and that - given the trends in attacking unions and the needs of all working people - this kind of involvement must increase.
The "social unionism" we advance is rooted in the pursuit by working people, of a unionism that is more integrated in their personal lives and in the needs of the community with the aim of improving the quality of life for all Canadians.