Article of the Day: “Servants Welcome, Roommates Barred”
Another piece by Alan Durning, Executive Director of the Sightline, as a follow up to his previous item in this series – The Roommate Gap.
Scraped clean of rationalizations, roommate caps are simple. They are tools that privileged people use to exclude from their neighborhoods people without much money, such as immigrants and students. To reveal this elitist reality fully will require this full article, but one example shines a bright light on part of it: how land-use codes treat servants.
All legal in your Vancouver Special.
At least six Cascadian cities specifically exempt live-in servants from the residential caps they impose on everyone else. For example, in the region’s fifth largest city, Burnaby, BC, a house may hold only five unrelated people. As everywhere in the region, families may pack as many members as they like into their residences, but for unrelated people, Burnaby allows no more dwellers in its tens of thousands of single-family homes, condos, and apartments than five. Regardless of the size of the home, no extras may move in: no friends in need, no additional roommates to help cover the rent, not even a parent or child.
Alan then takes apart the usual arguments – crowding, neighbourhood character, noise, parking, vulnerable renters – before coming to the conclusion:
Adopting either definition, or no definition, in all the Northwest’s cities could unfetter thousands — or perhaps tens or even hundreds of thousands — of unoccupied bedrooms for rental: rental to anyone the owner chose to house. They would also be available, you might notice, for live-in servants. A no-limits policy would not discriminate, even against the propertied and privileged.