The notion of what constitutes rich and poor is changing. It is evident throughout Toronto and in our high-rise communities.
It is no longer true that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The proportion of the world’s population living in dire poverty is half of what it was 20 years ago. Many more have joined what we call the middle class; no longer a life that is nasty, short and cruel. Increasingly, this is a life once reserved for the wealthy.
Today, just 10 percent of the world population lives in extreme poverty, greatly reduced from 90 percent 200 years ago. There is a growing prosperity and expansion of the middle class throughout the world. For every one person escaping extreme poverty, there are five people entering the middle class.
Many believe the opposite. We have become locked in outdated views of rich and poor. People refuse to believe that things are improving for hundreds of millions of people around the world. When asked what has happened to the proportion of the population living in extreme poverty over the past 20 years, fewer than 10 percent are aware that it has been reduced by 50 percent.
Toronto, and our high-rise communities, have benefited from the increasing wealth of the middle class. Its population continues to grow and high-rise condominiums have become their accommodation of choice.
Toronto’s “rich” are no longer considered a small, privileged minority who can afford whatever they desire. They are often viewed as anyone who owns their home rather than rents. They struggle to pay down mortgages of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and have substantial additional debt. So many have chosen this as their lifestyle that they are the middle class and not the wealthy elite. They, and most everyone, have access to clean water and good food. Many choose to send their children to private schools. More can afford to travel, purchase appliances and automobiles, and live a better life. As a society we all live longer, are more active, and better able to afford vacations or vacation homes. This is a far cry from poverty.
Locally, high-rise condominium living has been part of the transition. Our buildings are clean, safe and full of what would once be identified with luxury. This includes air conditioning and heating; plus, a range of amenities few could afford on their own. Fully equipped exercise rooms, swimming pool, relaxation and study spaces, gardens and private outdoor spaces are now readily accessible to a great many people.
Many people still live in desperate and unacceptable conditions, and there is room for improvement. However, their advocates fail to recognize our progress and current realities when they argue that property owners are rich.