Written by Maisie Cu
It is interesting to see the reshaping of socioeconomic disposition of the population throughout the ongoing pandemic, with the new distribution of population, some areas are observed to be significantly improved and others not so much. In North America, a trend of higher death rate can be observed in areas with greater density. According to Fatality Rates by Country Urban Density Category updated on April 30, 20211, a distinction of death rates in counties with urban densities of 1000 to 5000 per square mile or below remain significantly lower in proportional to the general population, compared to those of counties with urban densities exceeding 5000 per square mile. Death rate of high density urban areas which associates with spreading crowds, not enough ventilation, small enclosure of retail establishments and common small multi units co op living situations expose the population to greater vulnerability.
On small multi unit households (a universal working class’s “crisis” )
As a university student living in a multi unit household downtown Toronto- a city with a population density of approximately 3000 residents per square mile and a population of six millions people, I find myself in a situation of restrained personal space to self isolate. I share one common kitchen and two bathrooms with four other people, out of which only one is able to go out due to their work in the essential sector, one has lost their job and is staying at home alone and the remaining two who are fortunate enough to work from home. It is hard being laid off with a sense of idleness from a job as a bouncer, however, it was the case for one of the residents in the house. As a means to relieve stress, he turned to music, which unfortunately, in such small proximity to common space, affected the mental well being of all others.
Here is a receipt of me writing to my landlords in the midst of a mental breakdown during Ontario lockdown in January.
The kitchen is another problem as every single one of us would like to use it at the same time. Thus, the constant threatening fear of not being able to cook foods due to the taking over of space by the others become a new source of stress. I am fortunate enough to remain employed as a cook in a small takeout store, however, when coming home, it becomes apparent to me that I do not have an option to isolate myself. I simply move from one condensed space to the other due to my income as belonging to the working class, making a dollar extra on minimum wage.
What a shared kitchen space looks like at my multi unit house.
According to the study of Canada Stat, larger households carried a risk of higher mortality rate in which the potential of close proximity with someone else increased. Understanding the risk of type coming from high rise and low rise apartments type within larger urban areas in Canada, with its statistic making up 34.5% of the dwelling type, the rate association accounted for four times higher in larger areas compared to the combination of all the other areas.
On the restriction of open public space
An investigation of population density is worth mentioning. I realize people who work as blue collar workers don’t have the options of escaping from enclosed public spaces as they rely heavily on transit for mobility. The lockdown of Ontario moves its target to outdoor spaces in which the shut down of recreational amenities such as park and basketball fields.
The study of physical and mental health of those who rely heavily on the access of green space and parks due to the nature of not having a backyard, play a significant role in the well being of Canadians. Thus within such context, if a stressor presenting in one’s personal life, the limited access of green space take a large toll on people that belong to lower income households due to their lack of access of open space and the restriction to indoor spaces.
Considering the statistics of parks serving as the dominant contribution of green space in urban areas, the correlation of higher density household and public parks are positive. Which means the denser an area, the more likely they are to have a park nearby. 90 percent of large centers report having a park closer to their home in comparison to 85 percent of cities and towns and 75 percent of rural areas and small towns. Thus, the Ontario government on public space is indeed also a target towards the people who belong to a subsection of lower incomes that are mainly working class people. Moreover, closing down of public domain affect affluent families less as their amenities belong to that of a private domain- say backyards and lawn.
This reminds me of an extract by Sir Roger Scruton in one of his book .
‘We are needy creatures, and our greatest need is for home—the place where we are, where we find protection and love. We achieve this home through representations of our own belonging, not alone but in conjunction with others.
Thus, as vulnerable and needy creatures, the reduction of the “working class” to only a slogan for scientific means of research policy hurt them the most. With lockdown extending every month and restricting public domain in Ontario, the amplification of inequality intensified in which the problem of unable to work remotely, overcrowded enclosed living situation leaving the individual with nowhere to go.
Read more of Issue 7 here.