That, given that a housing crisis is raging in Canada and that 90% of the funding for the government's national housing strategy will only flow after the next election, and that much of the funding depends on collaboration with provincial governments and the private sector, the House call on the government to: (a) recognize the right to housing as a human right; and (b) bring forward 50% of the strategy’s funding before the next election to invest in (i) housing for Indigenous communities, (ii) the construction of new affordable housing, new social housing units and new co-ops units, (iii) a plan to end homelessness, (iv) the renovation of existing social housing and old housing stock, (v) the expansion of rent supplements, (vi) the administration of programs that meet the special needs of seniors and persons with reduced mobility.
She said: Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
A safe and affordable place to call home is not a reality for many living in my riding. As we head into the final year of the government's mandate, I had hoped we would see something different for the people I represent.
Rents have doubled in the last 10 years in Saskatchewan without a similar rise in wages or income supports for people living with disabilities, single parents and seniors. Currently, in Saskatchewan, we have the highest unemployment rate outside of the Atlantic provinces. Life is very tough for far too many people in Saskatchewan.
Invariably, when I am out and about attending events and meeting with constituents, the conversation turns to housing and people struggling to find a safe, affordable place to call home. This summer, the situation for many has become even worse. Why? Because shortly after the Saskatchewan government signed on to the principles of the new provincial-territorial framework with the federal government on housing, our provincial government cut the provincial rental supplement. As of July 1, this important support for people in my province, in my riding, was ended.
What does that mean? For Amanda, a single mother in Saskatoon with three young children, who lost her job last fall, it means living in fear of also losing her home. Amanda is receiving income support from the provincial government through its transitional employment allowance, which includes a rental supplement. Her $1,000-a-month transitional allowance, plus her rental supplement of $331, means that 65% of her income goes to her monthly rent. That means she has $481 left for groceries, utilities and clothes. It means living every day with the anxiety and stress that she will lose her rental supplement and, if that happens, what will happen.
Over 14,000 people in Saskatchewan depend on the rental supplement to afford a place to live. The Saskatoon action plan on homelessness, a community-based leadership group, has helped find safe, affordable housing for over 800 people in Saskatoon, and the vast majority of the people who were helped counted on that rental supplement.
This reality is not unique to my community, my city and my province, it is a reality for far too many people across the country. At least 235,000 households in Canada experience homelessness in any given year. Over a million households pay over 30% of their income for rent, and 400,000 of those people pay over 50% of their income for rent. I consider that a crisis, and I am not alone. It is the general consensus that as a country we must tackle this crisis now.
In 2016, the mayors of Canada's largest cities estimated there were more than 170,000 people waiting for subsidized housing. Many people on those waiting lists will become homeless while they are waiting. One in 15 aboriginal people in urban centres is homeless. Occupancy rates for emergency shelters are 90%, up 10% over the last while. Of that group that are using shelters, more are families with children. They are the fastest-growing percentage of those accessing shelters.
Today's motion is about getting the government to step up sooner rather than later, to match government action to the urgency of the issue, and to match government action and timelines to the reality too many Canadians are living with: no place to call home.
A national organization I found said it best when describing where we find ourselves: high stakes with clear choices. That seems to sum it up. I do not agree with the federal government's current choices. The largest percentage of the federal government investment comes after the next election. New investments are minimal. We have had a lot of fanfare, rejigging of programs and underwhelming targets set. I do not see a government standing up and leading the way forward.
Today's motion is about putting on the table the path forward for the government and our country to truly tackle the housing and homelessness crisis.
I would also like to make note that the only time we parliamentarians, as the House of Commons, have debated this crisis is when my NDP colleagues and I have tabled bills and motions.
I have said in the House on a number of occasions that this debate must happen in order to hold the government to account and turn its great words and strategies into action. As the mandate of the government progresses, as the fanfare around the national housing strategy fades, we see the government stepping back from the leadership and investment needed to meet the crisis we are in.
One of the key pillars from the national housing strategy is that the strategy “will first focus on the most vulnerable Canadians. This includes women and children fleeing family violence, seniors, indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, those dealing with mental health and addiction issues, veterans and young adults.”
I agree, but I do not see this priority in action or prioritized in the investments to date by the government. If this in fact were true, why is the Canada housing benefit not being launched until 2020-21, after the next federal election?
The Canada housing benefit is the transformative change we need to immediately deal with a lack of affordable housing in Canada. This pillar of the strategy must happen sooner rather than later. The Canada social housing benefit could transform lives immediately. Bringing forward the planned investment in the Canada housing benefit to next year's budget could mean over 250,000 low-income households in Canada would be able to afford their rent. This is just one example, one initiative which if brought forward would actually make people's lives better.
The federal government can afford to do more and it must do more. It has been over 30 years since the federal government really took a leadership role in housing in this country, and this backing out of a commitment to an investment in affordable housing has given rise to the crisis we are in today. It is a big part of it.
One aspect of this off-loading has been the rise in the capital repair deficit for social housing, which now stands in excess of $1.3 billion. The government has extended the operating agreements which were due to expire. This was an important first step, but it is only a stop-gap measure for now. Those who provide housing to the most vulnerable, who must provide deep subsidies so rent remains affordable, are in immediate need of support for capital repairs. The government must inject immediate investment so that we hang on to these very important social assets in our communities.
A specific strategy for indigenous peoples, those living in remote, rural and northern communities and for those living in urban centres has yet to materialize. It had a mention in the national housing strategy, but we have yet to see real progress and a concerted effort by the government despite stating it was a priority for the national housing strategy.
Frances Sanderson and Mark Maracle, the co-chairs of the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association's Urban Aboriginal Housing Advisory Committee, stated, “If the government fails to step up with continued funding, we will, sadly, see a rise in the already devastating aboriginal homeless population.”
The government is more than well aware of the housing crisis on first nations. Some 40% of homes on first nations are in need of major repairs and 35% are not suitable for the family's size. So far, the government has only invested in 3% of the funding that is actually needed to improve the situation. I am afraid that the so-called innovation contest announced this summer for housing ideas on first nations is insulting.
Budgets are about priorities, and we have to see a budget by the government that tells Canadians the housing and homeless crisis is as important as the government keeps telling us it is. People like Amanda and the 14,000 people in Saskatchewan who are finding out that they cannot count on their provincial government are counting on the federal Liberal government to step up now.
While building more affordable rental housing is critical, we cannot in the immediate term build our way out of the affordability crisis renters face today. The government must move up its investment in the Canada housing benefit. That is the action and the leadership we must see.
I wish to end my comments on the government's commitment to legislate a right to housing with what the stated over a year ago, “Housing rights are human rights.” However, we have seen what appears to be a stepping back by the government on legislating a right to housing.
We have heard that the government's own consultations gave rise to a consensus that legislation be enacted to exclusively recognize the right to housing. I ask the government to follow through on this publicly stated commitment that will allow citizens to hold their government to account to what is and must be a basic human right, the right to a safe and affordable place to call home.
Mr. Speaker, I am truly honoured to rise to speak to the motion moved by my colleague from that we are debating here today.
When I was named the housing critic for the NDP, a role I performed for several years, I launched a campaign called A Roof, A Right, which took me all across Canada. The title was carefully chosen; words matter. There is no doubt in my mind that housing is a fundamental right and should be treated as such.
In 1976, Canada ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, or ICESCR, which obliges nations to recognize housing as a right.
The problem is that, under Canadian law, for an international treaty to be justiciable and actually enforceable in Canada, we have to pass legislation here in the House.
Here we are more than 40 years later, and unfortunately there is no Canadian legislation that formally recognizes every individual's right to housing.
In order to meet its international obligations, the federal government has a responsibility not only to incorporate the right to housing into the Canadian Human Rights Act, but also to implement the necessary measures to ensure that the fundamental right to housing is fully realized.
The current housing situation in Canada clearly shows that since the ICESCR was ratified, successive governments never took the steps required to eliminate the obstacles preventing the full implementation of that basic right.
We have been hearing for years about the housing crisis in Canada. Rising rents, a shortage of rental housing units, the lack of federal government funding for social housing, too many families spending over 30% of their income on housing and increasing homelessness are only a few examples of the causes and consequences of that crisis.
According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, CMHC, housing is considered affordable if it represents 30% or less of a household's income. Households that spend more on housing are considered to be in core housing need.
According to the 2016 National Household Survey, 24% of households spend more than 30% of their total income on housing costs. That is one in four Canadian households. Of Canadian households that are renters 40% spend over 30% of their income on rent.
This means that households in core housing need are too often forced to choose which basic needs they will meet.
In a wealthy country like ours, no one should have to choose between buying groceries and paying rent.
The purpose of this motion is to correct this situation and to obtain strong support from the House to ensure that the government meets its international commitments.
A few months ago, the government announced its national housing strategy with great fanfare. The fundamental problem with the strategy is that, as usual, the Liberals are not following through on their promises. I am not casting doubt on the housing minister's goodwill, but he probably needs to talk to the . When the Minister of Finance announced the funding that would be invested in social infrastructure, including housing, he postponed 90% of those investments until the final year of this government's term.
Despite the urgent and long-standing need for housing, the government thinks it is a good idea to withhold 90% of the money that is supposed to go towards improving living conditions for Canadian families and maybe starting to meet our international commitments. Why is the government withholding this money? Is it so it can be offered up in 2019 as a kind of pre-election treat? That is simply shameful.
That is not all. The vast majority of the funding announced largely depends on increased collaboration with our provincial and territorial partners. Funding that would come from the provinces and the private sector was even included in the national housing strategy, but without their consent.
How long will it take for families affected by the housing crisis to finally see any of this money?
With this motion, we are calling on the government to bring forward 50% of the federal funding allocated to the national housing strategy before the next election and to invest that money in the following: housing for indigenous communities; the construction of new affordable housing, new social housing units and new co-op units; a plan to end homelessness; the renovation of existing social housing and old housing stock; the expansion of rent supplements; and the administration of programs that meet the special needs of seniors and persons with reduced mobility.
I will now elaborate on a few of these calls for action. The housing situation in indigenous communities could not be more dire, and federal authorities, which have full authority in this area and fiduciary obligations towards indigenous peoples, are aware of this.
I am not making it up when I say that the federal authorities are aware of the situation. As proof, I offer the response to a request for information submitted to the government by my colleague from about the infrastructure needs of first nations. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada had this to say about housing conditions:
According to a needs assessment study based on the National Household Survey 2006, the housing shortage on reserve is expected to rise to approximately 115,000 units by 2031. Data from the 2009-2011 National Assessment of First Nations Water and Wastewater Systems indicates that 20,000 units need to be built on reserve in order to reduce the average number of persons by household to four people per home (on-reserve average), and 81,000 houses are needed to reduce it to the 2.5 Canadian average. Moreover, as of 2011, almost 41% of households on reserve are dwellings in need of major repair and mould or mildew has been reported in 51% of units.
That is what the government said.
Although departmental officials were aware of this situation, the government decided to fund the construction of only 300 new housing units per year in 2016 and 2017, which is only 3% of what is necessary. Moreover, if we take into consideration the fact that the housing shortage will rise to over 115,000 units over the next 15 years, it becomes very clear that the government will have to do a lot more to meet housing needs in indigenous communities and ensure that they too have the right to housing.
We are also calling on the government to invest in the construction of new affordable housing, social housing and co-operative housing units, as well as in the renovation of existing social housing and old housing stock. This is probably not the first time that members have heard me talk about this, because it has been my pet issue for a number of years now. However, it seems I need to repeat myself.
Until the federal government withdrew from the social housing sector in 1994, nearly 650,000 social housing units were built in Canada under long-term agreements with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Those agreements, effective for 25 to 50 years, made it possible for social housing providers to give rent subsidies so that tenants did not have to spend more than 30% of their income on housing. Hundreds of these agreements have gradually been expiring over the past decade or so. From 2006 to 2013, over 45,000 social housing units were affected by the expiry of agreements, and that has had an obvious impact on poorer families. Just last year, the number of households affected climbed to 140,000.
Despite all that, the government is still making us wait before it reinvests in social housing. We do have to give the current government some credit for allocating temporary amounts to address the expiry of agreements, but what about the penny-pinching that has been going on since 2006?
In the meantime, Carole Parent, who has been living in a co-op in my riding of Hochelaga for 25 years, used to pay $175 a month for housing, which was about 25% of her income. Her co-op's long-term operating agreement expired a few years ago, and as a result, her rent jumped to $306 a month, which is an increase of nearly 75%. This is certainly less than what each member of this House pays for housing, but Ms. Parent has severe employment constraints. She cannot work and lives on social solidarity benefits.
There is an election campaign going on in Quebec, and some people have claimed that a family could buy groceries for $75 a week. After Ms. Parent pays her rent and bills, she does not even have $75 a month left for groceries.
She is not the only one in this situation, and it is only getting worse. I could have given a 20-minute speech, and I still would not have had enough time to say everything I wanted to say.
I will end on that note. Like many speakers today, I was happy that the government was willing to implement a housing strategy, but reality quickly set in. The government must put its money where its mouth is and take action now. I hope it will finally listen to reason and vote in favour of this motion.
Mr. Speaker, I very much welcome this opportunity to speak to the motion by the hon. member for . It gives me the opportunity to update the House and Canadians on the impressive progress we are making to increase the supply of quality, affordable and suitable housing, especially for the most vulnerable in our society.
From day one, our government has understood that housing matters. It is a cornerstone of our strategy to grow the middle class in Canada, to grow our economy and help more Canadians join the middle class. From day one, we have seen the challenges Canadians face in finding affordable housing. That is why one of our first priorities was to bring the Government of Canada back into housing after many years, too many years, unfortunately, of neglect. We have acted decisively with historic long-term investments. We have consulted widely. We have listened to Canadians. We have collaborated with partners across sectors and all orders of government. As I will demonstrate shortly for members, hundreds of thousands of families are already benefiting.
Investing in housing goes well beyond just bricks and mortar. As our said, all Canadians deserve to have a home, a place where they feel safe, where they can have confidence in their future and focus on themselves and their family.
It also means building inclusive communities for everyone and making sure that all Canadians have affordable housing that meets their needs. Unfortunately, too many Canadians simply cannot afford suitable housing. At this time, approximately 1.7 million families in Canada are in housing need. These families are living in housing that is overcrowded, unaffordable or in need of repairs. In addition, nearly 25,000 Canadians experience chronic homelessness every year.
In many urban areas, the housing supply simply does not meet the demand. The people building our communities, by which I mean middle-class Canadians and those working hard to join them, including teachers, nurses, store clerks, construction workers and so on, are struggling to make ends meet. This situation is unacceptable and must change.
My role as Minister of Families, Children and Social Development is to improve the lives of all Canadians. That is why one of our government's priorities when it was elected was to immediately increase investments in housing, and that is what it did starting in budget 2016. That budget included a $2.7-billion investment for two new initiatives to increase the supply of affordable rental housing across the country. Budget 2016 also made an additional commitment of $2.3 billion to immediately improve housing conditions for low-income households, seniors, northern and indigenous communities, and survivors fleeing unfortunate situations of family violence.
Our first budget also included nearly $112 million in new investments over two years in the homelessness partnering strategy. This significant new investment represented an increase of 50% in the funding allocated to the strategy and the first increase in federal funding to combat homelessness since the strategy was implemented in 1999.
My colleague from is well aware that, since 2016, we have invested over $4.7 billion in affordable housing through various programs, including the affordable housing initiative, long-term federal-provincial-territorial social housing agreements, and the social infrastructure fund. By so doing, we have helped 945,000 households, including families, seniors, women and children fleeing domestic violence, indigenous Canadians, people with disabilities, people with mental health problems and addiction issues, veterans, and young Canadians, and that is just the beginning.
In November 2017, we announced the Canadian government's very first national housing strategy, a 10-year, $40-billion plan that will help more Canadians, starting with our most vulnerable populations, obtain affordable housing that they can call home.
The goal of this ambitious plan is to ensure that all Canadians have access to housing that meets their needs and is affordable. Our plan will produce results for Canadians. Over the next 10 years, 530,000 additional families will finally be able to afford housing that meets their needs. Moreover, during this period, we will reduce chronic homelessness by more than 50%.
My colleague from also knows, and will agree, that this is an historic strategy and an opportunity to implement lasting change that only presents itself once in a generation. That is why we consulted Canadians and experts across the country when developing the national housing strategy. I am very grateful to everyone for the time and effort they spent to participate in this important but all too rare conversation and for sharing their many ideas with us. These consultations meant that developing the strategy was truly a collaborative process.
The key pillars were a collaborative effort as well. We brought all the stakeholders together so that we could address each community's unique housing needs. After all, as the member for Saskatoon West knows, solutions for the housing needs in her riding are very different from the solutions needed in downtown Toronto or in Iqaluit, for example.
In the spring, we started introducing the key pillars of this ambitious plan. For example, we launched major initiatives to build up housing stocks, including the national housing co-investment Fund. This $13.2-billion fund will create 60,000 affordable housing units, and repair or renovate up to 240,000 units. Approximately one-third of the fund will be allocated to financial contributions, and the rest will be used for low-interest loans.
Since this is a co-investment fund, the partners will play a key role. The program encourages the provinces and territories, social and community housing providers, municipalities, the private sector and indigenous governments to work with the Canadian government to come up with solutions tailored to their communities' needs. It will focus on what Canadians really want and prioritize projects that exceed the usual affordability, energy efficiency and accessibility requirements. It will be aimed at individuals, communities, and partnerships and will come with specific targets for supporting survivors of family violence, seniors, and people with developmental disabilities.
In April, we also signed a historic agreement for a housing partnership framework with all of our provincial and territorial partners, at our first meeting in over a quarter century. This framework represents $7.7 billion in funding, which will be combined with equivalent contributions from the partners and invested in programs that meet the unique needs of Canadians, whether they live in a remote community in Nunavut, an urban area in British Columbia, a small municipality in Prince Edward Island, or anywhere else across Canada.
So far, Ontario, British Columbia and New Brunswick have signed bilateral agreements based on this historic framework. We expect to sign agreements with the other provinces and territories by April 1, 2019.
We also launched an initiative to keep federally administered community and social housing affordable, a critical step in protecting low-income Canadians in housing need. Each of these steps is based on other housing initiatives and programs that our government has implemented since it was elected in 2015.
For instance, in 2016, we announced the rental construction financing initiative. Interest in the program far exceeded our expectations, so much so, that we extended the initiative in budget 2018 and increased its funding, which now stands at $3.75 billion.
By 2021, the rental construction financing initiative will have helped create 14,000 new affordable housing rental units for middle-class Canadians. This is filling a gap between housing assistance and the rental housing market, where it is needed the most.
Similarly, the affordable housing innovation fund will create 4,000 new units over a five-year period by investing more than $200 million in innovative financing models and unique designs.
Finally, to stretch our investments in new construction even further, we are making approximately $200 million worth of federal lands available to community housing providers at a discount or at no cost.
This past summer, we also launched a new homelessness strategy, a 10-year $2.2-billion plan to reduce homelessness by 50%. This plan, called “reaching home”, will give more communities more funding and tools to fight homelessness on their terms. It will lead to better solutions for youths, seniors, women fleeing violence, veterans, people living with disabilities and those from LGBTQ2 or racialized communities.
There is also new funding to improve the situation of indigenous people living in cities, who are eight times more likely to experience homelessness than other Canadians. Our plan also includes new funding for the territories so they can tackle the unique challenges of homelessness in the north.
To stretch our homelessness investment as far as possible, we have created tools to help streamline the process to get people into housing and to coordinate the support services they need stay in stable housing over the long term.
This work represents an incredible achievement over just two years. I am proud of how we have been able to collaborate with Canadians and other stakeholders along the housing continuum to launch programs that will make a lasting difference, but of course there is still much more work to do.
As I mentioned previously, we are working hard with provincial and territorial partners to sign bilateral agreements with all provinces and territories by April 2019. I know that members and other Canadians are particularly concerned about the difficult housing conditions in indigenous communities. Under the national housing strategy, $225 million has been invested in improving housing for indigenous families living in urban centres. An additional $200 million has been allocated to support urban indigenous households, through bilateral agreements with the provinces and territories. In addition, $300 million will be provided to the three northern territories to support 3,000 households in their communities.
I am also working very closely with the and indigenous leaders and organizations to co-develop distinct first nations, Métis and Inuit housing strategies. These strategies would meet the unique needs of each group and will be anchored in the principles of reconciliation and self-determination.
We have also launched major research initiatives to fill data gaps that exist around housing needs and conditions. I look forward to seeing the resulting research and learning how we can continue to make progress on creating better housing outcomes for all Canadians.
Finally, we are currently writing legislation that would enshrine the human rights-based approach to housing that is the foundation of the national housing strategy. We are planning to table this vital legislation this year and are confident that it will take us further toward the progressive realization of the right to housing in Canada, as has been called for for many years in the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This legislation would ensure that affordable housing remains a priority for all governments and would benefit all Canadians for generations to come.
I will say again that the Government of Canada is back in housing. In fact, we are back in a big way, with ambition, with support and with a desire to collaborate. Canadians and housing leaders across Canada are on-board with our new approach and I urge all members on the other side of the House to join them. Working together, we can deliver an inclusive national housing strategy that will improve the lives of all Canadians and strengthen our communities and our economy for years to come.
Mr. Speaker, today I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am pleased to stand to debate this NDP motion. For all the viewers, I am going to read it into the record so that they know what we are debating today.
That, given that a housing crisis is raging in Canada and that 90% of the funding for the government's national housing strategy will only flow after the next election—
This is key:
—and that much of the funding depends on collaboration with provincial governments and the private sector, the House call on the government to: (a) recognize the right to housing as a human right; and (b) bring forward 50% of the strategy’s funding before the next election to invest in...housing for Indigenous communities...the construction of new affordable housing, new social housing units and new co-ops units...a plan to end homelessness...the renovation of existing social housing and old housing stock...the expansion of rent supplements...the administration of programs that meet the special needs of seniors and persons with reduced mobility.
To begin, I will address the first portion of this motion, which is something that has been widely debated with the NDP. It is housing as a human right. We have different philosophies on this, and we have all wondered which is the best.
We in the Conservative caucus have sat down to discuss this. We have talked about the housing continuum. To be honest, one of my concerns with the housing continuum is when we start talking about the legal and judicial system. Is that the right thing to do? We should actually be addressing homelessness and housing issues one way, and I am fearful any time we try to put that into the judicial system. A good plan and a good program is what we need first.
The second portion of this motion is about spending the money and bringing 50% of it forward as allocated in the first year of the 11-year program. As I indicated, we are talking about a program that has been brought forward from after the next federal election. As a reminder, we have had a majority government since 2015, and this is basically its platform. I thank the government for giving us its national housing strategy, which is part of its 2019 platform. However, unless the work is actually getting done, that is all I see this as being.
I want to go back to something else we are discussing. We are asking the government to start spending money and to start getting things done. Unfortunately, I have to remind the House and the member that this is a government that has not built pipelines, nor held judicial nominations. We have problems with trade negotiations, if anyone watched the updates from yesterday. We have immigration backlogs. We can name one thing after another. That is what we are seeing here. We have even talked about the money that Veterans Affairs has left on the table, an amount of over $300 million. Therefore, asking a government that cannot get the job done to get the job done is like blowing in the wind. I just do not know if that is going to really do it.
I started to review what we are doing, how money is being left on the table, what has been done for indigenous communities, where new affordable housing is being built, what the impact on homelessness has been, the current housing stocks and looking at the needs of seniors. These are all things that we need to look at, and they are all very important.
Therefore, by no means am I trying to say this is not an important issue. I look at housing as part of that. In first year psychology one studies Maslow and the principle that basic shelter is one of the key things. However, as Conservatives, we have a different philosophy on how we get there.
For me, a strong economy will allow for stronger programs. When I hear the NDP saying we should put the cart before the horse, I say let us put the horse before the cart. We need to have strong economic policies and a strong economic engine to drive these social programs and make sure that all Canadians have their essential needs. The cost of housing also comes into that.
Therefore, we should begin by looking at a simple business plan when we are looking at the business model of housing. It is like owning a retail store: the higher the demand, the greater the need and potentially the greater the cost if supply is low. In the case where there is too much supply, we know the costs can go down. It is one of those simple business philosophies.
Since the Liberal government has been in place, it has talked about all it has done. However, looking at the data from CMHC, we see that for a bachelor or a three-bedroom apartment there has been absolutely no change since 2015 on these figures. There have been no vacancy changes. Those rates continue. The government talks about how much it is working on affordable housing. We have seen absolutely no change in three years of data.
However, if we are looking at one- or two-bedroom apartments, we have seen that the vacancy rates for those are on the decrease. It is a 2.5% or a 2.7% vacancy rate.
I spoke to a person in the city of London who deals with affordable housing. It was an organization that was basically setting up a housing bank. We recognize that there are many ways of finding housing now. Some people go onto Kijiji, some people go into the CMHC organizations and look for things like that, or they look on social networks within their communities.
However, in the city of London this summer, only 11 affordable places were available for a population of almost 400,000. There we see the issue. It is a supply issue, so we need to get shovels in the ground. We know that.
We also know there are issues when we start talking to CREA, the Canadian Real Estate Association. We talk about the new stress test that the current government has applied for mortgages. It is not just affecting first-time homebuyers, but also the people who are trying to get in and move from that first home into a larger home. We know their hands are tied right now as well.
We have different philosophies on how that should work, but CREA president Barb Sukkau has said, “The degree to which the stress-test continues to sideline home buyers varies depending on location, housing type and price range. All real estate is local, and realtors remain your best source.” I go back to the realtors and ask them what they are seeing. We know we have seen skyrocketing prices. We know there was a high demand and we saw some things explode almost 75% over five years, with the cost of a house going up by 75%. We saw that in some of our regions.
I live in St. Thomas, Ontario and I could watch the cost of housing go up. For people in the city of Toronto, the next thing they know it is hitting Richmond Hill. Then it is hitting Guelph, then Kitchener, then London, and now it has hit Port Stanley. We saw this cycle happen, but we have to talk about what we can do about this.
We know the average price, but when we put the greater Vancouver area and the greater Toronto area into the calculations we cannot sit there and say the average cost of houses in Canada is x number of dollars. The cost of a house in Vancouver is over $1 million, and in the city of Toronto it is greater than $750,000 as well. We have to see what is affordable.
That is one thing we have really lost. What is affordable? There is not really a benchmark anymore. Is it affordable to go and buy a house for the first time that is $300,000? Possibly it is not. There may be some families who have that opportunity, but many families, many first-time homebuyers, many parents and many families who are trying to get in there with their newborn child cannot afford a $300,000 home.
Therefore, this is the housing market issue that we have here, but this is also about the continuum of housing. We have to talk about what this does. When we talk about affordability, we have to look at housing as being an entire thing. How does it all strategize together?
I know a young woman who has two jobs and three young children, and is also going to school. She has left her husband and is currently living in second-stage housing. Her goal is to find a proper affordable house. There is nothing available for her. This is an issue. She would like to move on with her family. She would like to have a new life, but none of these things are happening because we know the shovels are not getting in the ground.
After three years of the current Liberal government, we do not see anything happening. It is story after story of people trying to get into housing.
What the government needs to focus on is how we can get our economy rolling so we can make sure developers are able to go out there and develop, so that people who want to buy a house can get out there and buy a house. We know that 50% of Torontonians are now renting. This has changed the way things are going, and the whole idea of having a house as part of people's retirement plan has kind of gone out the door. People are living differently. People are living paycheque to paycheque. We know that Canadians have greater debt. A whole bunch of things are happening here.
However, when it comes down to having a strong economy, this is where the government is absolutely failing, and that is what is concerning me. We can have strong housing, but if we cannot afford to purchase those houses because we have no jobs, it does not matter. What we are going to see is the housing continuum go out of whack. We are going to see that we need more social housing because people do not have jobs. For the people who may have been in those really expensive homes, we are going to see those homes decrease in value because people are losing their homes.
The current government needs to get back on track and try to actually negotiate deals like NAFTA. It needs to stop losing our manufacturing to the United States. Manufacturing makes up about 10% of our economy, so we have to think of these things. I live in a community where NAFTA is the number one issue right now, but that has not been addressed. I could carry on and share with members some of the stories I heard when I visited a place in London. We talk about shelters being 40% over capacity. The capacity is 65 people and the shelter has 85 people.
This policy and all of the policies the government has put forward are the problems in our housing continuum. I thank the member for putting forward the motion, but the government needs to do better and make sure the economy is hand in hand with housing as well.
Mr. Speaker, there is so much to talk about here. It is sad that I only have 10 minutes, but I am going to start with the priorities.
First of all, this motion calls for the government to bring forward 50% of the strategy's funding before the next election. I am glad it was put forward in this proposal. The government has a rather annoying habit of announcing funding that is only going to happen after the next election. It is mythical funding if the Liberals are not re-elected, and I am very hopeful that they are not.
We have seen the infrastructure money that was promised 10 years out. That is assuming that they will be re-elected twice, which is really scary. I think we need to spend infrastructure money in this country, and affordable housing is one of the areas that needs that funding. If I think about the promises the Liberals were elected on, they were going to run really small deficits, and they were going to spend that money on infrastructure in municipalities. However, here we are, the third year into their mandate, and less than 40% of their infrastructure money has even been spent. What a disaster that is.
In my riding of Sarnia—Lambton, we have a lot of opportunities to spend that money. It is really badly needed. The affordable housing situation we have requires $40 million in renovations for the existing affordable housing in my riding. That said, I am in a similar position as some of the other members who have testified in this House today. There is no place affordable to live for anyone looking for a house. I had one of my constituents call the office, a single mother just coming out of the women's assault centre. She had no place to live for her and her two children that she could afford, and she is working full time.
The wage base has not kept up with the increase in house prices. We certainly need to do something about that. I would love to see the government actually spend the money that was promised and put it into the affordable housing area.
With respect homelessness and the plan to end homelessness, I was on the board of a homeless shelter. We have a significant homelessness issue in Sarnia. Maybe it is not as bad as in some of the larger cities, but still it is very serious. What we find is that in many cases, there are mental health issues, addiction issues and other problems that lead to people finding themselves in this homelessness place.
Interestingly, the homeless shelter I was on the board of put in place a unique solution of coming alongside those people, befriending them and helping them. They were able to pair them up with people they became friends with at the homeless shelter, and then they were able to live independently, and we would help them manage their money, because many times they were not very good at managing the money the government was providing to support them. It was so successful, in fact, that the Province of Ontario decided to donate money to the homeless shelter, or provide funding, to continue to expand the program, because we were very successful in getting people out of homelessness and into independent living. Part of the success of that solution is finding affordable housing. We can see how affordable housing is going to be so important to achieving a number of the things that are in this motion today.
This motion also talks about the administration of programs that meet the special needs of seniors and persons with reduced mobility. I was pleased to rise the other day to speak to Bill , which was about people with disabilities and how we are going to enable them to have the same rights and freedoms other people enjoy in the country. I shared an example that I think speaks to the affordable housing area.
We have a fellow in my riding who was, unfortunately, paralyzed in an accident and is in a wheelchair. He is such an inspiration in our community. He partnered with the architect for a fundraiser that the hospital has called the dream home. They sell tickets for the dream home, and it is a way of raising money for the hospital. In this case, they worked together, he, Dan Edwards, and the architect, to create a visitable home. It is a home that is totally accessible for a person in a wheelchair, who can absolutely cook and do all the things they need to do in a house, and it is a reasonable price,
I think there are ideas out there that could be incorporated into affordable housing, because many people who find themselves in need of affordable housing are seniors. Our seniors are struggling to make ends meet, and they are finding it very difficult to find places they can afford to live. The size of their pensions or their CPP and OAS is not increasing, and as the price of a place to live continues to inflate, they are the ones having difficulty. In many cases, over the years, they are going to become less able to walk and will have other disabilities that will need to be dealt with. Certainly, this is an area where, if we are building affordable housing, we should make sure that we are making it accessible and think about seniors and the needs they are going to have.
The other part of the motion I want to talk about has to do with housing for indigenous communities. There is an awful lot of rhetoric coming from the Liberal government about its nation-to-nation relationship. However, when I look at what is actually happening, there is a lot of talk but there are not a lot of results, when we think of building housing, addressing the boiled water advisories, etc.
There is a need out there, but we want to make sure that we do not get back into a situation such as what happened at Attawapiskat. Members might remember when $300 million was given to the community. There were about 80 people in the community, and they were all living in tents and horrible living conditions. In my mind, there was no resolution, because $300 million should have been enough to build affordable housing and it should have been satisfactory.
There is a need the government is not addressing within our indigenous communities. It would be great for the government to spend some of the money it futuristically planned. It should spend it now, because the need is immediate, and it is important that the government do that.
On the right to housing as a human right, I am not sure I am really on that page, because as soon as we say it is a human right for people to have housing, the question will be what kind of housing they deserve. There is no definition provided of what is acceptable. Do we think everyone should have a $300,000 house, or should we all be able to buy a house in Vancouver or Toronto? I think that is a point of discussion.
My youngest daughter recently purchased a home. They are first-time home buyers in London. The member for indicated that the typical price of a house there is probably $300,000. Well, for a first-time homebuyer, one needs a 20% down payment because of what the put in place. That is $60,000. What kind of young first-time homebuyers have $60,000? If they do not have parents who are reasonably well off and generous, they are not going to be able to get into the housing market. Therefore, another helpful suggestion I would give to the government is to get rid of that 20% requirement for a down payment. I mean, if one is going to have a mortgage of $240,000, there is not that much difference between that and one for $300,000, but it is a huge difference in terms of young people being able to have that dream of owning a home. I think that is important as well.
When we look at all the parts of the motion before us, there are many priorities the government could be doing something with. I hope it spends money on infrastructure. I hope it meets the needs of indigenous communities. I hope it provides affordable housing by letting members of Parliament who are in the House actually submit what the municipalities need in their areas. There is more than enough need to help the government spend the 60% of infrastructure money that has not yet been spent.
I do not see a plan to end homelessness coming from the government, but there are many wonderful solutions in communities, such as the one I talked about, that could help end homelessness. I am glad to hear that the housing first program was not cancelled, because it is certainly something we need. We have to have a place where people can go, because that is part of getting people back to health and back to work.
I did not talk about the expansion of rent supplements, because I did not really understand what was intended and what they would like to see in place. Because there is no affordable housing, the amount of money the government is giving for rent is not enough, which I think is fair to say, and it is worse in larger communities like Vancouver and Toronto than it is here.
Overall, I am glad to see that the motion was brought forward.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
It is a huge honour to rise today to speak to a very important issue.
In just three years, we have seen the cost of real estate in my riding go up 50%. We saw the housing crisis happen in Vancouver, and people sold their homes and moved to Vancouver Island, to Victoria. Then those people moved up island to our communities, which were very affordable for many years. It is affecting people in our communities. Homelessness is on the rise. More and more seniors are living in poverty. In fact, we are seeing more seniors at our homeless shelters than ever before. Young people are losing hope. Working families are struggling to make ends meet. People living with disabilities or accessibility issues are finding it harder and harder to find a place to live.
This month I held three town halls in my riding to hear from residents about this issue. They made it very clear that this is the most important issue affecting people in our riding. We were fortunate to have experts come and sit on panels to talk about the situation.
One group that was there was the BC Non-Profit Housing Association. It brought forward the housing affordability definition. We can all agree that if someone is spending more than 30% of before tax income on rent and utilities, it is no longer affordable. In my riding, over 50% of renter households are spending more than 30% of their income. In fact, a quarter of renter households in my riding are now spending over 50% of their income. This is outrageous. There is no way people can put money aside to buy a home at some point in the future, or just to meet simple needs such as clothing, medicine and food. People are struggling. They are having to work two or three jobs just to make a living, never mind setting aside money for retirement.
I think about the most vulnerable. In British Columbia, someone on income assistance receives a housing allowance of $375 a month. Thirty-six months ago, the average price of a home in the most affordable community in my riding, which is Port Alberni, was $192,000. Today, it is $303,000. People are moving into our community and commuting out because it is the most affordable place. The problem is that people have to have an income that is almost 50% higher than the average median household income to be able to buy a home now, which now costs $303,000.
More and more people are not able to buy a home and more inequality is happening. People who can afford it are coming in and buying five or 10 houses. They are renting them out and driving rental prices up. As we know, people living on low incomes struggle to make ends meet. When they cannot pay their rent, they are pushed out onto the street to find another place to live. However, when there is a vacancy rate of .01%, they cannot find a place to live. Those rents are now higher than the threshold of $375 a month. More and more people are turning to the street or shelters. They are falling through the cracks or living in precarious situations.
In a question earlier, I identified that to buy a house in Parksville or Courtenay one would need to have an income of over $140,000. Less than 6% of the people in those communities earn over $140,000. It is completely not working for people in our communities. We have heard loud and clear from local governments. They are calling on the federal government to invest in their communities immediately. This is an absolute crisis. When there is nowhere to live and young people are losing hope, it is a big problem for all of us.
We can look at where we were in the 1970s and 1980s when 10% of our housing was non-market housing. Today, it is 4%. The Conservatives' approach that the free market will resolve it and we will just build more supply has not worked. It has completely failed. The Liberals' approach that they will roll out money over 10 years if they are re-elected and house 50% of the homeless people in Canada does not work for 50% of the homeless people because they are not going to have a place to live. As well, 10 years is too long.
We have seen bold investments from the Province of British Columbia. It has shown the Government of Canada what urgency looks like. It has rolled out $1 billion this year and is going to roll out $7 billion over the next 10 years. It would be great to have a federal government that does not just give it $31 million a year in transfers but actually matches the funding. This is an opportunity to support people who are falling through the cracks, but also the local economy.
We have heard the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce say loud and clear that this is the most important issue. Dianne Hawkins said, “Employers and their employees have been impacted by the lack of affordable housing and income inequity which exists in our area. Access to safe, quality, affordable housing and the supports necessary to maintain it create one of the most powerful social determinants of health. The Comox Valley needs a continuum, or wide range of housing solutions that target a full spectrum of population groups.” They are saying that it is actually limiting economic growth in the region for small and medium-sized enterprises.
We need to create diversity. There are countries that are doing it. In Europe over 30% of the housing stock is non-market housing. In Vienna, it is over 40%.
I was fortunate enough to live in a co-op housing project that was built in the 1970s and 1980s when the federal government actually invested in housing, before it started downloading in the 1990s. In 1993, Paul Martin cut federal transfers on housing to the provinces, downloaded on the provinces and then the provinces started downloading on local governments. I sat in local government. I remember how hard it was for us to come up with the capacity to deal with this complex situation. Most municipalities do not have the capacity, aptitude or resources to take on this problem on their own. They are relying on senior levels of government to invest and get involved.
When people cannot find a place to live, it affects their mental health. It affects child welfare. That is a huge problem in British Columbia and it is connected to housing. One of the most important determinants to health is housing. The stress this is causing families is unbelievable. Is this what we want? Is this the type of society we want in the future for our children? Do we want them to live under so much stress and have to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet? We know that 30% of single women over the age of 65 are living in poverty. We are failing them. This is an opportunity to help them.
I think about working families a lot. The most important investment one makes in life is a home. Right now, so few people are making that investment because they cannot afford to. The biggest economic leakage in people's lives is when they cannot afford to buy a home. The biggest economic leakage in communities is when people outside the communities or the country buy all the housing. That wealth is leaving. Rural communities know too well about wealth leaving their communities, something which unfortunately, we are getting far too used to.
This is the beginning of a crisis. This crisis is not going away. People who have had to move to more affordable places in my riding are now in the most affordable, and it is compounding. They have nowhere to go. There is nowhere left to go. This problem is not going away and they are not going away.
I met someone at one of my town halls and every day since that town hall, I wake up and I think about Marcy. She has lived in my community for over 30 years. She has been homeless for the past four years. With low vacancy rates and rents that are sky high, she has not been able to find a place to live. She has been living in her van. She actually upgraded to living in a trailer on a property and she is worried that the bylaw officer is going to move her out. She worries about that every day. This is what Marcy worries about. The free market is not helping Marcy right now. She needs help and it is our duty to help her come up with the solutions. We can do that. We can create more co-op housing.
Indigenous elders say that there is nowhere to live on their reserves and in their communities. There is overcrowding. Sixteen people live in one house. The government's promise to fix that has not come to fruition. There are 10 indigenous communities in my riding and I cannot name one that would say that the federal government has lived up to its promise to support indigenous housing. Verna is a 76-year-old indigenous elder who barely gets by on her pension. She was hit with a rent increase and a big hydro bill. She is like Marcy. She is concerned, not just about herself but she is also concerned about the youth.
This is a problem. I am glad we are having this discussion today. I could cite so many comments from my constituents. I am grateful they shared their experiences. We need to be vigilant. We need to work collectively and we cannot wait 10 years.
We need money to roll out the door right now. The government believed it needed to buy the Kinder Morgan pipeline, which we know was a big mistake. If the Liberals could come up with $4.5 billion for a leaky pipeline, why can they not come up with $4.5 billion for our seniors, our elders and our most vulnerable? The government needs to do this immediately and it needs to address it and get money out the door.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Saskatoon West for introducing this critically important motion and for her leadership on housing, which has benefited all of us over the time that I have been here.
We have heard a lot today about the suffering of Canadians, especially the working poor, who are struggling more and more to afford their rent each month. However, today I would like to begin by telling members another side to the story.
Last year, in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia, I held a number of public round table forums with small businesses to learn how we, as elected officials, could help them succeed in rural British Columbia. I invited the provincial and municipal representatives to join with me so business owners could speak to all three levels of government at the same time, which maximizes their time, and so their recommendations would not get lost in this finger-pointing, which often goes on between the three levels of government around issues. I met with businesses from across the Elk Valley in Fernie. Owners from central Kootenay gathered together in Nelson. I also met with owners of small businesses in Invermere.
I wrote a report on the forums, a copy of which can be found on my website. I encourage all members to spend time speaking with their small business owners. They may be surprised by some of the results.
What was the most consistent hurdle that small business owners in my riding complained about? It was not taxes or red tape; it was the lack of affordable housing, keeping them from being able to expand their businesses.
We often think about homelessness and housing issues as being a big city problem, but rural areas and small towns have housing issues as well. The challenges for these businesses is finding staff, particularly during the high season, that then can find a place to live.
It used to be that university students would flock to the Kootenays for a summer job. They would work hard all day and spend their evenings and weekends hiking, mountain biking, canoeing and enjoying the great natural outdoor experiences that we had to offer. However, this is becoming more difficult all the time. Students and adults alike, looking for work in towns like Fernie, Invermere and Nelson, are finding they have no place to live. What used to be affordable rental housing for the summer is now being often let out on a nightly or weekly basis for services like Airbnb, which means a lack of accommodation for small businesses to be able to expand their business.
This is not only a problem in my riding. A September 22 CBC story entitled, “Housing crunch a concern as Banff seeks workers for ski season”, found that in areas like Banff and Canmore, there were very low vacancy rates and no place for people to live. To quote Daniel, “I found lots of jobs, and got lots of job offers, but the accommodation is still the hard part to find.”
That is why we need a strategy to increase rental housing stock across the country. We need to work with the provinces to give municipalities the ability to regulate and tax Airbnb units in their areas. We need to take into account that the lack of affordable housing has an impact that goes beyond just the residents. It impacts our entire economy.
In a country with weather as extreme as Canada's, the idea that housing is a human right should not be a question. No one can survive our -40°C winters without shelter. Nor should one have to.
Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes it clear. It states:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
Housing is very much essential to that.
Canada is proud to have been a signatory to the declaration since 1948. Any government would do well to begin developing its policies and programs by ensuring these very basic rights are met. However, 70 years of paying lip service to the declaration is not good enough. I truly hope the Liberal government follows through on making housing a right for all Canadians, which I believe I heard it plans to do later this fall.
In speaking with my constituents in Kootenay—Columbia, it is clear that we have serious problems with housing in our community, and I want to share some of the stories they shared with me.
Bill lives in a low-income senior housing unit in Nelson. His monthly cost for living in the facility has increased significantly with very little notice. Central heat and air conditioning were always included in the monthly rental. However, because of cuts in federal government funding, the landlord shut off the gas in May and began removing furnaces. Baseboard heaters were installed in each tenant's unit in July.
The consequence for Bill and other low-income seniors and disabled people living there was suffering through another exceedingly hot, smoky summer with no air conditioning, and now incurring the expense of an electric heating bill. In British Columbia, the cost for electricity is significantly higher than natural gas. Tenants were called to a meeting in August and were told they would have to sign new rental agreements. All but Bill signed, fearing they would have no other place to go.
In the village of Kaslo to the north of Nelson, a beautiful community on Kootenay Lake, there is no affordable housing at all. There is nothing available. There is no social housing, no assisted living spaces and no rooms. The Housing Society coordinator has a long list of individuals and families looking for housing. He receives calls every week from those trying to find a place to live. They are willing to move to Kaslo, but they cannot find a place to live.
George and Mary are an older retired couple who have lived and worked in Kaslo for many years. However, they could no longer manage living in their home. They sold their house last month and they now have to move, but they cannot find any place to go in Kaslo. There are no spaces available, so they are being forced to move to Nelson, which is an hour away, leaving their friends behind. They are fortunate they can afford a facility in Nelson.
A disabled gentleman from Fernie discovered bed bugs at a seniors residence. As a result, he effectively became homeless. He had nowhere to go and he ended up sleeping outside. Travelling to Cranbrook was not an option for him either, as the Salvation Army shelter is only open in the winter.
The city of Nelson has affordable and social housing units, but vacancies are rare. Youth homelessness is a problem. There are families living in their vehicles.
Alan, a Nelson senior with a minor disability which prevents him from driving, has been forced to move to less expensive accommodation in Salmo, which is about a half hour drive away. His pension was no longer sufficient to allow him to live in Nelson. Salmo is more rural and has very limited public transportation, so he is feeling isolated and lonely. He used to stop by my office in Nelson frequently, but my staff have not seen him there since July.
These are some of the saddest situations that my staff and I regularly face. Seniors who have worked all of their lives and planned for their retirement are now finding they can no longer afford to live in their homes. When I was at the Farmers' Market in Creston this summer, a single senior woman, and unfortunately many of our seniors are single, came to me concerned about whether she could continue to live in her own home. She has lived in her family home for many years. She is maxed out on old age security and the guaranteed income supplement, which is just over $18,000 a year. Her taxes and utilities are going up. She does not know whether she will be able to continue to afford to live in her home.
We need a program targeted directly at seniors and we need it now to try to keep seniors in their homes as long as possible.
When I was mayor of Cranbrook, I volunteered the city to be a pilot on poverty reduction in British Columbia, one of seven communities. We pulled together a coalition of agencies that helped people in need to help people who were living in poverty. When I asked what the number one thing they would do if they had the opportunity to try to reduce poverty in Cranbrook, their answer was consistently, regardless of what aspect of social support they represented, housing first.
People need to have a safe, secure place to live if they are going to get the rest of their life on track. To be able to seek employment, people need to start with a house.
These are problems, but they are solvable problems. It will take money to resolve them. It will take dedication and leadership to resolve them. We have to do that. If we do not do, we are failing Canadians.
I will be supporting this motion. I would certainly ask all my colleagues in the House to also support it. We need to work at ending homelessness today and we need to ensure every Canadian has access to affordable housing.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
As my colleague just said, nothing is more important than a home. Canada has one of the best housing systems in the world and it is getting even better. That is why I am so pleased to speak to this motion brought forward by my colleague for . I live in the southern part of metro Vancouver and housing affordability is a big issue. As my colleague has just commented, a number of millennials are now finding it very difficult to stay living within that area. I know of two doctors, family doctors who are married who have just found it impossible to still live in the greater Vancouver area.
Many people are struggling to find housing that they can afford. This is an opportunity to talk about the investments that the government is making through CMHC to ensure that Canadians have access to housing that they can afford and that can meet their needs.
A home is more than just a roof over one's head. It is a place where Canadian families can thrive, where children learn and grow, where parents find the stability to succeed in the job market and where seniors can live in dignity. About 1.7 million Canadian households are in what is called “core housing need”. These people are living in homes that either cost more than 30% of their income or are unsuitable for their circumstances.
Safe, adequate and affordable housing underpins inclusive communities and economies that thrive. Community housing, or social housing, refers to government-subsidized housing that is funded under a range of federal programs developed over time to meet the needs of vulnerable populations. It has been at the heart of Canada's response to housing challenges since the 1940s when we created housing for veterans returning from the Second World War. It has since provided housing for a variety of low- to moderate-income Canadians, from immigrant families looking to start their lives in Canada to seniors aging in place in their communities. That is why for three consecutive budgets, the government has made significant investments in creating affordable housing. In the past two years, the federal government has invested more than $4.7 billion in funding and subsidies of affordable housing projects across Canada. As a result, some 945,000 families will have a home that meets their needs and that they can afford, like in Surrey where government support for community housing has meant that 144 families in the Totem Housing Co-Operative, the Common Ground Housing Co-Op and the La Casa Housing Co-operative have places to call home.
In 2017, support of community housing took a further step forward with the country's first national housing strategy. This ambitious 10-year, $40-billion plan will ensure more Canadians. from the smallest, most remote communities to large urban centres, have a stable, affordable place to call home.
The national housing strategy explicitly recognizes the vital role of community housing. One of the first initiatives launched as part of the strategy was the new federal community housing initiative, administered by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. This program is a 10-year, $500-million commitment that will ensure 55,000 community housing units across the country continue to be subsidized. Phase 1 of this initiative will deal first with operating agreements that are expiring imminently. It will fund them so that they can continue to offer affordable housing to their tenants. Then, in 2020, Phase 2 of the initiative will start to put in place new operating agreements for all providers as they expire over the coming decade. The federal community housing initiative gives housing providers much needed stability and predictability to continue to offer affordable units and carry out long-term maintenance and capital repair plans.
People will also be able to access a new technical resource centre and a sector transformation fund to help smooth the transition to new operating agreements. Of course, federally administered community housing is just one part of Canada's community housing landscape. Roughly 80% of community housing is administered through the provinces and territories. That is why this important housing sector is a central part of the housing partnership framework signed with our provincial and territorial partners. Through a new Canada community housing initiative, we will be investing $4.3 billion to be cost-matched by the provinces and territories. This will ensure that 330,000 homes across the country will continue to be affordable for Canadians.
We are committed to community housing and its role in creating inclusive, sustainable, productive and vibrant communities. The national housing strategy is the most ambitious demonstration of support for housing in almost 50 years. It will ensure Canadians have access to housing that meets their needs and that they can afford.
In South Surrey—White Rock, we know that many people are struggling to find housing they can afford. We are fortunate to have organizations and people bringing together the public, private and non-profit sectors to address this need. They are focusing on the most vulnerable Canadians: seniors, women and children fleeing family violence, children with disabilities, those dealing with mental health and addiction issues, veterans and young adults. There are non-profit organizations, like Semiahmoo House, which has developed an inclusive, open and low-cost housing facility entitled Chorus. This 71-unit project caters to the income of the person or family, and it is inclusive. Inclusive means for people with disabilities, seniors and those living in poverty. It has created a better sense of community.
Semiahmoo House is pleased that we have a national housing strategy. Its CEO, Doug Tennant, said that they very much agree and support the idea of housing rights as human rights. They are glad government is taking this seriously and consulting broadly to implement this strategy.
This is a wonderful initiative, and I heartily support the motion.
Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure me to be part of this debate. It gives me a great opportunity to talk about our government's unprecedented leadership on housing through our national housing strategy.
As the who is responsible for housing mentioned in his opening remarks, our government recognized early in our mandate the challenges that Canadians face in finding affordable housing. We see too many hard–working Canadians being priced out of the communities where they work. People have to live in the communities close to their work. Even in my riding of Brampton Centre, affordable housing is of great importance for me, as well as for my constituents. We recognized the challenges and immediately took action.
Being a member of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development, I am proud to say that I have first-hand knowledge of the study done by the committee on the national housing strategy. Through this national housing strategy, the government wants to make sure that Canadians across the country can access housing that meets their needs and that they can easily afford. We want to do more.
We want partners in the co-investment fund to play a critical role. We want to achieve this goal. The strategy will focus first on the most vulnerable Canadians, including women and children fleeing family violence, seniors, indigenous people, people with disabilities, those dealing with mental health and addiction issues, veterans and young adults.
To meet the set of tangible objectives, there will be a statutory body created to help the government keep the national housing strategy intact. Further, there are provisions for the national housing campaign, from time to time, to know the public views on different types and tenures over a multi-year period.
The government has decided to invest in the housing strategy as a national plan, built by and for Canadians. Over the next decade, it will invest $40 billion to build stronger communities and help Canadians across the country access safe, affordable housing. The ambitious plan promises to tackle everything from homelessness and the shortage of new housing units to repairs to existing units over the next decade.
The strategy will remove 530,000 households from housing need, cut chronic homelessness by 50%, protect 385,000 households from losing affordable homes, build 100,000 new affordable units, repair 300,000 affordable housing units and provide 300,000 households with financial assistance. Along with rental benefits and energy reduction plans, there will be a statutory requirement to have at least 20% of units meet accessibility standards.
The strategy commits to build vibrant and inclusive communities where Canadians want to live, work and play so that they have a chance for a brighter future. The goal of this government is to see that housing rights are human rights. Everyone deserves a safe and affordable place to call home. The strategy will make certain that it is the fundamental right of every Canadian and meet their needs for affordable housing and ensure that no one is ever refused a home because of their gender, religion or background. Let us act in Canadians' best interest by encouraging people in each of our ridings to access the programs.
Madam Speaker, I am proud to rise on behalf of Nanaimo—Ladysmith as its member of Parliament, and as someone formerly elected there locally. Thus I have a very deep understanding of the imperative of having full support for affordable housing in our region. Housing is at the foundation of everything. We work from our homes, they give us shelter, and they allow us to be healthy. Housing is foundational, and so it is very important for all levels of government to take a role in that.
I will be splitting my time with the member for .
The housing needs in Nanaimo are described in depth by a number of my constituents. I polled everyone this summer and received at least 500 responses. I heard terrible things from them. For example, “I am a 78 years old lady and I have to pay $1,700 a month rent. Very hard on a pension. I'm not ready for seniors living yet.” Another said, “We have lived in 6 homes in 4 years because we can't find a long-term rental home. On my partner and my caregiving incomes, we can't afford to buy.” Another wrote, “In a few years I shall be entirely dependent on my CPP & OAS. My medication cost me approximately $500 per month. It's going to be very difficult to find a affordable rental.” It goes on and on.
Most recently in Nanaimo, the homelessness crisis has been made explicit by the establishment of a now 300-person tent city right on our waterfront, blocks away from where the and his cabinet met this summer at the convention centre. What triggered this was an offer from the provincial government for temporary affordable housing, a 44-unit modular housing complex. City council voted no to allowing affordable housing to go on that land. In frustration, the homeless community and advocates created this very visible expression of the need for housing and their great displeasure at the elected city council's refusal of the provincial government's offer.
I visited the tent city, and I heard stories that were heartwarming and heartbreaking. One young woman told me she has a job but was on leave from it while she dealt with an addiction issue. She has qualified for addiction treatment, but because she has no address, she is not allowed to do the final paperwork to get there. That is a jam I do not know how any of us would be able to get out of.
I heard other women describe to me the benefits for them of even having this really hard life on this vacant property with tents and tarps. They said things like it used to be that when they would go to job interviews with their shopping cart, it would not go so well. However, now that they have a little lock on the zipper of their tent and their neighbour will watch their stuff for them while they go over to the Salvation Army to shower, they can walk down the street like anyone else and at least have the opportunity to get their lives back on track. Another said that now that they are not thinking every moment about where they are going to sleep and keep their stuff at night, they have time and have now reconnected with their family.
These are just small things, and these people were very proud of the governance structures and support they had built within the tent city.
Now, of course there is also a terrible downside of having that concentration of people in deep need, fighting addiction issues and really just barely getting by. Crime has concentrated there. Homeowners from the neighbouring properties have had thefts, as have the local merchants. This is obviously not a solution, and I am not advocating for a tent city, but I applaud the organizers for making it front and centre.
The stats are extreme. The Nanaimo homelessness action plan 2018-23 just tabled with the city council of Nanaimo states:
Put bluntly, Nanaimo faces pressures that threaten the integrity and sustainability of the current system if not addressed. First, the service system in Nanaimo needs to account for the challenges posed by changes in housing and labour markets; in particular, sharp rises in rising costs, low vacancy rates, and precarious income.
It goes on.
The government in power has a budget set aside for dealing with housing. If we build more units, it takes the pressure off every phase of homelessness, everywhere in the progression of housing needs and other pressures. Homelessness is reduced when people with some means can move into newly built places. That opens up some of the lower income spots and takes the pressure off. Therefore, we need to get building.
Our community is doing that. We have some real success stories that I want to applaud. The Ladysmith Resource Centre Association is working with the Anglican Diocese of British Columbia to build a 36-unit affordable housing project right downtown in Ladysmith. I am really proud and glad to be supporting that.
Also in Nanaimo, Brechin United Church has basically knocked down its church to redesign it completely so that affordable housing can be built into it. This is how the work gets done in our community.
The Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre has added, I believe, 60 units in total to Nanaimo's affordable housing stock. It built the first multi-family housing opened in British Columbia since 1999. It is a passive energy design complex, beautiful, innovative, full-of-art space for elders. It is a beautiful place. It has also taken over what used to be called King Arthur's Court, but has now been renamed Sanala. It was a real nuisance property and a problem for police. Its management, Chris Beaton and his team, have just transformed it and it has become much more of a home for families.
The John Howard Society is hands-on in Nanaimo. It works with men on parole who are trying to transition into a better life. Their rate of recidivism is virtually nil if they have gone through these restorative justice programs and lived within a therapeutic community where they reinforce each other's work and healing, taking responsibility for the crimes they have committed and recognizing their own trauma from childhood and addictions that got them into this place.
These are some anecdotes from the John Howard Society. A formerly homeless addict went to every agency in town, filled in every application, and because the John Howard Society worked with him, even when he was homeless, it made all the difference. We also heard about a homeless person who had had a career in the oil fields and a small contracting business, and because of addiction lost it all.
There are people who are very hurt out there and I am so grateful for the organizations on the ground that are helping them. For example the United Way in Nanaimo is a tremendous leader. It is part of the umbrella group that coordinates a response to homelessness and makes all the difference.
Through our work on the status of women committee, we have heard stunning stories of the rate at which women who face domestic violence become homeless. Haven Society's executive director Anne Taylor told us the following at committee:
When a woman is forced to make the choice to leave her home because of violence, she is really being forced to make the choice to step into poverty and to bring her children along with her. Wage inequity, lack of accessible child care, and safe affordable housing are a few of the barriers she will have to navigate. This is on top of her safety concerns, the trauma she has experienced, and the high likelihood that she may not be believed or taken seriously or she she may even be blamed.
We also have a fantastic group, the Island Crisis Care Society, which hosts the Samaritan House right on the downtown strip in Nanaimo. It has told stunning stories about homelessness in our community. At the status of women committee, it stated, “we had an 82-year-old woman and a 76-year-old woman, who so far have accessed our homeless shelter for the first time.” It said that 50% of the occupants of their women's homeless shelter over the last nine months are over the age of 50, women who have worked all their lives and through no fault of their own, due to housing affordability pressures, have become homeless.
Therefore, we have work to do. The government's commitments to invest in affordable housing are mostly after the next election. If it can find $4.5 billion to invest in a leaky old pipeline, surely we can spend as much money right now with these valued community partners and give Canadians the respect and the homes they deserve.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to contribute to this debate.
One of the most telling observations today was the first statement of the parliamentary secretary when he said there had been about 25 years of federal absence. I was here when Paul Martin cancelled federal housing and when the Liberals resisted time after time. The parliamentary secretary was correct that Paul Martin's administration, and even the Jean Chrétien administration, was the one that crumbled away a national housing strategy. They drove the distance between the provinces and municipalities and the federal government to be proactive, to build on our success and to ensure the existing housing stocks would remain viable for the future and that new ones would meet the demand to provide homes for the safety, education and quality of life for so many people today.
We are in a major catch-up scenario because of the 25 years the parliamentary secretary rightly described in his opening statement today. He is absolutely correct to point out where it belongs: the Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien administrations not doing the work needed. They were forewarned time after time by the New Democrats and others in the chamber. Each of their governments slashed social services. At the same time, there were massive corporate tax cuts for insurance industries, oil and gas companies and a series of others that made record profits.
Social investment today will give us a stronger economy and will deal with some of the humanity issues we face, such as an opioid crisis and other emerging trends. A safe roof over the heads of people and their families is so important to achieve. That is echoed across the country.
It is also important to note in the motion the role of the private sector. There are a number of different options available for us in the private sector. However, the government continues to make decisions that erode housing options.
The area I represent has one of the highest rates of child poverty. Most recently, not only have we been waiting for investments for federal housing, but there has been an order in council from the government, the cabinet, to eliminate housing from our market. I will get back to that in a second.
I represent the town of Sandwich, the oldest European settlement west of Montreal, where the war of 1812 was fought and where the underground railroad was located. Today, it also has one of the highest rates of poverty. It is an area challenged with immigration supports to ensure people get back to school. There are single one-parent families. It is recognized, even through third-party reports, as being one of the most challenged in the nation, most recently by Campaign 2000 to end child poverty. The riding-by-riding analysis shows, sadly, that we are just outside the top 10.
This area has one-third of Canada's daily trade to the United States? What did the government do? It gave a private American billionaire, Matty Moroun, who has his tentacles through the history of the Liberal Party, permission to build a new bridge and, at the same time, to demolish single-family and multiplex homes for affordable housing, which they bought. If that was not bad enough, the repercussions were already being felt because they bought these homes and boarded the doors and windows. We lost schools, mostly Forster High School. We lost the post office, which was the longest-standing post office in Canada, from the 1800s, at one point delivering mail by horse and carriage. We lost places of worship and businesses.
For those who are not familiar with an order in council, it is essentially a decree from prime ministers and their cabinets that avoids all scrutiny, that is the will of them in their moment, that they know everything and that they issue that law, have privilege, the right without coming through the chamber or even the unelected chamber.
The Liberals gave this billionaire, an American who was sentenced to prison because of his conduct in the U.S., the keys and the process to continue to have homes boarded and locked up, Now he wants to do that to another 30-40 homes. The situation has become so grave that he has decided to erect lawn signs on these properties, calling for their demolition. He had the green light, the special permission and the privileged access from the government to do another border crossing without any terms or conditions. There are not even any terms for community benefits. Ironically the Liberals voted for its private member's motion to do a community benefit project. They ignored advice from their members. I think the motion is buried in some committee somewhere, but it has not seen the light of the day here. It is just another Liberal motion that has gone to another place, probably to show they did something during their four year tenure. We have not seen it come back here.
What is happening right now? We have another war on the city streets of Windsor at a time when housing is at a crisis point.
Although Windsor has had the blessing of lower housing prices than other places and affordable housing has been attainable to a certain level, that has shifted radically in the last five years. Hundreds now are without proper accommodation. The market is increasing. More people are flocking to the city. We have issues over opioids and other social problems, which are multiplying. The perfect storm is taking place at this point in time and more and more people than ever before do not have a place for their families at the end of the day.
The Liberals are very cognizant of this and of their partner, who is destroying these homes and asking for more homes to be destroyed, and we have seen no action.
In the motion is the notation of the private sector. It is the government's responsibility, with its partners, including the Ambassador Bridge and the project that will proceed based on the order in council from the and his cabinet, including the minister responsible for today's debate, to do something about the fact that their actions are eliminating affordable home options in my community.
We literally have single family homes, or duplexes or quadplexes that could provide a safe place for parents and their children. The economic basis for a community to survive is being shut down because of Liberal policies, lack of accountability and the mere fact that the Liberals' promises are nothing less than the broken words.
Madam Speaker, before I begin, I will inform you that I will be splitting my time with the member for .
It is my pleasure to rise today to take part in the opposition day debate on housing. It is not often that an opposition party gives the government a chance to talk about all its achievements, but thanks to the member for , we are doing that today.
I am not just going to speak about our record on housing. I am going to talk about what we have done for seniors, for people living with disabilities and for vulnerable Canadians. Most of all, I am going to speak about what we are doing in the fight against poverty, because that is at the core of this opposition day motion. What is the government doing to fight poverty in Canada? The answer to that question is simple: We are doing more than any government has done in generations.
I will start with seniors. We all know that Canada's population is aging. However one looks at it, Canadians are living healthier, longer lives, and with these demographic changes, our country will have both challenges and opportunities. Our government recognizes this, which is why a key focus since taking office has been improving the quality of life for an aging population.
We increased the guaranteed income supplement for single seniors, improving financial security for almost 900,000 seniors and helping to lift thousands of seniors out of poverty. We enhanced the Canada pension plan for the first time in a generation, which will help the seniors of tomorrow with increased retirement benefits, particularly for disabled contributors, widows and widowers. Indeed, in my riding, I cannot tell members how many seniors have come in who are trying to survive on the Canada pension plan, the OAS and the GIS. They struggle. This is a huge accomplishment. Of course, we reversed the Harper government's disastrous changes to OAS and GIS eligibility, restoring the age from 67 back to 65, which will prevent 100,000 seniors from falling into poverty every year.
Let us talk about what our government is doing to promote accessibility and help Canadians living with disabilities. Today, one in seven Canadians reports having a disability, and disability continues to be the most common ground for discrimination complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. That is why our goal is to make a barrier-free Canada a reality within the federal jurisdiction and why, last June, we tabled Bill , Canada's first-ever national accessibility legislation. Thanks to the accessibility act, our government is taking a proactive approach to get ahead of systemic discrimination across all areas of federal jurisdiction to achieve the progressive realization of a Canada without barriers.
We are also putting money where it matters through programs such as the enabling accessibility fund and the social development partnership program. Initiatives like these support community-based projects across Canada aimed at improving accessibility and safety within communities and workplaces. They get us closer to a barrier-free Canada, where people with disabilities can have a real opportunity to succeed.
We can talk about housing. Our government is proud to have announced Canada's first-ever national housing strategy, our 10–year, $40-billion plan to give more Canadians a place to call home. Thanks to the national housing strategy, we are going to create 100,000 new housing units and repair and renew more than 300,000 housing units. We are going to reduce or eliminate housing needs for 530,000 Canadian families across Canada. We are going to protect an additional 385,000 households from losing an affordable place to live. We are going to reduce chronic homelessness by 50% by 2027–28.
It is important to note, however, that our commitment to make sure that Canadians have access to safe, affordable homes runs deeper than the national housing strategy. From the beginning of our mandate, we have been making unprecedented investments in housing. These investments are already paying off. Whether it is eliminating chronic homelessness in Victoria, funding new community housing projects in Calgary or Kitchener, or funding seniors in supportive housing units in St. John's, all across Canada we are helping to create homes for people who need them the most. In fact, since forming government in 2015, we have invested nearly $5 billion in housing, which has benefited nearly one million Canadians from coast to coast to coast. By comparison, the party that initiated today's debate promised less than $3 billion over four years for housing, and those commitments were conditional on first balancing the budget.
Our government understood from day one that meeting Canada's housing challenges could not wait, which is why we have invested from the beginning of our mandate and why we have committed to providing stable, long-term funding to our partners for the next decade. This will bring certainty for our partners over the next decade so that they can plan and start to look forward as to how they can help resolve some of these issues.
Let us talk about poverty. As we outlined recently in opportunity for all, which is Canada’s first-ever national poverty reduction strategy, and there seem to be a lot firsts coming along here, our government has a plan to achieve the lowest level of poverty in Canada's history by 2030. That is millions of people removed from poverty. We are also going to establish the first-ever official poverty line so that we can accurately measure how we are doing in the fight against poverty rather than leaving it up to the government of the day to set its own definitions.
In the committee I sit on, I asked all the witnesses about data. We need that data. We need to understand the baseline. How are we doing compared to where we were? How are we doing in meeting our future goals? That is critically important in executing any operational plan.
Once again, we understand that the fight against poverty is not something that can wait, which is why we have invested heavily in that fight since we took office. To date, we have invested more than $22 billion in the fight against poverty. I am proud to say that those investments are paying off. Thanks to the Canada child benefit, enhanced seniors benefits, and starting next year, the Canada workers benefit, by April 2019, we will have lifted more than 650,000 Canadians out of poverty, including more than 300,000 children. This is an incredible achievement and something we are very proud of.
Our government understands that there is still more work to do. The likes to say, “better is always possible.” However we look at it, by whatever measure we use, we are making real change happen. We were elected to help Canadians in the middle class and those working hard to join it, and through unprecedented investments in housing, seniors, and the fight against poverty, our government is making it possible for more and more Canadians to have a real and fair chance at success.
I would like to add that in my riding, we see these issues being played out every single day. I have sat in on countless round tables and town halls. I have been in some of these consultations with our colleagues. What we have heard and what we are putting down as a plan is what the experts have been telling us we need. We do not need a knee-jerk reaction. We need to have a long-term plan that we can count on so that we can effectively move forward over the next decade.
Madam Speaker, I am truly very pleased to speak to the motion by the hon. member for Carleton.
Canadians believe that the spending the member considers to be reckless actually represents wise strategic investments that will stimulate Canada's economy and create strong and inclusive communities.
For example, our commitment to spend more than $11 billion on new investments in housing was the largest item in the 2017 budget.
Access to safe and affordable housing is a key issue in practically every riding in the country, including Carleton and, of course, mine, Rivière-des-Mille-Îles. I am pleased to say that the government has shown unprecedented leadership on this file, which is so important for the health and well-being of Canadian families.
I would especially like to point out that the government went to great lengths last year to consult Canadians on how to improve housing outcomes for everyone. The minister visited my riding together with representatives of affordable housing advocacy groups and associations. He took the time to consult the people in my riding. This was a commitment we made in budget 2016 in order to identify innovative ideas that could be included in Canada's first ever national housing strategy.
At the end of June 2016, a national conversation on housing was launched at the end of a productive meeting of federal, provincial, and territorial ministers responsible for housing. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the CMHC, led consultations entitled “Let’s Talk Housing” for four months.
Between June 28 and October 21, 2018, the CMHC and the provincial, territorial, and municipal governments held a number of consultation activities on Canada's national housing strategy. The consultations included online initiatives and live events organized in cities and regions of Canada, during which time a tremendous amount of information was gathered. The opinions, ideas, and points of view of thousands of Canadians and dozens of interested organizations were gathered and recorded.
The consultations had three objectives. First, we wanted to encourage Canadians to actively reflect on the issue of housing, what it means to our communities, and to talk about it. We did that in spades.
Second, Canadians were invited to share their points of view on a long-term vision for housing in Canada. They were also invited to identify themes and significant results related to housing, and to find innovative solutions and approaches to housing. That was also definitely accomplished.
The third purpose of the consultations was to help develop a national housing strategy, which I will get to in a few minutes.
I would like to take this opportunity to summarize some of the engagement activities that took place last summer and early autumn.
Online activities included a CMHC social media campaign called Let's Talk Housing to promote the consultations. Canadians shared more than 1,900 ideas via social media. The campaign was so innovative and effective that it won two MarCom platinum awards from the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals. The CMHC also won four gold awards in various video categories and honourable mentions in a number of website categories for its “Let's Talk Housing” consultations.
Over 6,300 Canadians also took the time to participate in a nationwide survey on the national housing strategy through the “Let's Talk Housing” website. Over 130 ideas were submitted on the CMHC's idea sharing platform, and over 475 online written submissions were received from individuals and organizations such as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the National Housing Collaborative.
The CMHC also organized a total of 22 roundtables to gather input from experts and advocates on Canada's national housing strategy.
Furthermore, 21 focus groups were held with vulnerable populations, including people with lived experience of homelessness, recent immigrants, low-income Canadians, and people with disabilities, to give people who face daily housing challenges a chance to participate in the development of the national housing strategy. This was a worthwhile initiative.
We also conducted public surveys, and some MPs organized town halls in their ridings. I also want to mention that all MPs received information and materials to help them communicate with their constituents. We reached out to indigenous peoples, who often experience some of the harshest living conditions in Canada. CMHC hosted round tables with housing experts on indigenous housing in rural, remote and urban areas, as well as on northern housing.
Meetings were held with national indigenous organizations, and we supported their own consultation forums. The result of all these efforts was a report entitled “What We Heard”, which was released by the in a Facebook event on National Housing Day, November 22, 2016. I urge all MPs to visit the website letstalkhousing.ca and to read the “What We Heard” report.
For now, I would like to say that a clear and common message came from the consultations, and that is that Canadians want better results when it comes to housing for people in need. Some clear themes also emerged during the consultations. For example, Canadians and housing stakeholders believe that the national housing strategy should encompass the full spectrum of housing while giving priority to those who are most in need. Housing must be incorporated into the other support services that vulnerable people may need. Housing providers need better access to capital to make it easier for them to build more affordable housing units. What is more, most participants favoured policies that enable local communities to propose solutions to housing problems.
More specifically, Canadians want their national housing strategy to reduce or eliminate homelessness in Canada. My riding of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles covers Deux-Montagnes, Saint-Eustache, Boisbriand and Rosemère, which are northern suburbs of Montreal. We have shelters to help homeless people there. Homelessness is not just a problem in urban areas. It is also a problem in the suburbs. Unfortunately, homelessness is a daily reality for some people in my riding. Shockingly, nearly 1,000 people access homeless shelters there every year.
I want to come back to what Canadians want from their housing strategy. They want priority to be given to the housing needs of low-income and vulnerable people. They also want the strategy to address the unique challenges faced by indigenous communities and the growing housing affordability issues faced by lower and middle-income Canadians, particularly in our larger cities. They want a strategy that will forge inclusive, sustainable communities and that will ensure that our social housing sector remains strong.
Those who took part in the consultations did more than just identify problems. They also identified options, proposed innovative solutions and helped focus on measurable results. All of this information and these perspectives will be taken into account when the government finalizes the national housing strategy's key initiatives.
As the said, the purpose of the national housing strategy is not to duplicate or replace existing provincial, territorial or municipal housing plans or strategies. Rather, its purpose will be to better coordinate the efforts of everyone involved, including governments, housing stakeholders, and indigenous and other organizations. We must work together on a common vision and results in a spirit of mutual respect.
First of all, we are taking a whole-of-government approach with the national housing strategy in order to look at housing in a global context and support the social and economic advancement of individuals and families. In addition, in partnership with the provinces and territories, we are working toward implementing a national strategy that takes regional housing needs into account and respects individual jurisdictions.
Key stakeholders have shown strong support for what we are doing with our national housing strategy and the direction we are taking. In my riding, for example, representatives are very pleased with the strategy.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
As always, it is a great honour to stand in this House on behalf of the wonderful people of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford and talk about an issue that is very near and dear to my heart, but that is also consistently one of the top issues that is raised by people where I live.
I got into politics because of the work I used to do as a former caseworker for former member of Parliament Jean Crowder. I worked in her office for seven years and really got to see how the policies and legislation that were enacted in this place affected the people on the ground. There were far too many occasions when I was sitting across the table with tearful constituents who were at the end of their rope because they were having to make a decision about whether they could pay the rent or put good quality food on the table. In a country as wealthy as ours, that is a shameful thing that it is still going on today. These are problems I was dealing with in the last decade. They are still going on and it is 2018.
We have this motion today because we have this sense of urgency. This was an urgent issue 10 years ago and it was an urgent issue in 2015 when the Liberals won the election. However, there has been a delay, and we have not seen the action live up to that urgency. As members of Parliament, we all have those stories. We all have to sit in our constituency offices and try to explain why we are not doing enough to meet it. Therefore, let us look at the motion before us, because it has two very important constituent parts.
One part is going to call upon the House to recognize the right to housing as a human right. Right away I want to acknowledge the hard work of my friend and colleague the member for and her attempt earlier in this Parliament to put that into law through Bill , which was unfortunately voted down by the Liberals. That bill would have basically enshrined the right to housing in the Canadian Bill of Rights. I know the Liberals at the time criticized it. They said that using a legal avenue, a rights-based approach, would not be effective. I think members were saying that we need to have a plan. The point they were missing is that when people have a legal avenue, that is how they hold their government to account. When they have a legal avenue they can go to the courts, they can make sure that not only the legislature but the executive branch is actually living up to that legal obligation. I know it is not the only answer. However, it certainly is a very important constituent part of the issue that we are trying to deal with today.
The second part, which is probably the critical part of the motion, is that we want the current government to bring its funding commitment forward and spend it before the 2019 election.
The Liberals are absolute masters of the long promise. They will announce something that is usually made up of previously announced funding, it is grossly inflated to include both territorial and provincial funding announcements, and when we look at the fine print we see that it is spread out over a whole bunch of years and the funding is not going to come into effect in a big way until after the next election. Yes, the national housing strategy was rolled out with great fanfare. However, when we look at the budgetary numbers, it is all back-ended to fiscal year 2019-20 and beyond, so we have to wait until the next Parliament. Although there is federal money being spent now, it is nowhere near enough to acknowledge the crisis that exists on the ground. Therefore, what we are calling on the government to do is to move the spending up, treat this like the crisis it is and get those units built.
I want to talk about some of the amazing local initiatives that are going on. In the absence of this critically needed federal funding or the fact we have to wait for it, I look at associations like the M’akola Housing Society and the Cowichan Housing Association, that are really trying to lead with local efforts to get the ball rolling. In fact, where I live in the Cowichan region, the Cowichan Valley Regional District, we are going into municipal elections this fall and we will have an important referendum question on whether we are going to allocate some funding to the Cowichan Housing Association so that it can start taking firm action.
I am really heartened by the incredible work being done by constituents in my riding. They have seized the issue. They have done homeless counts. There is also that part of the housing crisis that is frequently not talked about which is housing insecurity, people who are one paycheque away from being evicted, have threats from their landlords or are couch surfing. It is a big issue.
I do not want to prejudge what the referendum question is going to be, but I hope that the voters in Cowichan Valley look at this question, treat it with the seriousness that it deserves and try to recognize the local efforts being made on this issue.
The Liberals in questions and comments are going to come up with all kinds of facts and figures and say they really are doing something, but the really bad thing is that the government is prepared to spend $4.5 billion of taxpayers' money on an old pipeline to deliver diluted bitumen to our coast, something that flies in the face of our climate change commitment. Furthermore, the Liberals want to expand the export of diluted bitumen. It just makes an absolute mockery of our climate change commitments.
The Liberals can find that kind of money pretty quickly and easily, but I am left trying to explain to my six-year-old kids, whose future we are trying to work on in this place, what the current government is doing and try to put that in the context of the housing crisis we are having.
It is always very helpful in this place when we are talking about particular issues to bring in personal stories because that is ultimately why we are here. I want to talk about a couple of constituents who wrote to me and gave me permission to use their names and talk about some of the things they are going through.
I would like to talk about Wilfred Stevens. He is a single father who can barely make ends meet because he is trying to prove that he is the primary caregiver to his children. He has been struggling to get the child tax benefit and all of this financial difficulty is not allowing him to have that kind of security in making his rental payments.
There is a woman named June Thomas in my riding who has been waiting for quite a long time to get her GIS application processed. She is currently couch surfing, at her age, in different family members' homes to try and make ends meet. It is absolutely unacceptable that our seniors, the people who in previous generations and previous decades built this country to what it is today, are still having to live in such abject poverty and trying to find a place to live, one of the most basic human needs.
Peter Emeny-Smith is having problems with the CRA and so on. These are all issues that relate to people's ability to find housing and when they do not have that kind of security it affects their entire life, their outlook on life, the way they are able to function in society, their ability to hold down a job. That kind of stress wears people down and it can lead to further costs down the road in their mental health and their physical health, so there are real tangible economic costs to not solving the housing crisis. Maybe my Conservative friends will argue that it is too costly a venture. I would argue that it is too costly not to do things.
Given that my time is running out, I will end by saying that I recognize how critical this issue is. I am going to be hosting two town halls on housing during the October constituency week to try to juxtapose what the traditional federal role used to be in housing with what it is now, and what more we could be doing from the senior level of government.
I hope all hon. members will look at the spirit and intent behind this motion, recognize its urgency and support us in addressing this very critical issue.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to talk about housing today since my riding, which is quite rural, has had critical housing needs for years.
In a number of communities, no social housing has been built since the end of the 1980s. Absolutely nothing has changed. Most of the existing housing is dwellings for people 55 and older, single people or older couples. In most small towns, the only affordable housing available is for seniors. There is nothing for families.
There are urban centres in the various RCMs of my riding that have benefited from some projects, but when I talk to mayors of those municipalities, they tell me that it is extremely difficult to get such projects off the ground because of all the requirements that need to be met. They tell me that sometimes it is so discouraging that they just feel like giving up.
Often the administrative requirements for social housing projects are exactly the same in rural areas regardless of the size of the projects. Whether we are talking about 200 dwellings in downtown Montreal or four dwellings in a small town like La Reine, Dupuy, or Saint Vital, the same requirements need to be met. Moreover, it often takes at least 24 dwellings to be entitled to funding. A municipality with a population of 300 would need to build 24 social housing units, which costs a few million dollars, just to be eligible for funding, when that does not in any way correspond to the municipality's needs or reality.
As long as we are going to keep the same requirements for everyone and not take into account Canada's demographic diversity, we are necessarily depriving several rural communities from funding for social housing. They are, however, the ones who need social housing the most since quite often they do not qualify for funding.
Furthermore, administrative requirements often push up the cost of a project, since the administrative fees to develop specifications, for example, are the same whether the project is to build four housing units or 24. When the cost has to be spread over just four units, the project can become very costly, because administrative requirements do not vary based on the project scope.
In addition, when the time comes to put together a project, it costs a lot of money to compile all the specifications and expert opinions needed to meet the standards, and that is without even knowing whether the funding will be granted. This represents a higher financial risk for municipalities. When a municipality spends $100,000 of its $800,000 budget, which is supposed to cover all municipal services, on a project that it cannot even be certain will be completed successfully, it is taking a massive financial risk. Large municipalities, in contrast, have multiple pending projects that they can put into a drawer, and when programs are announced, all they have to do is open the drawer and pick out the ones they want to submit. Everything has already been done.
Moreover, let us not forget that small communities do not have the same municipal resources as big cities. Cities have an engineering department, architects, urban planners and other professionals already working for them. In contrast, small municipalities have a town manager, a municipal secretary who rarely works full time, a municipal inspector and a day labourer to do all the snow clearing, lawn mowing and other maintenance. That is basically the entire team they have at their disposal.
Therefore, when the time comes to put together a social housing project and commission all these specifications, they have no choice but to turn to the private sector for their architect's drawings and engineering studies. This is extremely costly for them. They have no in-house resources to rely on.
It is important to understand what a challenge that is. At some point, the government will have to come up with a way to set requirements and manage projects at the administrative level in a way that takes into account the scope of the projects and the size of small municipalities.
In order to prevent big cities from always getting all the projects, it is important for a portion of the funding to be reserved for projects in municipalities with a population of less than 3,000. There must be funding set aside so that all of the money does not get taken by others. Otherwise, nothing will get built.
Many small municipalities are really frustrated. They need housing, but they do not know how to compete. The government has announced a lot of money for social housing, but we never know when it will be spent. We have just learned that 90% of the budget will be spent after the next election. Small municipalities that want to undertake a project will have to spend a lot of money planning it, without knowing whether this government will be re-elected. All that work might be for nothing if there is no funding available when it is time to carry out the project. This is a truly unacceptable way of managing things.
If the government is going to announce funding for housing, it should make the money available now. It should say that x amount of money is available and that there is a three-year window for submitting projects.
What it is doing right now is nothing but smoke and mirrors. The government is giving hope to people who may want to start projects, but we do not know what will happen. The election is an unknown quantity, so we cannot predict what will happen in two or three years. Who knows, maybe in two or three years, the government will announce that, just like electoral reform, the whole thing is too complicated, there are problems, we will have to wait again, yada yada yada.
Meanwhile, people continue to live in poverty and cannot get ahead. Children do not have access to anything, and their future will suffer. People are stuck in violent situations. In a number of indigenous communities, nothing has been built. In some cases, a woman experiencing domestic violence cannot just kick her husband out. If she were to do that, she would be kicking him out of the community because he would have nowhere else to live. Women are often too afraid because they say that they could not throw their husband into the street, since there are no other options. They end up giving in and staying in violent situations. The same goes if it is the woman who decides to leave, because the house is in her husband's name. She is not just leaving her home; she is leaving her community without knowing whether she will be able to find shelter elsewhere.
Housing is very expensive in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. There is a shortage of workers, and the housing shortage has been ongoing for 10 years. Nothing is happening. People are unable to pay their rent. They live in unhealthy conditions and are bullied by their landlords. People continue to believe that this is acceptable, that we can let people live like that and that these people are not important.
We have an opportunity to grow the rural economy in regions like mine. There is huge potential, but we are currently unable to grow this economy because we cannot house the people that could contribute to it. We cannot send workers there, even though there are jobs available and businesses are closing their doors because of the labour shortage. I find it difficult to understand how the government can say that they are going to invest this money in the next term of office when there are glaring needs now.
We know very well that the housing is not going to magically appear the moment the money is allocated. It has to be built, and we have to find the people to do it. Projects do not get built overnight.
Right now, what the government is doing is compromising the future childhoods of children who are yet to be born. In the small towns that I spoke about, the last time low-income housing units were built was when I was about five years old. The government is undermining these people's entire childhoods and teenage years. They will not see any investments in housing until they are grown up. I think that is unacceptable.
It is also important to understand that not having anywhere to live or spending 75% of one's income on housing causes a lot of other problems. It is unfortunate, but the adage about having to spend money to make money is true. If people are spending 75% of their income on housing, they will not have any money left over to pay for a car that will help them to earn a better salary and a better income. They need a car because they have no other way of getting to work.
There is no public transportation because there are not enough riders. It is extremely important to understand that housing is an immediate need, and I sincerely hope that the government will take into account my region's needs. It is high time that the members opposite woke up.