(i) the cost of housing continues to rise out of reach of Canadians,
(ii) current government policy has failed to provide sufficient housing supply,
the House call on the government to:
(a) examine a temporary freeze on home purchases by non-resident foreign buyers who are squeezing Canadians out of the housing market;
(b) replace the government's failed First-Time Home Buyer Incentive with meaningful action to help first-time homebuyers;
(c) strengthen law enforcement tools to halt money laundering;
(d) implement tax incentives focused on increasing the supply of purpose-built market rental housing units; and
(e) overhaul its housing policy to substantively increase housing supply.
He said: Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for .
In the “Building the Future Together” report, Canadians told the government that the most important outcome from the national housing strategy would be “an increase in the supply of housing that they can afford and that meets their needs.”
At a time when many expected the cost of real estate to drop, prices skyrocketed to stratospheric levels, leaving young Canadians, new immigrants and those seeking to enter the housing market with a general feeling of hopelessness as their dream of home ownership slipped away.
I table this motion today because housing is farther out of reach than ever before, and we find ourselves in an affordability crisis across the housing continuum. I will be using my time to speak to each aspect of the motion and to address the integrity measures, demand policies and supply deficit in our housing system. This crisis is multi-faceted and there are no easy solutions, but the status quo is not okay.
My first point addresses Canada's foreign buyer issue. We need to calmly, openly and comprehensively talk about the very real and at times negative role foreign buyers play in Canada's residential real estate markets. We know the actions of foreign speculators and investors are increasing home prices for regular Canadians.
Dr. Josh Gordon's report, “Reconnecting the Housing Market to the Labour Market: Foreign Ownership and Housing Affordability in Urban Canada”, has found that the decoupling of housing prices from local incomes can occur, and arguably is occurring in Vancouver and Toronto especially, when there is substantial foreign ownership in the market. This is defined as “the use of untaxed foreign income and wealth for housing purchases”.
While he makes good use of the data at hand, in my conversations with Dr. Gordon it became clear that the available data is insufficient. CMHC, StatsCan, and provinces and territories need to be collecting better data for this reason. For instance, a CMHC study found that in 2016-17, one in five new Vancouver condos was owned by non-residents, but we need more current and more comprehensive data. Housing in Canada must be for Canadians, first and foremost.
If we do not have the data, we cannot achieve this objective. The government's own publicly admits that our system works better for foreign investors than for Canadians trying to find homes. However, the government's solution is a proposed 1% annual tax. It has not even begun consultations on this yet, and the exemptions are already longer than my arm.
Will the government commit to a meaningful disincentive to foreign buying of Canadian real estate? Why not a 10% tax? Better yet, the government should do what this motion calls for and freeze the flow of foreign money into our residential real estate sector until the supply deficit has been met and Canadians can afford homes in their own country.
People are losing faith in the institutions that are supposed to protect their interests. When the pandemic ends, and before foreign investors come back to our markets in force, we need to know who is purchasing homes and the sources of the funds they are using. UBC Professor Paul Kershaw of Generation Squeeze has suggested harnessing foreign investment for the types of housing Canada needs, such as co-operatives and affordable purpose-built rentals.
Point number two addresses first-time home buyers. We must ensure that there is a pathway for hard-working Canadians to achieve home ownership, but this dream is quickly moving out of reach for the middle class. Home ownership should not be based on being born to wealthy parents. It should be based on hard work and a fair system.
Habitat for Humanity recently shared that “home ownership matters for every social determinant of health”. Home ownership lifts families and helps them build bright futures for themselves.
The Liberal government, unfortunately, is absent on this issue. Its first-time homebuyer incentive program is a failure. Its original objective was to help 200,000 Canadians over three years. We are now in year two, and it has helped approximately 10,600 families. How on Earth can the government consider this program successful?
Why does it not look at extending amortization periods and mortgage terms to reduce monthly payments and provide more security for both lenders and borrowers, or help young families save for down payments through tax incentives?
What about adjusting mortgage qualification criteria in favour of first-time home buyers rather than investors, or expanding some of the initiatives from the private sector, including new shared equity programs?
The third point is money laundering in Canada. Yet another failure of Canada is our inability to address money laundering. The reason terms like the “Vancouver model” and “snow-washing” exist is because our nation is a global case study in how not to stop money laundering. Not only are our laws and regulations ineffective, but we poorly enforce the ones we have. Report after report shows that Canada largely fails to successfully convict money launderers. Almost three-quarters of people accused go free, a 2019 Global News investigation found. The Toronto Star found that 86% of charges laid for laundering the proceeds of crime were withdrawn or stayed. B.C.'s Attorney General shockingly found years ago that Ottawa had assigned precisely zero RCMP officers to fight money laundering in B.C. That changed only after January of this year.
At the finance committee, Transparency International highlighted that the 2016 release of the Panama papers showcased Canada's global reputation as a desirable place for dirty cash. Five years later it found that nothing had changed.
The government needs to implement recommendations from the numerous experts who have explored this issue. These include Peter German's “Dirty Money” reports parts 1 and 2, the Expert Panel on Combatting Money Laundering in B.C. Real Estate and the ongoing Cullen commission of inquiry into money laundering in B.C.
The fourth point is purpose-built rentals. Purpose-built rental construction has not kept pace with demand. Quite simply, there are no incentives for developers to build rental units in Canada and this needs to change. Much of Canada's current rental housing stock was built in the 1970s and 1980s through the multiple unit residential building program, or MURB. It was not a grant or a loan program, but a tax incentive program that unlocked the private capital of Canadians and directed it to rental housing. According to the Library of Parliament, MURB is estimated to have led to the construction of 195,000 units of rental housing at the lowest estimate. Studies have indicated that number could be as high as 344,000 units. It did all of this for the comparably low cost of $1.8 billion in forgone revenue, and that is in today's dollars.
The government is spending $70 billion on the national housing strategy, including provincial money, for 125,000 units. At some level, the federal Liberals know this is the way to go, hence the rental construction financing initiative, but this still ties developers to the federal bureaucratic process, which is slow. The Rental Construction Financing Initiative, RCFI, has quietly become the largest single funding envelope of the national housing strategy. Now at $25.75 billion, it promises to deliver 71,000 units of housing in approximately 10 years. This is not a great comparison with MURB's 195,000 units for $2 billion.
CMHC's new CEO, Romy Bowers, shared with the HUMA committee that the private sector is the only way we will meet Canada's housing needs. I agree. There are additional tools that could unshackle contractors as well. For instance, why not waive the GST for the construction of purpose-built market rental housing, or allow those with aging rental stock to defer the capital gain when selling provided the money is reinvested in rental housing? Increasing the nationwide stock of purpose-built market rental units serves to better everyone along the housing continuum. Canadians have never had more disposable income. Why not direct that to a social policy that could do some good?
The fifth point is increasing supply. We know Canada has a housing supply shortage. According to a recent Scotiabank report, Canada has the lowest number of housing units per 1,000 residents of any G7 country. Experts have been saying this for years, and COVID illustrated it better than anything else. Now many but not all of the policy levers to increase housing supply rest with provincial and municipal governments. Yes, red tape at these levels is a problem, but the federal government should incent the removal of restrictive zoning and NIMBYist bylaws by making any infrastructure investment conditional on their removal. Of course, any infrastructure funds must be accounted for transparently, unlike the current government's haphazard approach condemned by the Auditor General in report 9—
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak to the motion moved today by my colleague from Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon.
Housing is of fundamental importance to Canadians across the country. Most Canadians dream of having a house, a residence, a home, a place of their very own. Housing is also an essential need for many others who unfortunately do not have access to housing or the ability to buy a home. In other words, as the motion says, the cost of housing has increased so much that buying a house is quite simply not an option for many Canadian families right now, and especially young families. The cost of housing continues to rise as we speak. To sum up the situation we are currently facing, Canada's housing market is out of control.
Over the past two years, total housing sales in Canada increased by 75%, compared to the United States, where home prices increased by just 13%. In the past year, the average house price increased by 32%. That increase is nearly twice as high as the increase in the United States.
Available data from Canadian Real Estate Association statistics indicate that, in Quebec, housing prices have increased significantly since the start of the pandemic. In April 2020, the average cost of a house in Quebec was just under $340,000. By April 2021, the average cost of a house had climbed to nearly $450,000. That is a 32.6% increase.
Here is a brief overview of what has been happening in Quebec's regions. According to the Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers, in the first quarter of 2020, single-family home prices rose by 32% in Gatineau and 29% in Montreal. In Quebec City, prices went up by 15%; in Saguenay, 24%; in Sherbrooke, 32%; and in Trois-Rivières, 21%. The market is absolutely crazy. That is not my opinion. That is what Michel Girard said in his analysis of the real estate market, an article entitled “Un marché immobilier fou raide”, published on April 3.
Over the last year, residential construction has increased by 22%, despite the rising cost of materials, and has brought the share of housing in Canada's GDP to 9.3%. That is a record.
What are the Liberals doing about this unacceptable situation? Do they even realize the extent of the crisis?
The ministers, of course, have their canned answers and their talking points that they can repeat ad nauseam today, but they are once again unable to present a credible plan to fix the problem.
In May, the Bank of Canada reported that household debt and market instability had increased over the last year, as we have just seen. On the subject, the Bank of Canada said, “The vulnerability associated with elevated household indebtedness is significant and has increased over the past year.” It also said, “If house prices and household incomes were to fall in the future because of a shock to the economy, some households could need to cut back on spending. This would slow the economy and possibly put stress on the financial system.”
The Governor of the Bank of Canada pointed out six vulnerabilities that could lead to the collapse of Canada's financial networks if they were affected by a severe external shock, such as a recession. Two of the six vulnerabilities identified were related to housing. The first is the high level of debt that Canadians have been forced to take on in order to buy a house and the second is the ever-increasing cost of housing and accommodations.
Bank of Canada researchers believe that households whose mortgages represent over 450% of their income are particularly vulnerable to bankruptcy. There are already very telling figures with regard to bankruptcy and financial hardship. According to Government of Quebec real estate statistics, the number of acts of financial difficulty increased by 49% from April 2020 to April 2021, going from 357 to 533 acts, even though interest rates are still very low right now.
Generally speaking, when Canadians are continually forced to increase their already high levels of debt because of an imbalance between supply and demand, Canada's future growth is at risk.
Unfortunately, the government is not really doing anything when it comes to giving Canadians access to affordable, or even adequate, housing. The current policy has failed to create a sufficient supply of housing to meet the demand in Canada. As a result of this failure, young Canadian families are having more and more difficulty obtaining affordable housing. That is a reality that far too many young couples and families are facing as first-time homebuyers. Housing options are limited and out of reach. The pandemic boom, as we could call it, has resulted in a 30% increase in housing prices in many cities and towns in Canada.
One of the Liberal government's solutions in budget 2021 was to impose a 1% tax on foreign owners of vacant housing. Unfortunately, this policy is nothing but a farce. What is 1% to ultra-rich foreign business people who see their investment grow by between 20% and 40% in a single year? This is merely a minor inconvenience for wealthy foreigners. Meanwhile, the situation is a disaster for many Canadians who continue to put their dreams of owning a home on hold. The fact is that speculative foreign buyers in the Canadian real estate market distort the market and ultimately put home ownership out of reach for Canadian families and workers.
Rather than simply inconveniencing foreign buyers, the government should seriously consider a temporary freeze on home purchases by non-resident foreigners. If the government really was concerned about foreign speculation, it would have taken concrete action by now.
Why does the government refuse to do something about the fact that the Canadian housing market is secure for foreign investment but unaffordable for Canadians? Why is the government turning its back on young families while continually allowing foreigners to buy up properties on the market in order to make a quick buck and, in many cases perhaps, pursue illicit activities?
Steps should also be taken to get rid of the Liberal government's failed first-time home buyer incentive. This program, designed to provide eligible buyers with an interest-free government loan, is a huge failure. A year and a half into this three-year program and only 9,100 homebuyers have used it. That is a far cry from the 100,000 buyers the Liberals anticipated would use the program when they introduced it. Not only did Canadians reject the idea of the government having a financial stake in their home, but this program does nothing to resolve the accessibility problem currently plaguing Canada's housing market.
Housing experts note that the program's eligibility rules simply do not reflect the reality of the skyrocketing prices of homes in Canada's largest cities and, as we are now seeing, in the majority of the towns and municipalities in every province across Canada. The $1.25-billion amount that was given to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to operate this program could certainly be better used to legitimately help first-time homebuyers in Canada.
The housing supply is insufficient, so the government needs to focus on building more housing. As a result of policies introduced by Pierre Elliott Trudeau in the 1970s, Canada has not managed to build enough housing to meet the needs of our growing population, which led to the crisis we are now seeing. While low interest rates and other economic factors did contribute to this situation, the policies unfortunately did nothing to address the housing shortage plaguing our market.
In conclusion, Canadians cannot ignore this issue any longer. We need to ensure that Canadians no longer have to shoulder the cost of the Liberals' mismanagement. We need real measures to even out the housing market and provide housing for the young families and Canadians who really need it.
Madam Speaker, I just spoke with a London city councillor about the impact the tragedy of the last few days has had on her community and on the city of London. I am also thinking of members of my own riding, their walks to mosque and what that is like these days. I too would like to add my voice to a chorus of voices that are calling for us all as Canadians to be better in fighting racism and Islamophobia. That is where my heart is, even if the words that I am now going to share are focused on housing.
I have often risen in this House and said anytime the House of Commons talks about housing, it is a good day. No one will ever find an MP who fights harder for more affordable housing, whether the choice is to own or rent. It is a fundamental human right and I am very proud to be part of a government that has legislated the right to housing into a national housing strategy, that has brought forth federal leadership, which started to disappear in the late 1980s and was devastated by the cuts that were made in the early 1990s. I am very proud to be part of a government that has changed course. I am very proud that my party has embraced housing as a federal responsibility and has invested now close to $72 billion and beyond, if we include some of the indigenous investments as well, to change the conversation on housing in this country.
The Conservatives will talk about market solutions and New Democrats will talk about social housing, but my party will talk about both. While the Bloc may think it is just a federal responsibility, the reality is that housing Canadians and meeting the fundamental rights of Canadians is all governments' responsibility. Whether it is an indigenous government, a municipal government, a provincial government or a federal government, we all must tackle this housing crisis together, we all must end homelessness together and we all must make sure that Canadians have a housing system that meets their needs and supports their choices, whether it is to rent or own.
Our government has made historic investments. If we take the rapid housing initiative alone, with $1 billion over the last six months, it created 4,777 units of housing for homeless individuals. That $1 billion did more in six months than the Harper Conservatives did in eight years. We have added $1.5 billion to that program and hope to get even more remarkable results.
What is also amazing about that particular investment is that as we move toward an urban, rural and northern indigenous-led housing strategy and deliver on that program, while working very hard with indigenous housing providers to realize the funding and that program, almost a third of the housing that was delivered to the rapid housing initiative was delivered to indigenous housing providers in urban, rural and northern spaces. The largest investment in the history of the Northwest Territories was part of that announcement and for the programs and projects that we could not pick up through rapid housing, we applied the co-investment fund.
Let me help the House understand exactly how the national housing strategy is working and how much more work it needs to do. As I said, I will always support a call for more action, more investment and more thought on this issue. The national housing strategy approaches every single component of the spectrum of housing, from homelessness to people with high-income needs that require deep subsidies to secure their housing. We have to also make sure that people who are in rental housing are protected in that space, can afford their rental housing and save to buy a house, if that is the choice they want to make. We also have to make sure there are pathways and bridges to home ownership for new buyers so that people can secure their place in the housing market and the housing system in this country.
However, we also have to make sure that the market is stable. While I have no interest in protecting the speculative equity that is created in the housing sector, that is not my focus, we have to make sure that when people purchase homes, the market does not collapse around them and erode the principal they put down to acquire their housing. We have to protect the housing market as we also deliver social housing solutions, as we make sure we end chronic homelessness in this country and deal with the different regional, urban, rural and northern dynamics that challenge so many people in this country to find safe, secure and affordable housing.
Our national housing strategy, the $72-billion program, addresses all of these issues, from supply to maintenance to subsidy to purpose-built supportive housing. It is a comprehensive strategy that I am very proud of, but it is built on almost 50 years of housing policy in this country. In fact, if we go back far enough, to the 1800s, we will see that the west was settled with offers of free homes. It has always been a federal policy to secure the growth of this country with strong investments in housing.
What has the national housing strategy accomplished? Let us review some of the accomplishments and take a look at the plan that was introduced in 2017. It was a $40-billion plan, but in every single budget, we have added additional dollars to get more supply, more options and more choice in front of Canadians.
As we look at some of the extraordinary records, one of them is the move to get purpose-built rental housing being built again in this country. We have invested, as the member who introduced the motion identified, close to $25 billion in supports to deliver new purpose-built rental housing.
When I was a city councillor in Toronto, we were building fewer than 60 purpose-built rental housing units every decade. There are now 2,400 units being built in my riding alone. That is across the street in the new riding, where there is purpose-built rental housing in partnership with the private sector. These new, permanent affordable housing units are just the start, because we have added additional dollars. There is a major program coming out with an indigenous group in Vancouver, the Musgamagw, that is also now getting support from our government. Why? Because we have a program that focuses on purpose-built rental housing.
That is one part of it, but there is also the co-investment fund. The co-investment fund was ridiculed by the House leader for the NDP. He said we should not be focusing on repairing housing units. I was at a housing announcement in Burnaby where we stepped up and repaired a co-op housing program. If we had not stepped up, it would have lost the units of housing. We would lose affordable housing just where we need to build it.
The co-investment fund provides funding to get projects started. It provides funding to repair social housing and government housing. There is a $1.3-billion transfer to the City of Toronto to deal with TCHC's repair backlog. That funding protocol has now been replicated in Hamilton where it is tackling its funding backlog. It has also been attached to the city of Victoria. The city of Victoria was very close to being at functional zero on homelessness before COVID happened and ran into some headwinds, but the co-investment fund has partnered to deliver hundreds and hundreds of units. I have been there with Mayor Helps to open the units, to look at the units to see their very imaginative approach to building housing.
The targets and the dollars that are arriving are substantial. There is also the rapid housing initiative, but partnered with that is the Reaching Home program. The Reaching Home program, which started out as the homelessness partnership strategy, introduced by a Liberal government in the late nineties, untouched by the Conservatives for their eight years in rule, has not only been doubled in size, which is what we did in our first budget in 2015, the funding is now a half a billion dollars a year.
To put that in contrast to where the NDP members want to take it, if we go back to their 2015 election campaign, they promised a one-time infusion of $60 million into the homelessness partnership strategy and that was it. We not only doubled that investment immediately, but at the start of COVID we doubled it again and now we have made that doubling of the Reaching Home program close to $400 million to $500 million a year over the next three years. We wired that into the system to help us realize the goal of ending chronic homelessness.
The other thing that our national housing strategy has done, which is quite remarkable, is that it has restored the funding agreements and the subsidies to co-op housing right across the country. These were set to expire. If we had done nothing, if we had not taken office in 2015, the federal government would be spending less than $1 billion a year on housing right now. That was the Conservative trajectory for social housing.
Not only have we invested $72 billion in construction and repair, but the subsidies we put in place are making housing even more affordable for people. For example, the co-ops that saw their agreements expire have now been picked up and reinvested in. Subsidies to the rent geared to income have been restored, not just to the co-ops that were still on the books, but also the ones that lapsed while the Conservatives were in power. We brought them back on. This year's budget finishes that job and brings the entire co-op sector into one unified program for the very first time in the history of the country. Instead of having these agreements expire overnight, they are now on a timetable under the national housing strategy legislation. That agreement must be renewed before it expires in 2027. We have the co-op housing sector back whole and we are starting to build. In fact, I just had a text message from the Co-op Housing Federation of Toronto that seed money for a new co-op has just been advanced by CMHC and I had thanks from the federation.
We are now in the position of building and adding to the co-op sector because is exactly what the national housing strategy envisioned. We have put federal lands into the mix and we are adding federal lands where we can to the housing programs. In Ottawa, for example, there is a new housing project that is being built on federal lands with federal support to realize the housing aspirations of the city of Ottawa and the Region of Ottawa-Carleton.
Everywhere we go across the country, we are seeing change happen. Is it enough? Of course it is not enough. As long as we have people sleeping in tents, in ravines and by rivers, as long as we have homeless shelters still populated by people without housing, there will be work to do.
This government has set about changing what I think was the biggest mistake a Liberal government ever made, which was the cancellation of the national housing programs in the early nineties. It has reinvested now and brought back a strong, cohesive and comprehensive policy that is moving the dial in the right direction on every single housing front.
However, the issue being spoken to in this motion is not the social housing investments we have made. It is about how we are helping first-time buyers achieve their dream of home ownership. We put in a tax on offshore speculators, we brought in new rules around beneficial ownership to disclose who is behind some of these very questionable real estate deals and we put in a shared equity agreement for first-time homebuyers. For the first time ever, CMHC is starting to model its programs around regional housing markets and not just here in Canada as one large housing market. Hopefully this spurs even more people on to home ownership.
We are also bringing in new block funding for things like Habitat for Humanity, which is now working with equity-deserving groups, equity-seeking groups, to meet the housing needs of very particular communities that have very low rates of home ownership to help secure their movement into the middle class and to secure their place in Canadian society and the Canadian economy.
That $58-million block grant to Habitat for Humanity is also starting to build homes in indigenous communities as well. I was up in Tobermory with the Chippewas of Nawash to watch them as they broke ground and started the construction of 19 new homes, which was funded with Habitat for Humanity program dollars but supported with national housing strategy funding as well.
Everywhere one goes from coast to coast to coast, whether it is Nanaimo, Kelowna, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto or St. John's, one can find national housing strategy money at work. Is it enough? No. As long as we have a housing crisis, we have work to do and more to invest.
What I can say is that going back to the days of the Conservatives, where we had a prime minister who did not want to touch housing policy, where we have a party that thinks it is only a question of supply but only supply into the private sector and only supply as it relates to first-time homebuyers, is not going to work. If we allow the continual creep of financialization and we do not support our partner governments in delivering housing, we are simply not going to solve this crisis.
The $72-billion program is moving every one of those parts of the housing continuum forward, and we are finding new ways to do it in ways that are innovative, from modular housing to barging houses up to Iqaluit and realizing the renewal of housing with loans for the greening of our housing stock and the upgrading of the energy performance and making it more livable. We are also doing things like requiring to overachieve on energy efficiency in new builds when it comes to social housing.
We are also, for the first time ever, requiring that universal design be a characteristic of all new builds at 20%. We are also providing funds to retrofit old buildings to make them more accessible for people with disabilities. We are also making sure when we partner up that we lock in provincial spending levels so as federal dollars arrive at the front door, provincial governments are not allowed to take it out the back door and simply tread water.
We are also working with our infrastructure dollars to make sure transit investments have a positive impact on social housing construction, and we are tying social housing goals to our infrastructure investments to make sure as we invest and create strong communities, we build communities for all. Again, it is not part of the national housing strategy but it is part of this government's approach to housing and making sure all Canadians have the housing opportunities they need and have their choices realized.
I respect the fact it has been a very difficult year in the housing market for Canadians and respect the fact some of the ideas the Conservatives are talking about require more action on the part of this government. I understand it, but to say we have done nothing is wrong. To say we have not focused on every part of the housing continuum is wrong as well. To say it is only a question of social housing, market housing or supply is equally oversimplifying a very complex issue.
I am proud to be part of a government that has restored leadership in federal housing. I am proud to be part of a government that is building more co-ops, more rentals and more homes for more people than at any other time in the last 30 years in this country. I agree, there is more to do, and we will continue to add dollars to the national housing strategy, new chapters.
The next one coming is the urban, rural and northern indigenous housing program for indigenous by indigenous. We are building on the report from the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, we are building with the housing advisory council and we are building with indigenous housing providers to deliver on that commitment, and we will.
Until we have every Canadian housed, we are open to criticism. All governments will be open to criticism. Until we solve this housing crisis, there will be work to be done. I hope that all parliamentarians will join me in supporting the initiatives we presented in budget 2021.
I hope the Conservatives can reverse course and start voting for things like a tax on vacant and foreign-owned homes. I hope they can support our measures around benefits for home ownership. I hope they can support the rapid housing investment of $1.5 billion, the rapid housing 2.0 that I spoke of, to deliver even more housing to the most vulnerable Canadians.
I hope they can find it in their hearts to start supporting the investments we are making on reserves and with the distinctions-based programs with the Métis council, the ITK, AFN and partner indigenous governments.
I hope they can support the movements we have made around investing in repairs, boosting the Canada housing benefit and targeting in particular women escaping domestic violence, because we know how hard women in that sector have it when they look for housing with their kids, coming out of a very dangerous and precarious place.
I hope they can support more than doubling the investments we are making in Reaching Home, and now the half-billion-dollar annual investments.
I hope they can reverse the policy they used to have, which forbade federal funds to support young teenagers who are homeless. They actually had a policy, which was one of the most mind-blowing policies any government has ever produced around housing. The Conservative government under Stephen Harper had a policy that if a young person was homeless on the street, they had to stay homeless for six months before federal dollars could support them getting into permanent housing.
Imagine taking the most vulnerable kids in this country and punishing them for six months for running away from home. At the time, the minister said they did not want to incent young people to run away from home. People run away from home to live on the street because they are escaping an even more precarious and dangerous situation. Instead of finding a way to house young people, the Conservative government actually, by policy, left those kids on the street for six months before it would allow Reaching Home dollars to support them with rent supplements.
Policy after policy after policy in the Conservative playbook did nothing for the hardest to house in this country. As I said, when I covered my last story as a reporter, I was so infuriated by the Conservatives' approach to housing that I left journalism and entered politics at the local level. When I saw no progress being made in Ottawa at all, I left city council and ran federally to re-establish leadership on this file. I am very proud of the response that the and cabinet have had. I am very proud of the work our caucus has done. I am very proud of the work of a lot of opposition members who have housing projects in their community.
To pretend that we have done nothing is just political spin. To demand we do more is the demand we hear every day from our constituents and the people we represent. We are with them on that path to do more and do better, because more is possible; better is always possible. There is more to do. There is more to come, and we will not rest until the right to housing is realized by all Canadians, regardless of which choice they want to make, to rent or to own. Whichever part of the country they choose to live in, we have a responsibility as the federal government to create a housing system that meets their needs.
Our national housing strategy, now at $72 billion, does exactly that. We will work with our partner orders of government, indigenous, municipal, provincial and territorial, to deliver on these commitments. We are not done yet, but it is getting better. As it gets better, I hope the opposition parties can join us in pushing even more housing through the budget process, even more housing through the approval process, and get Canadians the housing they rightfully deserve.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my friend, the hon. member for .
The housing issue is a major cause of concern. Like food and clothing, housing is an essential need. Any self-respecting society must at least be able to ensure that every individual has access to housing.
The cost of housing must also be reasonable. These concerns are shared by virtually every country, city and village in the world. No place in the world seems to be immune to rental and real estate market disruptions, despite the fact that we do not live like Jack London’s People of the Abyss.
When a problem arises, solutions appear to be varied and complex, and several crises have shown that, when the situation gets out of hand, it can be serious and long-lived, causing much suffering. We need to take this very seriously, we need to be concerned about the housing shortage and skyrocketing rents, and we have to take strong and concrete action right now.
It has become difficult to access not only affordable housing, but home ownership as well. People’s ability to become homeowners must be protected at all costs. On this, I would like to refer to Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. In this book, Piketty stresses the historical importance of the emergence of the middle class. Higher income levels allowed the middle class to build up a little capital, which largely manifested in the purchase of property. It was a real revolution, and we must preserve our gains.
Preserving the ability of the working class to become homeowners is a crucial issue for anyone who wants to live in a society where wealth is not over-concentrated. Today, though, how can a person who earns $45,000 a year, the median salary in Quebec, buy a $690,000 house, the median price of a home in Montreal?
Even a $385,000 house is virtually out of reach. Still, that is the median price of a house in the most affordable area, the north shore of Montreal. Even with two salaries it is very difficult to afford buying, even a condo.
We are witnessing an alignment between income and real estate and rent prices. Prices of real estate are rising, making it a good investment for people who can afford it. However, rising real estate costs reduce home ownership opportunities for the less fortunate, which is eroding the middle class. The situation is leading us away from the type of society we want.
Skyrocketing real estate prices have led to a boom in rental costs. Individuals and families are spending far too large a percentage of their income on housing. As a general rule, housing costs should not exceed one third of income, and ideally they should account for about a quarter. Unfortunately, this is less and less the case. We are now at the point where this basic need is becoming less and less affordable.
Let me give two examples. Today, if I want to rent a small apartment in Montreal, I will have to pay $1,200 a month. This is 30% higher than in 2019, and three and a half times more than I was paying when I was in university about 20 years ago. Obviously, salaries have not increased by 30% since the beginning of the pandemic, and they have not tripled in the past 20 years. The upshot is that many individuals and families are devoting a much larger proportion of their income to housing. The corollary is that they have to cut down on other costs. First they cut out the little extras and treats, but they soon find themselves having to choose which basic needs to forgo. That is the point that regular folks have reached, and it is not acceptable.
My second example concerns Saint-Jean-de-Matha. About 15 years ago, I went to see a small house for sale on a nice lot right in the middle of town. The house was really cute. The seller, a friend of mine, was embarrassed to ask for $34,000 because he had bought the house from another friend a few years earlier for $25,000. That is how things are in Saint-Jean-de-Matha: everyone knows each other, and everyone is friends with one another. He ended up selling his house for $30,000 because he could not bring himself to price it at full market value. Today, that house or its equivalent would sell for at least $150,000. However, salaries have not increased 500% in the past 15 years. The price will probably even continue to rise, because $150,000 is well below the median house price on the north shore, never mind in Montreal proper.
In recent decades, there has been an overall increase in residential real estate prices and rents. Of course, all this has gotten worse since the beginning of the pandemic. It is not all that surprising, since people spent more on housing during the pandemic. There were fewer places to spend money, and people wanted to spend the lockdown in a bigger place with more space. However, this latest surge in prices is highlighting a problem that has existed for decades. There are several factors involved, and there is no simple solution for stabilizing the market. Low interest rates played a role. Mortgage payments are monthly. When interest rates fall, people can buy a more expensive home and keep the same monthly payment. That makes sense.
However, when interest rates begin to rise again, then they are in trouble. That is why I agree with the new measure that requires people to demonstrate their ability to pay a higher interest rate before they obtain financing. That should help bring the market to a more acceptable level.
Obviously, the issue of foreign investors is troubling. The promise to grant citizenship to a person who comes and buys a $500,000 condo has always been a bad idea. The goal was to attract capital, but it caused real estate prices to climb and reduced the number of available housing units, since these condos usually sit empty. This sucks the life out of the downtown cores, because there are not as many people living there. We need to revise this policy, and I am not certain that the 1% tax will help.
We are having the same type of problem with foreign money laundering in real estate, which is causing prices to shoot up and reducing the number of housing units available. We need to address this problem as well, since it is unacceptable and extremely detrimental.
We also have to tackle the issue of Airbnb and other sharing platforms. The prospect of renting one's home to a tourist is appealing, but it becomes problematic when many homes are rented to tourists and are no longer used to house people. That exacerbates scarcity and drives up rent. That has to change.
The government plays an essential role in the social housing supply. When it plays its role well, it supports low-income individuals and families and indirectly helps keep prices more realistic across the market. Unfortunately, Ottawa has been neglecting that role for nearly 30 years. New investments are still nowhere near historical levels, and that has consequences. When Ottawa chose to cut funding for social housing, it was well aware that its decision would lead to misery and distress, and it knew full well that its actions would contribute to the problems we are having today.
I welcome the new funding for social housing and homelessness. It is a step in the right direction, but it is not nearly enough. Actual dollar amounts may have increased, but Ottawa has in fact reduced its funding as a percentage of GDP. We need the government to keep up, not gradually fall behind. I also condemn the lack of predictability and the unjustified delays in transferring the money to Quebec.
The Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain, or FRAPRU, points out the importance of specifically targeting social housing.
Whether it is co-operative, non-profit or public, social housing protects tenants from exorbitant rent increases, repossessions and renovictions.
We must also remember the whole issue of housing for first nations people, especially in urban areas. That is very important.
Let us also consider that with such an increase in housing prices and rent, we should expect an increase in residential construction, because an increase in the housing stock will help rebalance market forces. We must figure out how to juggle the land shortage and the issue of urban sprawl, while bearing in mind concerns about climate change. This increase is also held back by the availability of resources. Building housing takes time, and we are currently seeing that the construction sector cannot meet demand. As a result, prices are increasing, especially for building materials.
I would like to remind my colleagues that Quebec and the provinces have exclusive jurisdiction over housing. Since housing needs vary considerably depending on the socio-demographic context, the provincial and municipal governments are in a better position to assess and identify their residents' needs, since they are closer to local issues. They are asking the federal government to increase funding for social housing and to immediately transfer the necessary funds to Quebec and the provinces, no strings attached.
In conclusion, I would like to remind members how important it is to have a healthy real estate market. The well-being of regular people and the less fortunate depends on it. That is the type of society we want to live in. We must also watch out for real estate bubbles. Think about the bubble in Tokyo in the 1990s, when the land value of downtown Tokyo surpassed the value of the entire state of California, or the subprime crisis in the U.S. When these bubbles burst, there are always terrible consequences, and we need to avoid them at all costs.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by echoing the comments made by the , the , the leader of the Bloc Québécois and the leader of the NDP earlier regarding the tragic events that occurred in London yesterday.
Like all Canadians, I was shocked by what I heard about this tragic event. We obviously still have not found the right words in this country to ensure that events like this do not happen again. On behalf of all Quebeckers and all Canadians, my thoughts go out to little Fayez Salman, who is about to go through a truly difficult time. We need to do more, and we need to do better. I think this is the responsibility of all Canadians, including all parliamentarians. That is what I wanted to say about what happened in London.
Now, as for the motion before us, I am quite happy to be talking about it, to say the least. At the same time, a question comes to mind. This is a Conservative motion. Today in the House, we are going to talk about housing, at the behest of the Conservatives.
I have been an MP for a year and a half. I was elected a year and a half ago, and I am the Bloc Québécois housing and homelessness critic. I do not recall seeing the Conservatives rise once on the issue of housing. I do not remember seeing that at all.
Are they doing this because there is an election on the horizon? They might be thinking that it is time to talk about housing, which seems to be an issue since there is a housing crisis. No, I did not forget. I have just never heard them say a word about it. I am not always here, but it is an important issue. There is a housing crisis going on in Quebec and Canada. In fact, it is more complicated than that. There was a housing crisis before. Now there is a pandemic housing crisis, and there will be a housing crisis later.
I recently spoke with members of the Réseau solidarité itinérance du Québec. According to them, we are going through a health crisis, but we are facing a social crisis that could last five to 10 years. They think that the adverse effects of the current pandemic will linger for years.
The government we have right now is not doing anything, or at least not enough. There are problems with housing, and the government needs to step up. I want to give some context about how this crisis is playing out in Quebec. What is the issue?
Right now, there are 450,000 households in Quebec in serious need of housing. That is equivalent to about five or six federal ridings' worth of people who are spending 30% of their income on housing or living in substandard or inadequate housing. Some people may be paying a reasonable amount, but to share a one-bedroom apartment with seven other people. That does not work.
Some 200,000 households are spending more than 50% of their income on housing. These figures are from before the pandemic. Last, but not least, is a shocking figure that I have been repeating in the House for the past year and a half. I do not even understand how we can allow this to happen. Before the crisis, 82,000 households in Quebec were spending more than 80% of their income on housing.
To give members an idea of what that means, 80% of an income of $20,000 means that $16,000 is spent on housing, with nothing or practically nothing left over. If we divide the remaining $4,000 by 12 months, members can just imagine what kind of life that is. My mother called it living in squalor. We are letting that happen.
Right now, in Quebec, 40,000 households are on the waiting list for low-rental housing in Longueuil, Saint-Hyacinthe, Rimouski, Brossard and Montreal. There are 23,000 households on the waiting list in Montreal alone.
We are talking about numbers. With regard to homelessness, Mayor Valérie Plante said that it appears the homeless population doubled during the pandemic. It went from 3,000 to 6,000 because people were made vulnerable by the crisis. We saw it last year in the streets. People set up camp along Notre-Dame Street. This year, they have been moved, but it does not seem as though the situation has been resolved.
We know that house prices have increased by about 20%. That also contributes to making people vulnerable. Obviously, the federal government has a role to play in this. Obviously, this is an area of provincial jurisdiction. In 2017, the federal government launched a major, multi-billion dollar strategy, saying that it would house everybody, that nothing like this had been done in 30 years, and that everyone would see that the government was going to take care of people, people who were vulnerable and at risk.
I do not remember how many billions were promised as part of that strategy. For three years, the federal government spent money everywhere in Canada except Quebec. The crisis raged on, but no money was spent, not a penny. It took three years to sort the situation out, and the Canada-Quebec agreement was signed in October of last year. However, I have heard that sectoral agreements are still being signed and that things are still being worked out.
Earlier, while I was asking a question that my colleague, as usual, did not answer, I provided a striking example relating to renovations. The agreement includes nearly $1.2 billion to renovate decrepit low-rental housing. That is a good thing, and we are happy about it because our cities are full of boarded-up low-rental housing that we need to invest in.
In early May, as part of the agreement that was signed three years after the national housing strategy was launched in 2017, it was announced that 500 new units would be renovated in Montreal. However, no one could move into these units for three years.
If the agreement had been signed three years ago, we could have housed a single mother in my riding who was the victim of domestic violence. She made the headlines in the Journal de Montréal about a month ago. This poor woman does not have a home and is in a vulnerable position. She was trapped in a toxic relationship, but the government is doing nothing to help. In Longueuil, a single mother in her situation needs a two- or three-bedroom apartment, which costs between $1,500 and $1,700 a month. There are none to be had. If the federal government had acted quickly, instead of trying to get its flag on the cheques to show that it was the one providing housing for people, this woman would already have a place to live.
The government has finally reacted. Let us put the agreement aside and talk about the rapid housing initiative, or RHI, that was launched by the government last fall. I must admit that it is not a bad program, but it is grossly underfunded.
The first part of the program was for the big cities and had a budget of $500 million, which is scandalous in and of itself. Of that $500 million, Toronto received $200 million, Montreal $57 million and Quebec City $7 million or $8 million. Why is that? In Quebec, we have 23% of the population, but we received only 11% of the money. Is that because our needs are not as great? I never got a decent answer to that question.
The second part of the RHI was for everyone: non-profit organizations, other organizations and towns, among others. An application portal was opened and that is when we really saw the crisis come to the surface, when the program received applications for projects worth a total of as much as $4.2 billion. However, the envelope for that second part of the program was only $500 million.
The applications were for projects for people with real needs, desperate needs: victims of spousal abuse, addicts, people suffering with mental illness. We know what mental illness is. We have talked about it quite a bit throughout the crisis. We could have taken care of those people.
The organizations that submitted project applications were not just a bunch of guys who had nothing better to do between periods in a hockey game and so decided to submit a project to address domestic violence before the start of the third period. The application process is complicated, and these are serious individuals who know and care about the needs of their communities. The projects were valued at over $4 billion, but there was only $500 million in the envelope. When we talk about underfunding and say that people's needs are not being met, that is what we are talking about.
Meanwhile, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which represents municipalities across Canada, whether it be Calgary, Toronto, Victoriaville or Rimouski, applied for $7 billion under this same program. It saw an opportunity and thought that it was a good program and that the government was reinvesting.
In closing, while I have probably made my point to the members of the House, I would still like to reiterate that the government is not doing enough and not moving fast enough. We are not taking care of people and ensuring they are properly housed. We need massive reinvestment in social housing and we need it now.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the fantastic member for .
Like the member for , I was shocked to see that the Conservative motion is about housing. It is rare that we hear them talk about this subject. So much the better if their motion talks about housing because it is a real subject, a real issue and a real problem.
Does the motion present real solutions? That is another matter, and we can talk about it later.
Housing is a critical issue that affects thousands of people in Montreal, Quebec and across Canada. Obviously, my speech is going to focus on Montreal because that is where my riding is located. There is a real housing crisis in my riding. It is not the only place in Quebec that has been affected by the crisis, but it is one of the places that has been hardest hit by it.
The vacancy rate is approximately 1%, which is extremely low. That means that people do not have a lot of choices. Sometimes they are even forced to stay where they are because there are no other options available. Some housing units are dangerous and can jeopardize the health of their occupants. I will come back to that later.
As I was saying, the vacancy rate is really low. The delay regarding the Canada-Quebec agreement exacerbated the crisis. The federal government waited three years before releasing the funds and getting out the shovels and bricks to start real housing projects. Unfortunately, Quebec has been the last in line when it comes to housing.
The vacancy rate puts intense pressure on both the rental market and on home ownership. People are paying ridiculously high prices for housing. In Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, 74% of residents are renters. I recently saw a two-bedroom apartment going for $1,750 a month. A two-bedroom apartment cannot house a big family. Furthermore, I wonder what kind of job someone needs to have to be able to pay $1,750 a month. The average income is around $40,000 or $45,000 a year. Rent is, on average, $1,200 or $1,300. This puts a lot of pressure on workers, on the middle class and, obviously, the less fortunate.
Why is housing so important? It is because there are a few things we can do to help improve people's lives.
People need better working conditions. If someone earns more and inflation is not too high, they can increase their purchasing power. Higher wages are therefore a good thing.
The government can also use fiscal tools, such as taxes, to redistribute wealth and achieve greater equality within our society. One of the best ways to fight poverty and reduce inequality is to tackle the biggest expense for individuals, families and households. That biggest expense is rent.
Let us tackle that problem so we can really help people and lift them out of poverty. Maybe that just means giving them a little bit of a leg up to help improve their quality of life so they can take a vacation or go to a restaurant or the movies. When those activities are allowed, of course, but we all agree that it is coming.
Everyone knows that if a person spends more than 30% of their income on rent, they will end up poor and vulnerable. Right now, 20% of people spend more than 50% of their income on rent. In other words, one in five people spends more than half their paycheque on rent. That is outrageous. About 3,000 households or 6,000 to 7,000 people in Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie are in that situation. That is a lot of people.
As I said off the top, I was happy to read the Conservatives' motion. Then I started combing through it for a couple of words that turned out not to be there: “affordable” and “social”. The motion says nothing about affordable or social housing even though social housing in particular is the best way to help people get decent housing that is within their means. It is possible to create housing that costs people no more than 25% of their income, of their pay.
That makes a huge difference. It helps people in a tangible way. However, the Conservatives have disregarded this and have not included it among the options on the table, even if it is the best tool we have to help people and give them decent housing.
The Liberals occasionally talk about social housing, but they do not invest enough in it.
The Liberal plan, of which they are so proud, is to create 160,000 affordable or social housing units. I will get to what affordability means. The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness says that there is an urgent need to build 300,000 housing units in Canada. The plan in question, of which the Liberals are so proud, barely manages to offer half of what is needed to meet the needs of the population. Personally, I would not pat myself on the back as much as they do.
The NDP wants to go farther, faster. We want to make the kind of effort that has not been seen since the Second World War and build 500,000 new affordable social housing units in the next 10 years.
When we use the word “affordable”, we must consider certain criteria and be mindful of the definition. I will get right to the issue of affordability. As a matter of fact, depending on the definition, it can refer to some completely absurd situations. If our only criteria is that these units are rented 5% cheaper than the market average, which is exploding and reaching outrageous and ridiculous prices, we end up with housing that is considered “affordable”, but for which people need to have an outrageously high salary and an outrageously low standard of living.
According to the Liberal definition, in Ottawa, a unit that rents for $2,750 a month is considered affordable. The Liberal government thinks this is affordable for the poor and the middle class. I cannot wait to go door to door on this issue.
We need to be able to build housing outside the logic of the market. That is why the NDP puts so much emphasis on building social housing and co-operative housing, which is another way to deal with the housing problem. This goes beyond the single perspective of real estate developers, profits and business objectives. There is obviously room for a lucrative private real estate market. There is also nothing wrong with helping people get a better deal in the market and helping young families get into home ownership.
However, we must be able to keep a part of our real estate market outside the regular market. This would reflect the principles of public service, co-operation and mutual aid, and it would include housing co-operatives, for example, which are common in Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. These are great places to live, where people learn about co-operation, living together, sharing and local democracy. We have to continue to push in that direction.
We need to recognize that housing is a fundamental right and part of human dignity. For years now, the NDP has been introducing bills and fighting to have housing recognized as a right. That would make all the difference.
Speaking of making a difference, the federal government could still make a difference with investments and funding. I talked about 500,000 affordable social housing units, but there are also a lot of other things, such as working with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the CMHC, to make it easier for young families to access home ownership and to encourage the creation and maintenance of the co-op housing I was talking about.
We must also use federal land. There is federal land that is not being used and could be sold to private developers to build various projects. Why not set aside and use these federal lands to ensure that social housing is built, for example in the riding of Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs, in Montreal, where there are some very interesting sites? They should be set aside for social housing.
Locally, in Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, there is the issue of “renovictions”, when people are forced to leave their dwelling because of renovations. This does not fall under federal jurisdiction, but we must work with the provinces to come up with solutions.
As for housing safety and environmental health, I joined a protest near my office started by people who were unable to move out of their dwelling even though it contained mould and was dangerous for the occupants.
The La Petite Patrie housing committee is working extremely hard with regard to the construction of social housing close to the Bellechasse sector. The Rosemont housing committee is also working to have other properties designated entirely as community housing when new projects are built, which is interesting.
With regard to the former Centre de services scolaire de Montréal or CSDM building on Sherbrooke Street, the Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain, or FRAPRU, is asking that it be reserved for social housing.
I think that is an excellent idea and something we should consider.
Mr. Speaker, since the federal Liberal government walked away from the national housing program in 1993, Canada's housing crisis has escalated to a feverish pitch. In 2017, the federal Liberal government announced a national housing strategy. It even declared that adequate housing is a basic human right.
Two years after the announcement of the national housing strategy, in 2019, the Parliamentary Budget Officer noted that $11.6 billion of that is cost matched by the provinces. The PBO further said that the national housing strategy basically just maintains the funding at current levels, and in fact, the funding for those with core housing needs actually reduced slightly by 14%. The report said, “CMHC’s assumptions regarding the impact of [National Housing Strategy] outputs on housing need do not reflect the likely impact of those programs on the prevalence of housing need.”
The admitted on the public record that the Liberals double counted to inflate their numbers for rhetorical advantage. Even after this admission, the government shamelessly continued to use the inflated numbers in the throne speech.
We also saw that the vast majority of the funding to add new affordable housing stock was back-end loaded and in the form of loans. When eventually the trickle of money began to flow for new construction, the process was onerous, complicated and time-consuming. All the housing providers that tried to access the co-investment fund will know exactly what I am talking about. Canada is now losing more affordable housing and social housing than is being built.
Housing is a basic human right and eradicating poverty starts with ensuring that everyone has a roof over their head. Housing should not be treated like a stock market, and the current situation, where an estimated 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness every year and 1.7 million households are in core housing need, is a disgrace for a country as wealthy as ours. The Liberals' national housing strategy's goal to create between 150,000 to 160,000 units does not ensure housing is a basic human right.
The NDP shares FCM's view that the funding announced in budget 2021 does not yet meet our shared goal of ending chronic homelessness. Constantly falling short of what community housing providers are calling for is not how to treat a crisis. Resorting to double counting for rhetorical advantage might make the Liberals feel better about themselves, but it does not help the people on the ground.
Furthermore, the Parliamentary Budget Officer and housing policy expert Steve Pomeroy have repeatedly criticized the low affordability criteria of the RCFI, the largest national housing strategy program. For instance, the government announced a project in Ottawa “providing 65 units at only 21% of median income”. The government is making it sound affordable, but in reality, that was $1,907 per month, which was 48% higher than the average one- and two-bedroom apartments in the area.
Not only is this not affordable. Steve Pomeroy argues that the project in the RCFI would have been built anyway, but of course, the housing providers will not say no to financing at lower interest rates if that is offered.
We also learned that CMHC does not even track what is the rent for this program. It does not matter if the rent is well over average market rent. The Liberals then use this RCFI to pad their claims of how many Canadians they have helped find affordable housing, but we will never know this by just listening to the Liberals' talking points. We have to dig deep to expose the Liberals' doublespeak. Without the necessary resources, the Liberals' claim that they will end chronic homelessness by 2030 will be yet another broken promise.
As pointed out by many housing advocates to end chronic homelessness, we need to build at least 370,000 units of community housing. In fact, over 40 housing organizations and advocates from across Canada jointly signed a letter to the to call for this. They are also calling for the creation of a housing acquisition fund that would provide non-profits quick access to capital for acquiring existing rental properties at risk of being swept up by these funds. This was also supported by the recovery for all campaign and the FCM.
There is a great need to limit the ability of REITs and large capital funds in fuelling the rising costs of housing and rent, but to date no action has been taken to address this urgent issue. I know the Liberals will say they announced the rapid housing initiative and its astounding success, and that they just announced phase two of the rapid housing initiative. Let me say that it still falls short of what was called for by the FCM and many other housing advocates.
A significant expansion of the RHI is needed, and the NDP will continue to push for a $7-billion investment for no less than 24,000 units over the next two to three years. The NDP is also renewing its call for 500,000 units of new affordable social housing units to be built. The federal government must also step up to partner with all levels of government and non-profit housing providers to ensure operating costs and supportive wraparound services are provided. This is an essential component to a federal-provincial-territorial partnership.
Turning to the issue of home ownership, many young professionals and couples, especially those from big cities, often find themselves in a situation where home ownership is a remote dream. The 1% tax on vacant homes owned by people who are both non-residents and non-citizens is largely symbolic, when the average cost of housing has increased 31% in 2020 alone, a rate that is simply unsustainable. In B.C., vacancy in foreign ownerships stack independently up to 2.5% combined with a 20% foreign buyers tax in metro Vancouver. The federal government should at least match B.C.'s initiative for affected housing markets to curb foreign market speculators.
The also admitted that Canada is a very safe market for foreign investment, but it is not a great market for Canadians looking for choices around housing. The NDP will continue to push the government to strengthen these measures, as well as for more stringent housing ownership reporting requirements to ensure more transparency on ownership, and to make it more difficult to launder money and evade capital gains taxes on secondary residents.
Let me turn to another glaring omission in this motion and in budget 2021. Both fail to address the critical and urgent need of a “for indigenous, by indigenous” urban, rural and northern housing strategy. Despite the Liberals saying that they are committed to a “for indigenous, by indigenous” urban indigenous housing strategy, we have yet to see one materialize. In budget after budget, the Liberals fail to deliver.
To quote Robert Byers, former chair of the CHRA indigenous caucus:
For years, government officials have told us that an urban, rural and northern Indigenous housing strategy was a priority. The absence of such a strategy in today’s Budget will mean that urban and rural Indigenous peoples will continue to face inequality and lack of access to safe and affordable housing, and that is a disgrace.
Indigenous peoples are 11 times more likely to use a homeless shelter. Who here has not heard the excuses, over and over again, that the government is working on it, it is doing a study, and it has targets for indigenous housing? If the study was a priority, why did the prorogue the House last year, shutting down Parliament, including the work of committees?
If the government wanted an indigenous-led consultation process, why did it not establish a “for indigenous, by indigenous” national housing centre? The Liberals could have done that as part of the 2019 budget, the fall economic update in 2020 or in budget 2021, yet they did not. The reality is that the core housing need for indigenous households is the highest in Canada.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer most recently reported that 124,000 indigenous households are in core need, including 37,500 being homeless in a given year. The annual affordability gap is at $636 million. Winnipeg has the highest number of indigenous households in housing need, estimated at 9,000. Vancouver is second at 6,000.
Indigenous, Métis and Inuit people should not have to be told, time and again, that their housing needs can wait. The time has come for the government to act. I am therefore proposing the following amendment, and I hope that the member for will accept it.
I move that the motion be amended by adding the following at the end of paragraph (e): “by renewing efforts to build affordable and social housing not seen since post-World War II, including a commitment to 500,000 new units in a “for indigenous, by indigenous” urban, rural and northern housing strategy.”
It is absolutely critical that this action be taken. I hope that the member will support this amendment so we can send a clear message about what needs to be done, clearly defining the action that is required.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I am the father of two young adult daughters who, in the not-so-distant future, with their effort and determination, like countless other young Canadians, will be entering the home-buying market. Similar to countless other young Canadians, my daughters are living at home, watching the never-ending stream of media reports saying housing in Canada is entirely unaffordable. Young Canadians looking to enter the market cannot do so on their own, nor should they bear the expectation that they should at this time, especially in my home city of Richmond. Even with hard work and saving up for a down payment, the reality is that many will still require parental support, something I will likely be blessed to be able to give my daughters, but something that is not available to everyone.
We see Canadians faced with a sudden expectation adjustment, one reminiscent of our 's comment that this generation could be the first generation in many decades to be worse off than their parents. I, for one, would like to point out that the rampant, reckless spending and deficit spending prior to or after the pandemic and the types of policies being implemented by his government will pretty much guarantee that outcome.
The reality is that much-anticipated tax expansion and government programs will not address the affordable housing shortage or the underlying causes of our housing crisis. To the contrary, the tax burden imposed by reckless spending over the past six years, even excluding pandemic relief, will tie the hands of future governments and prevent them from tackling other housing priorities such as homelessness and poverty.
Home prices have skyrocketed over this past COVID year and the dream of home ownership is becoming more distant for Canadians to attain. The national average home price was a record $678,000 in February 2021, up 25% from the same month last year. In my home city of Richmond, single detached home prices are up 20% in the past year, averaging at $1.5 million, far above the rest of the country. I find it ridiculous and ironic that Canada, with the world's second-largest land mass and sparse population, has to suffer such a housing crisis. The difficulties Canadians face are certainly exacerbated by the government's mismanagement of supply in our housing markets. Its incompetence is not limited to only home ownership.
The Liberal government has done nothing to address the rental market as an affordable option for Canadians either. Increasing supply within the rental market would be a boon for renters trying to make ends meet in increasingly unaffordable conditions. The government's ideas so far do nothing to address the real issues affecting affordability in our real estate market, namely through the lack of housing supply. To top it off, the two-years-too-late Liberal budget failed to rule out the introduction of capital gains taxes on the principal residences of Canadians. Punishing those who have a home as a way to pay for the government’s current or future excessive and poorly managed spending does not help solve the housing crisis.
The Liberals' national housing strategy has been defined by funding delays and cumbersome, difficult-to-navigate programs. It has consistently failed to get funding out of the door in a timely fashion for the projects that need it most. The national housing co-investment fund is one of the worst-offending programs, as we have heard from the member for .
However, members do not have to listen to me on this. Housing providers across the country have called it “cumbersome” and “complicated”, which is slightly higher praise than what the Liberals received on their first-time homebuyer initiative, a program that has proven to be a fatally flawed, dismal failure. It was intended to help 20,000 Canadians in the first six months, but has reached only 10,000 in over 18 months. It did not accomplish its primary objective of improving affordability in high-cost regions. These changes will not help prospective buyers in Victoria, Vancouver or Toronto.
When the Liberals' only solution to affordable home ownership is to take on a share of a Canadian's mortgage, and when their solution is actively discouraged by brokers, the government should realize that it is time to change direction, not double-down on poor policy. The Liberals should be helping Canadians by giving them the tools to save, lowering their taxes and creating jobs. For example, by incentivizing the use of RRSPs, Canadians could leverage their own savings to purchase a home.
Once again, the bureaucratic, Ottawa-knows-best approach is hurting our communities. It goes to prove that the Liberal government consistently misses the concerns of Canadians, such as concerns over legislative and enforcement gaps that have allowed the drug trade to launder illicit money through our real estate markets; concerns over supply, funding and support program criteria for long-term care homes; and the concern to fix the shortfalls of the national housing co-investment fund, a program that housing providers across the country have voiced their criticism of, stating that the application process is too cumbersome and the eligibility criteria too complicated.
Canadians cannot afford more inaction. Only Conservatives are focused on ensuring Canadians are not left paying the price for Liberal mismanagement. Conservatives recognize the severity of the nationwide housing affordability crisis faced by Canadians.
I believe in a bold vision for my home of Richmond, one where every family who works hard and saves responsibly can achieve home ownership. I believe that the future of housing in Canada will be built on proper management of our nation's supply. Following consultation with my colleagues, I was pleased to learn that Conservatives share a belief in a nationwide plan to get homes built as part of Canada's economic recovery.
We believe in real action, not lip service, to address the consequences of money laundering and the negative impacts it has in our society. Our plan to secure the future will prioritize the needs of Canadians before foreign investors, provide meaningful housing solutions and put families in the housing market. Conservatives have advocated and will continue to advocate for improvements to mortgage policies, to the taxation system, to combat money laundering, to increase housing supply across the continuum, and to address rampant speculation and unfair profiteering.
Canada needs a plan to get our economy back on track, but over a year into the pandemic the Liberal government, like a ship that has lost its anchor, is still operating lost at sea. In response, we Conservatives have developed Canada's recovery plan that sets a course to secure Canada's future, including the modest dream of owning a home.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to be following my colleague from British Columbia on this debate. As many members will know, this is my second Parliament and I have been talking about housing for two Parliaments now.
I was a big critic of the first-time home buyer incentive. The member for and I traded barbs over it on the floor of the House. We disagreed over the initial program goals that were set out. I said from the very beginning that the program was going to fail, and it failed. It failed first-time home buyers and it failed Canadians, regardless of the housing market they were in. There is no such thing as a Canadian real estate market: There are housing markets all across Canada. It failed people in Toronto, it failed people in Vancouver and it failed people in my home community of Calgary. It was going to fail from the beginning. It was an election gimmick to try to get re-elected. It was rolled out two months before an election, and it was not going to succeed.
There is a lot in this opposition day motion I could speak about, but I want to focus on housing specifically and the simple law of supply and demand. There is not enough supply and there is a heck of a lot of demand. I am one of those homeowners who recently sold his house and now I am renting. I got out of the housing market because it is so red hot right now with everybody trying to get in, not just in the city of Calgary but all across Canada.
The first-time home buyer incentive was originally supposed to help 100,000 Canadians. I have been doing Order Paper questions and I have been doing access to information requests and releasing them to the public so people could see this. I have been criticizing the government on podcasts, in interviews and in op-eds I have written for the Postmedia Network.
I think 10,000 applications have been approved. “Applications approved” does not mean that the person who applied actually went through with seeking the loan. The two are fundamentally different. It is less than 10% of what the Liberals were supposed to achieve with the first-time home buyer incentive and the shared-equity mortgages they were trying to sell. I have read the operational manual that CMHC put out for brokers to use. It is an abject failure in delivery, and it is failing two years afterward.
The reason I bring it up is because I hear the same thing from constituents. The Liberals have had years to try to address the housing shortages across Canada. They have been wasting time, playing at the edges and coming up with these gimmicky programs to try to deal with issues that are very local in many situations. People look at postal codes in major cities when trying to buy a home because they want to be in a specific school district for their children. People look at how close homes are to transit in order to get to where they need to go.
During this pandemic, we have also seen that a big premium is now being placed on being able to work from home and having solid home Internet and Wi-Fi connections. I have caucus colleagues in major urban areas, some of whom are on the Zoom call right now, who have difficulty joining our calls while having their video on because their connections are poor in major urban areas.
That is how people shop for real estate. They look at price and they look at location. It is hyper localized. They cannot compare real estate from two extreme edges of the suburbs of Toronto. It is the same thing for Calgary. In the southeast corner of the city, where I live, and the northwest corner of the city, two very different housing markets exist. In northwest Calgary, people have to take into account that they are going to get damaging hail. In the southeast part of Calgary, that is going to happen way less often.
The reason I like so much of what is in this opposition day motion is because we are addressing some of the fundamental concerns Canadians have. We are calling for the government to really look at things like doing away with the first-time home buyer incentive. It is a failed program. It has already failed. The Liberals keep trying to change it. It is never going to work, so they should just abandon it.
The motion is calling for things like anti-money laundering efforts. Especially in markets like the Lower Mainland and parts of British Columbia, but in other parts of the country too, money laundering is having a local impact on certain types of housing.
We need a more defined debate. There are different market segments. For single-family detached homes, the prices are going up a ridiculous amount. I want to talk about asset price inflation in a broader way in a moment. With respect to condos and townhouses, condo prices have been going down all over Calgary because the City of Calgary approved a whole bunch of building permits over the past two years. A lot of supply is coming onto the market and there is way less demand.
There is an immense amount of demand now for single-family detached homes and even duplexes and townhouses. People are moving up into the market real estate space because they want to be able to work from home. They have children.
I am one of those parents who is doing virtual home-schooling this week, so I have my kids at home. They are being very quiet and very good right now so I can address the House and speak about my constituents who are being impacted by the gimmicky plays of the Liberal government in addressing fundamental market issues. There is not enough supply coming on and there is too much demand.
Let us talk about asset price inflation. The super low interest rates are driving not only a lot of speculative buying, but just plain buying by people who see an opportunity and are looking after their self-interest better than the government can. They see an opportunity to buy into a market they could not buy into before. I have seen chartered banks offering less than 1% interest rates for a five-year mortgage, which is a standard mortgage in Canada. Who can compete with that? Prior generations could only dream of it. My uncle, who has a home in Markham, used to talk about paying 18.5% interest in the 1980s. I have a hard time convincing young Canadians this is going to happen and I am a millennial, one of these old millennials who is turning 40 this year.
The unbelievably low interest rates today are also driving people to compete for a limited amount of supply in many markets across Canada. The government has created gimmicky programs, like rental programs. One of its programs proposes to allocate billions of dollars to support the construction and repair of 35,000 affordable housing units, but a Canada housing survey in 2018 said that 9% of Canadian households, which is 1.3 million, had purchased a home in the five previous years. The Liberals are talking about tens of thousands of units, but that is not enough. They should go big: way bigger than they are talking about here. I have heard Liberal MPs say that they will go bigger and they have, with over $600 billion worth of spending. This is still not enough, because the fundamental issue is market supply and demand with extremely low interest rates driving people into the market.
That brings us to the next problem, which is that incomes have not kept up with asset price inflation. A young family may try to put money aside to save for a 5% down payment. The asset price on the single-family detached home or townhouse it is looking at exceeds its ability to save every single month and year. As the family tries to put a nest egg aside for a down payment, the asset price of the home goes up faster than it can save. That is the problem for young people and young families today. The member who spoke previously, my colleague from British Columbia, has two daughters who are in exactly this type of situation. They cannot save fast enough to make up the difference in the price of housing today, which is being driven up by super-low interest rates and these gimmicky plays from the Liberal government. and their ability to save due to their incomes.
The Liberals are raising income taxes. They have increased carbon taxes. They are nickel-and-diming Canadians all across the country. I live in a province that did not want a carbon tax and was stuck with it, because that is what the federal Liberals decided was the wisest course of action. It has an impact on the ability of people to save for down payments.
I have been a big critic of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which wasted millions of dollars trying to rebrand itself as “housing Canada” instead of focusing on its core business, which should be providing a mortgage insurance product. Its rates are too high. It is in the Public Accounts of Canada that it has been paying the federal government every single year while charging premiums on first-time home buyers in order to make up the difference.
I have a Yiddish proverb for the consideration of members who are paying attention to this debate: “You can make the dream bigger than the night.” The Liberals have dreamt big, really big, with all of these gimmicky programs. They have tried to solve a market problem with even more government, so that every time a program does not turn out there is even more government and another government program, or it is fiddling at the edges of a government program that exists to try and fix it.
The fundamental reality is this. Young people cannot save fast enough to get into the hottest markets such as Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary and Edmonton. The asset prices are out of control and people cannot save fast enough. Much of what we propose in this opposition day motion will address that. I am so glad we have put if forward. I have been speaking about housing for years and trying to get the attention of the federal government away from its gimmicks and onto real solutions.
Mr. Speaker, at the beginning I will highlight the devastating news coming out of London, Ontario, with respect to terrorist action, and express condolences and offer prayers to the family and their friends. I will let my brothers and sisters within the Islamic and Muslim faith know that we do love and care for them. Our prayers are with the community.
I have had the opportunity to listen throughout the day to the discussion we are having, and there are a number of things I want to highlight. One thing a member made reference to is the idea of jurisdiction. Maybe I can deal with that, at least in part.
Ottawa does have a role to play, and we have demonstrated that very clearly. However, it is also important to recognize that this is about more than just the Government of Canada or the respective provincial or territorial governments. We will find that many municipalities are involved in housing. We will find that indigenous communities are heavily involved in housing. It is going to take a team effort to try to resolve this major issue, which exists in virtually all regions of our country.
Since the took office, the government has made housing a priority, going back to 2015. In fact, members might recall that in 2017, we launched the national housing strategy, the first of its kind. I remember standing in the chamber talking about this massive, multi-billion dollar program. I think it was 70 billion dollars' worth of commitments. Never before had we witnessed that kind of a commitment to housing in Canada. We want to leave a mega footprint, recognizing that Ottawa does have a critical role to play.
Many programs have been part of this strategy. The most recent ones that come to my mind are the programs for the rapid housing initiative. It is so nice to see that the , who has been to my home province of Manitoba on several occasions, is talking about housing and announcing things related to housing. We have a minister for housing who is truly committed, not only in good part through the initiative but in all aspects of the department, to making sure that we are there in a very real and tangible way. That is one thing I love about the rapid housing initiative: It is a program that will make a real difference. It was great to participate with the Municipality of Winnipeg on it. The minister, the mayor of Winnipeg and I, along with others, participated in an announcement in regard to it.
I say all that because I believe it is important that we recognize, as the government has, that while Ottawa plays a role, there are many partners out there that need to equally step up to the table. I know that over the years some partners have been the table more than others. However, let there be no doubt that this government has been at the table from day one.
I made reference to the rapid housing initiative. We could talk about the national co-investment fund and what an opportunity that is, or the rental construction financing initiative. The referenced the first-time home buyer initiative, which is helping thousands of Canadians buy their very first home.
There are a number of ways we, as a government, are demonstrating leadership and working with stakeholders, in particular provinces, municipalities and indigenous leaders, to make a tangible difference. As the responsible indicates, there is always room for us to do even better, to strive to do better, and we will continue to focus more attention on the issue.
Housing is a passion for a lot of members in the chamber. When I left the Canadian Forces back in 1985, I bought a little house on Logan Avenue in the west end of Winnipeg North and it cost me $23,000. It was a beautiful home that met my needs at the time. One of the first things I did was join the Weston Residents' Association. Weston is a beautiful little community, an older, more established community in Winnipeg. Through my experience of being involved there, I started to get a good understanding of the importance of housing revitalization, housing stock and housing affordability. Through that association, I ultimately became a board member of the Weston Residents Housing Co-op, which is still there today, providing housing to many people who likely would not have had the opportunity.
I am a big fan of co-ops, as is this government and as I know the and the are. There is a huge difference between a housing co-op and someone renting in an apartment block. Those who live in an apartment block or a rented facility are tenants. Whether people rent a single detached home or an apartment in a high-rise apartment block, they are tenants. In a co-op, people are residents, and there is a significant difference. People in co-ops have something at stake. Not everyone is in a position, and some do not want, to take ownership of a home, but many do. In fact, the majority do. For most Canadians, it will be the single greatest expenditure they will have in their lifetime.
I have heard about the dollar values, the prices of homes and the impact they are having. In the days after I left the military, I went into the Manitoba legislature in 1988, where my first responsibility was deputy whip and housing critic. I met with housing organizations, and there was a demand for non-profit housing units. Even back in 1988, there was a huge demand at the time for everything from revitalization to suburban growth, shelter allowances, just name it. A friend of mine, Doug Martindale, who was the president of one of the housing associations, later went on to become an NDP MLA.
The need for housing has existed for a long time, and I would challenge any member of the House to tell me when there was a prime minister in the last 50 or 60 years who was more committed than we have been in the last five years on the housing file. Members will be challenged by that, because they will not find another prime minister or government in Canada that has been as committed to housing as the current government is.
I always like to attribute my friend, the parliamentary secretary and member for , as one of the most knowledgeable, able-minded individuals when it comes to non-profit housing and its importance in society. I have heard him speak many times. I know that within the industry here in Manitoba there is a great deal of respect for him because he wears his heart on his shoulder when it comes to advocating for social housing. As much as I might like to think, at times, that I can be pretty passionate about the importance of that particular issue, I may not be quite as knowledgeable as my colleague. However, I can tell members that there are many like me within the government caucus who continue to push the importance of housing. It is not just the or the cabinet, but the caucus, as a whole, wants to see those tangible programs, and we are seeing them.
Before I comment on the most recent budget, I should provide some context. When we think of social housing and affordability, what are the types of things we are really talking about? We are talking about making sure that people have the ability to purchase homes and that people have the ability to stay in their homes. We know that the higher the rate of home ownership in a community, the greater the likelihood of that community being a better place to live. I do not have enough time to expand on that aspect, so I will ask people to take me at face value.
When we take a look at the mix, we have the first-time home buyer program to assist first-time homebuyers. We have housing co-ops, and we are recognizing and looking at ways we can expand those. We have non-profit groups that are out there and co-investments that are prepared to contribute, not only financially, but also their time, energy and other resources in order to make sure we have better housing.
In Manitoba, I believe we have over 20,000 non-profit housing units. It has been a long time since I looked at this number, so please do not quote me on the exact number. I believe it is over 20,000 non-profit housing units now that are subsidized.
We have infill housing programs and ways we can encourage infill housing, such as supporting Habitat for Humanity, which has done more in Winnipeg North than any other government agency has in terms of infill housing. No other government agency has done more for housing than Habitat for Humanity, and my hat is off to that organization for the fabulous work it does in all regions in our country, but especially in Winnipeg North. I have a lot of time for that organization. Without that organization, many people would not have the opportunity to have the new homes they are working toward.
It really matters having a progressive approach on the housing file. I have not seen that from the Conservatives. We are hearing that from many members during the debate who are not Conservative. How is it that this is a Conservative motion, as if the Conservatives really care about the issue of housing? There has really been no indication of that. The Conservative record with Stephen Harper, if we average it out, is about $250 million per year through investments in affordable housing programs.
Meanwhile, we have invested well over $27 billion since coming into office and have committed, as I said, $70 billion.
It is interesting listening to my Bloc friends. One member made reference to it being like health care. One has to understand and appreciate where the Bloc is coming from. Bloc members do not want Ottawa to administer, to assist with or to provide programs. All they want is for Ottawa to provide the cash. They do not recognize the important and vital role Ottawa can play, whether on a national housing strategy or a potential national pharmacare program.
There is so much potential with what Ottawa can do. It can work with municipalities. It does not have to work just with provinces, as we have demonstrated.
With the New Democratic Party, I thought it was interesting when the asked a very basic question of one of the speakers about the talk of having 500,000 homes and what the cost would be. NDP members have no idea. The amount of money they committed in an election platform was relatively small, and I am being generous here in my comments, compared to what we committed and spent, yet they still believe that somehow one just waves a wand and, poof, 500,000 homes are going to appear out of nowhere.
We understand the importance of this issue to Canadians. We have a very progressive and active and on the file, and we will continue to support Canadians in a very real and tangible way on such an important file—