Committee
Consult the user guide
For assistance, please contact us
Consult the user guide
For assistance, please contact us
Add search criteria
Results: 1 - 79 of 79
Susan McGee
View Susan McGee Profile
Susan McGee
2020-08-17 15:05
Thank you very much, and thanks for the introduction.
I am the chief executive officer for Homeward Trust. We are a community-based organization utilizing a system-planning approach to ending homelessness in our community of Edmonton. We are the local entity supporting the implementation of Reaching Home, and we have actively supported the evolution of Canada's national housing and homelessness strategies. I was very privileged and fortunate to sit on the advisory committee on homelessness, chaired at the time by Parliamentary Secretary Adam Vaughan, and I currently sit on a number of national committees.
I'm joined today by Giri, our chief strategic officer. I expect there will be some questions that he would be better at answering than I would be. We want to allow time for that.
We and our partner agencies have been recognized nationally and internationally for our collective efforts to end homelessness, housing nearly 11,000 people since the beginning of our Housing First program in 2009. Our organization brings together funding from all orders of government to support service providers, indigenous communities and government partners in Edmonton to collectively plan, act on and monitor our solutions to end homelessness in our community.
We're grateful for the opportunity to speak today about the Government of Canada's response to COVID-19 and what is needed to ensure that vulnerable and homeless Canadians are supported and protected on the long road ahead.
It has been just six months since COVID-19, and the risks it presents to our community members have required a complete rethinking of our priorities and programs. This has been an intense and exhausting effort, but one that we can be proud of and that wouldn't have been possible without the quick mobilization of resources from municipalities and provinces and, indeed, the federal government.
For Edmonton's homeless response, Reaching Home funding played a critical role. Funding was committed early, processes were accelerated, and both local organizations and federal program staff were empowered to make necessary decisions, building on existing accountable relationships. For many of us involved, the lasting reflection is that we can and should continue to respond that way by treating homelessness as the national emergency it is in any situation.
Homeward Trust is a strong supporter of Recovery for All and the six-point plan already presented to government by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, and we support other national organizations such as the CHRA and its advocacy of greater investments in affordable housing, specifically indigenous-led housing investments.
Rather than reiterate those well-considered positions, we will focus on what we consider to be critical and immediate steps to support their successful implementation.
First is that our country requires a sustained investment to make sure that communities' Herculean achievements over the last six months, which has been a sprint, have the endurance for the marathon that lies ahead. With no commitment on the horizon, planning has ceased and programs are being wound down, while individuals are exposed to the same health and safety risks that we experienced in March from the beginning.
Second is that all orders of government focus efforts not only on protecting vulnerable Canadians from the pandemic but also on addressing the many systemic issues that have made people vulnerable to homelessness in the first place. The pandemic has laid bare these system failures, and we can't unsee what we have seen.
Last is that the government reinforce communities in leading this response in a coordinated system-planning approach, bringing together the various cross-systems and interjurisdictional roles that, operating independently, risk recreating the system failures we are working so hard to address.
On the first point of sustained investment, there is no question that all orders of government recognize that we are many months away, if not years away, from this pandemic's being completely behind us. There are more waves on the horizon and, perhaps most critically, large numbers of people losing their jobs and families in crisis. They are losing their homes and their mental health is being significantly affected. We've never experienced anything like the initial pandemic response before, and there is no precedent, certainly in our lifetime, for the economic and fiscal fissures that are already forming.
Initial investments were made quickly, and we were fortunate to have strong program infrastructure and partners to work with to activate those resources.
In Edmonton, our response prioritized mobilizing critical services in an alternate location, as agencies, public spaces, and other locations that often provided respite for homeless individuals closed. We brought in our coordinated access and Housing First program with additional rapid rehousing and diversion efforts, and included new partners and prevention initiatives by providing immediate funding to address short-term needs. We were able to secure and headlease a hotel to provide bridge housing, which has played an important role in our community's response in housing over 700 people to date since April.
In the absence of sustained funding, we are faced with having to contract all of those efforts at a time when we are seeing significant increases in homelessness and encampments on a scale not seen in Edmonton since 2007. We know that housing is a solution to homelessness, and we have seen the direct health risks to those without a home. We cannot build our way out of the situation fast enough, but we can ensure that our pandemic response results in long-term permanent solutions if program funding is sustained and targeted. There is a role for all governments and charitable funders in supporting our efforts, but it is important to recognize that community-based providers are reeling from lost fundraising revenue and staff capacity and will have difficulty dealing with the onslaught of needs, let alone the existing demands. It is imperative that the federal government lead with a commitment now.
Reaching Home has incorporated many important changes in community planning approaches, emphasizing evidence-based models, clear accountabilities and system-wide engagement. This means having the infrastructure to enable a culture of knowledge-driven decision-making so that our interventions can be targeted, evaluated and corrected continually, and taxpayers can be confident that public dollars are achieving the results they'd expect. As such, I have great confidence that continued investments through Reaching Home will have the greatest immediate impact.
This brings me to my second point: that the pandemic response has to address the foundational issues that contribute to poverty and homelessness, especially those that are institutional in nature. The homeless population is dynamic. There are no clean boundaries between people who use shelters, people who sleep rough or in encampments, and people who are unstably housed and people who are living with friends and family.
With rising unemployment, bankruptcies and evictions, people who faced housing insecurity before the pandemic will become homeless. Addiction and mental health issues are increasing rapidly and threatening the ability of families and individuals to stay resilient, yet for homeless and vulnerable populations, various systems and government departments get involved in a way that creates a patchwork of responses, with huge gaps and blind spots and far too many unmet needs. Their roles are often defined by narrow mandates and cost containment, without a holistic sense of how all their parts interact—and they don't.
An effective pandemic response for the homeless population has to incorporate commitments to fix the underlying systemic problems that create and sustain homelessness. There may not seem to be an obvious first step to address this issue. Indeed, governments have spent years in system-planning meetings trying to turn the Titanic in an inch of water. However, during the pandemic we have seen health authorities actively participating in local efforts, and they have been required to address the specific risks that homeless community members are exposed to. The pandemic has highlighted how quickly we can adjust how we work together when the urgency and the will are there.
This leads to my final point, which is about the importance of community-based leadership in the pandemic response.
In March, community organizations were navigating shifting and sometimes conflicting authorities in the federal government, provincial ministries, health authorities and local governments. Siloed internal command structures and interjurisdictional confusion can threaten an active, effective and comprehensive pandemic response. One of our key roles as community entities and system-planner organizations is to transcend and bridge across these chasms so that we can enable communities to do what needs to be done. In many ways, governments and systems need to take a back seat to let communities lead the way. They have the knowledge, experience and relationships to ensure that we are doing what is best for vulnerable people. This means empowering and resourcing communities to enable community-level leadership and governance. It also means building the necessary infrastructure so that community partners can implement actions collectively and leverage resources and strengths across the board without having to manoeuvre between funding and institutional roles.
Reaching Home clearly embraces the role of local leadership, and as such has been able to deploy resources quickly during this time, with demonstrated impacts. While other investments are considered, whether to support housing developments or mitigate housing loss, we strongly recommend reinforcing community-level leadership in coordinating that deployment of those resources.
In summary, for an effective pandemic response, the federal government needs to commit to supporting community-based leadership with funding and policies that can address two public health emergencies: the recent and ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and the long-standing institutional causes of homelessness. Continuing investments by the federal government are the only way to ensure that community efforts and achievements over the past six months are sustained and that we don't regress in our ability to protect vulnerable people from the impacts of the pandemic in the long run.
A critical component of this is to accelerate efforts to realize an end to homelessness, including the six-point recovery plan put forward by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, and intentional engagement with provincial and municipal governments to support communities in making this happen by transforming systems so that they facilitate their work instead of hindering it.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the committee today, and we are certainly happy to answer any questions.
View Adam Vaughan Profile
Lib. (ON)
To be clear here, basic income works, but it works better when there's affordable housing attached to it. In other words, if there's a system to tie it to, then basic income goes further, works harder and provides more support for people.
Susan McGee
View Susan McGee Profile
Susan McGee
2020-08-17 15:38
It would be what we look to in terms of turning the lights on and in terms of capital and operating capital. Then we can bring supports to the individuals as they need in order to ensure they have the greatest opportunity for success.
View Leah Gazan Profile
NDP (MB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It's really nice to see all of my colleagues on the HUMA committee. My first questions are for Ms. McGee.
During this unprecedented time in history, as we've seen in other unprecedented times in history, critical social programs that have been created have collectively benefited all Canadians. There was, for example, employment insurance. I believe that now is a time in history when we have a chance to restructure our economy in a way that is more just and equitable for all. I recently introduced motion 46 in support of a guaranteed livable basic income that would be in addition to all current and future government and social programs, including accessible affordable social housing. How do you think a guaranteed annual livable income in Canada could help realize our international legal obligations to ensure the human right to housing?
Susan McGee
View Susan McGee Profile
Susan McGee
2020-08-17 15:48
We have supported, certainly within the Canadian Alliance strategy, the value of a livable income. I know there's a lot of analysis and there are more discussions to be had about that. The pandemic really is a convergence of different groups and different levels of need. As much as most individuals we support who are currently living rough are a day-to-day emergency concern, we look at the horizon of the next few months and we know that many more people will come into and experience homelessness perhaps for the first time. They will come into a system that right now is quite eroded in its ability to respond through front-line social agencies, the civil society if you will, but also through government programs because individuals have really tenuous housing circumstances and what the next few months will bring is very difficult to predict and we're kind of guessing. What we do know, however, is that we're not ready for it.
View Kate Young Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Kate Young Profile
2020-08-17 16:03
I also want to pick up on something that MP Vaughan was talking about, which was money flowing from the province and maybe some of the concerns there. Certainly in some provinces, they're not getting the funds necessary within the right time frame.
Is building new housing the answer to this? Is that really the bottom line of what we need to do?
Susan McGee
View Susan McGee Profile
Susan McGee
2020-08-17 16:03
We definitely need more product that is dedicated in perpetuity to the community, which is our social housing and community housing stock. We absolutely do. We also need processes to ensure that people access that and that they are prioritized. Honestly a fear that I think many have in the sector is that we build new housing, but then in the near term it isn't prioritized for the people it was built for.
Our system needs to ensure that this dedication of capital goes to the need it was intended to serve. The programs we work with right now try to message that consistently. We have “haves” and “have-nots”. We have have-nots amongst the haves and have-nots, and typically, the system will tend to start to house people who are less expensive to serve and who create less overhead. Our systems need to be designed so that we ensure that the significant capital and efforts that we put in go to the people who need them.
Marie-José Corriveau
View Marie-José Corriveau Profile
Marie-José Corriveau
2020-08-17 16:07
As mentioned, my name is Marie-José Corriveau. I represent the Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU), a group that was created 41 years ago. It is made up of 140 organizations from across Quebec that are concerned about poverty alleviation and housing rights. FRAPRU primarily calls on higher governments in order to advance the right to housing and access to social housing.
In terms of the government response to the pandemic, FRAPRU is grateful to the federal government for quickly setting up the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which has enabled households to meet their basic needs, such as food and housing. However, FRAPRU is disappointed, even shocked, by the disproportionate amount of money made available to the wealthiest versus to the poorest and most vulnerable households to get through the health crisis. In terms of housing, just like after the 2008 economic crisis, Canada decided to primarily help banks, insurance companies and property owners, leaving tenants to fend for themselves. We are coming out of these last few months with an increased sense of injustice.
Moreover, the CERB failed to prevent 3,000 Quebec households from having to resort to the Quebec program set up to help tenants unable to pay their rent after losing their jobs and suffering drastic cuts to their incomes. The next few months will be worrisome for many of them, as they will have to pay back loans without necessarily having found a job by that time.
However, one good thing about the pandemic is that it has reminded us of the close and incontrovertible connection between the right to housing and the right to health, and of the fact that housing is one of the main determinants of health. The lockdown measures imposed to minimize the risks of the spread of the coronavirus have not been experienced by everyone in the same way.
How can you be in lockdown when you just don't have housing? How can you stay locked down in a house that is too small, unhealthy or suffocating because of successive heat waves? How can you stay healthy when rent takes up an inordinate part of the family budget to the detriment of food, medication and other necessities, such as a mask or the Internet? How do you cope in times of lockdown when you depend on community resources for food, clothing and transportation on a daily basis, but those community resources have to cut back on their activities to comply with the rules of physical distancing?
For too many households, the pandemic is yet another crisis in a life fraught with peril. Already, as of the 2016 census, 1.7 million Canadian households were in core housing need—that is, living in housing that is substandard, too small or too expensive. The overwhelming majority of them are poor renters. In Quebec, the approximately 244,120 tenant households in core housing need had a median income of only $17,612 for all of 2015.
Since the last census, things have become worse. A housing shortage is spreading and taking root in Quebec's major cities, as in several other Canadian provinces. Here, the vacancy rate for rental housing is only 1.8%, and it is only 1.5% in the census metropolitan areas of Montreal and Gatineau. This represents half of the 3% threshold that is supposed to guarantee a balance between landlords and tenants. In Gatineau, the average market rent increased by 10% between 2018 and 2019, in a single year.
The impacts are devastating and will unfortunately last. Many tenants are under undue pressure to accept unjustified rent increases. On the ground, it has been observed that the rents charged for rental units this spring were well above the average current price. However, as the shortage seems to want to last, the concern is that this inflationary trend will continue. Among the hundreds of Quebec households who were unable to find new housing and who found themselves homeless last month, in July, many had been repossessed or “renovicted” because their landlords were trying to get rid of them, especially if they were long-term tenants and paying low rent.
Searching for housing in the midst of the pandemic is also problematic, if not impossible, for poor households that do not have access to the Internet because they do not have the equipment, because the system is too expensive or because the service is simply not available in their areas. Many, including families, racialized people and the poor, have also been discriminated against because of their condition, regardless of their credit or rent payment history, without any truly effective recourse to defend themselves. The shortage is literally pushing households to the brink of homelessness in the midst of a pandemic.
Finally, let's remember that, too often, to find new housing, the households thus displaced have had to leave their neighbourhood, their city, or even their region, thereby losing their family and community support network.
Under those circumstances, FRAPRU hoped that the federal government would not only quickly review the programs to help the poorly housed, but that it would also invest more in social housing as part of the national housing strategy. To date, it has done neither of those things.
Yet in 2017, when the national housing strategy was adopted, the government also identified households in core housing need. However, the resources announced to assist them came with serious gaps, making those measures ineffective. FRAPRU then identified and denounced those problems. If you wish, I can give you some examples.
Since the pandemic was declared, the unemployment rate has soared. Now, a second wave is looming, as well as a recession, or even an economic crisis. Governments are investing massively to support different parts of the economy. FRAPRU is asking them to relaunch a major social housing project and to adequately finance the refurbishment of all those units already built. So far, Ottawa's response has been extremely disappointing and detrimental to what is to come.
Beyond the health and economic crises, we believe that the government has a duty to protect the poorest and most poorly housed from the environmental crises that are now certain to follow. To do so, it must stop procrastinating and start investing again in social, non-profit and non-market housing. To fund the effort, the government has no shortage of resources. Here are a few examples. It can reduce its investments in fossil fuels. It can review its tax system, withdraw the tax benefits granted in recent decades to the wealthiest and restore a more progressive tax scale. It must also fight more seriously against tax evasion and tax avoidance. However, whatever avenues it chooses, it must better protect the most vulnerable, otherwise the political and economic damage will be disproportionate and the social fractures likely to be irreversible.
I hope I have stayed within the time limits.
View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mrs. Corriveau, I applaud you and FRAPRU. Thank you for being here and for your testimony.
I am very familiar with your organization in Quebec. The claims you are making today are in line with those you have been making for years.
Please tell me if my figures are accurate. I believe you said that, in July 2020 alone, 350 households were without housing. That would be the highest number since 2003. Also, if the community organizations did a count, it might be higher. If this is accurate, it does confirm that there is a shortage of what we may call social housing. A distinction could be made between community-based housing, low-income housing and affordable housing, but let's say there is a shortage of social housing. This is something you have been working on for years.
Other speakers have talked about the national housing strategy. As you know, an agreement was signed between the federal government and all the provinces except Quebec. For Quebec, the amount over the last three years could be between $1.4 billion and $1.7 billion, which is not insignificant.
In your opinion, if the money had been transferred unconditionally to Quebec, what difference would it have made to the dynamic?
Marie-José Corriveau
View Marie-José Corriveau Profile
Marie-José Corriveau
2020-08-17 16:33
My hope is that the Government of Quebec would have been more generous in launching new programming for the development of social housing. It already had a first challenge to meet: it had decided to deliver some 15,000 social housing units that had already been in the program for about 10 years, but that had still not been delivered because the Quebec subsidy program had not been adapted to the new economic realities, particularly land prices and construction costs. I therefore dare to hope that, had it received money from the federal government, the Quebec government would have launched a new program.
That said, my main problem at the moment is that the federal government, while claiming that this is an area of provincial and territorial jurisdiction, has developed a series of funds that could be called programs. In so doing, it is taking the role of the provinces in the way they do things and solve problems, instead of giving them the financial resources they need to take action according to their own challenges and to what the communities want.
I think the federal government should do the right thing and be a funder. It should take full responsibility for all the low-income housing that it helped to bring about before 1994, of course. It should not only comply with the agreements, but also ensure that the supply is refurbished. After that, it should proceed with the transfers properly. My hope is that this would allow Quebec in particular to move things along more quickly. It must be said that in Quebec, social housing development has continued, but that is not the case in all the provinces at this time.
Let me come back to what I was saying earlier: we must entirely abandon the idea of entrusting the private sector with developing housing for families in core housing need. It's not true that the private sector will be able to develop the housing for them. It is impossible for them to pay for that kind of housing when their annual income is between $17,000 and $20,000. We have no choice but to look at non-profit housing and subsidized housing. In order to prevent this from being a complete waste of time or an unsustainable measure, it is important to have social housing that is not sold, but that is protected and properly maintained for future generations.
View Adam Vaughan Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thanks very much.
Madame Corriveau, would you agree that if the federal government puts new dollars on the table for provinces, the provinces should not be allowed to cut provincial spending limits on housing? As we put money in the front door for the housing system, the Quebec government should be required not to take money out the back door so that it becomes a wash. Would you agree that's a reasonable request by the federal government?
Marie-José Corriveau
View Marie-José Corriveau Profile
Marie-José Corriveau
2020-08-17 16:50
In terms of reducing their own contributions, yes, I quite agree. If the Government of Canada puts money on the table, it should come with conditions, as it has previously done in the past, after all. When I said that I did not want the federal government to create programs in place of the provinces and territories, that did not mean that I feel it should provide money without requiring some conditions.
The government should do everything in its power to have the right to housing acknowledged. It should also go back to proven strategies, such as developing social housing. In addition, it must make sure that the provinces do not use federal money to replace the budgets that they otherwise should be putting on the table.
View Adam Vaughan Profile
Lib. (ON)
Exactly, and in terms of new rent supplement programs, for example, the Canada housing benefit, which aims to subsidize rents for the very individuals you talked about, if the federal government has a program that requires cost-matching dollars from the provinces, should the provinces have to match the new program or should they be allowed to say that we're already doing that and, therefore, we don't have to add any of our new dollars?
Should provinces be brought into a stronger housing system with the federal authority, as long as it's provincially designed and delivered? Would you agree with that?
Marie-José Corriveau
View Marie-José Corriveau Profile
Marie-José Corriveau
2020-08-17 16:52
I am not sure I know what you mean by a stronger system. However, I do know that we have to consider housing allocation programs that the provinces already have and make sure that they are not withholding their cash. Quite the opposite, we need the amounts allocated to surpass the provinces' and territories' current objectives. At the moment, for example, in Quebec—
Marie-José Corriveau
View Marie-José Corriveau Profile
Marie-José Corriveau
2020-08-17 16:52
No. In fact, those objectives should even be enhanced.
As I understand it, in various areas, the federal government generally requires provinces and territories to fulfill certain conditions when they are allocated money, failing which, penalties can be imposed on other activities.
View Adam Vaughan Profile
Lib. (ON)
Right. For example, would it be a reasonable request by the federal government that it should be spent on rent supplements and should be new money?
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you.
One of the comments that was posted on social media from End Homelessness St. John's says:
[W]e cannot go back to normal—[to] a normal where over 235,000 different Canadians every year are homeless; where 1.7 million households live in substandard or unaffordable housing; where people are at life threatening risk for no other reason than they are poor and don't have a place to call home.
Is this comment that was posted accurate?
Doug Pawson
View Doug Pawson Profile
Doug Pawson
2020-06-19 14:41
Yes. Across the country, that's what the data is showing.
Emergency shelter usage includes over 235,000 Canadians on an annual basis. Several more, obviously, are living in substandard and dilapidated housing conditions and are under-housed and overcrowded and just don't necessarily meet the traditional view of what people might think of homelessness. They're living in unsafe conditions. Of course, what the pandemic has shown is that you need safe conditions to isolate in. That is often missing for our most vulnerable neighbours across the country.
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
As part of the six-point plan, one of the components is to call for a major housing stimulus package in the recovery for the federal government to invest in. It's calling for maintaining the $157 million per year of additional funding, an expansion of the rural and remote stream to $50 million per year, and developing a new funding stream of $75 million to prevent homelessness for women, children and youth. That's as a baseline.
From that perspective, that would be one component of the six-point plan. Another component is a national guaranteed minimum income, which is an essential piece, because poverty is tied into it. I wonder if you can comment on these two specific recommendations.
Doug Pawson
View Doug Pawson Profile
Doug Pawson
2020-06-19 14:42
Yes, absolutely. In my earlier comments, I mentioned the need for government across all levels, including the federal and provincial governments, to work closely with income support systems when addressing housing and homelessness strategies.
We've seen a lot of individuals who are unable to maintain housing in the private market because their income levels allocated for rent are simply not enough. That's the case here in St. John's, where we have a healthy vacancy rate. It's further exacerbated in larger urban areas. In rural areas, for example, in parts of Labrador, we see that housing is incredibly difficult to acquire and the affordability concerns there resemble something that you might see in Toronto or Vancouver.
We absolutely support the notion around the idea of implementation of these basic needs, basic income types of programs, that will ensure people have the affordability component of housing secure.
View Wayne Long Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to apologize in advance. The audio and video of what's happening around me aren't really good right now, but I think if you can hear me I'm going to move forward.
I want to thank our presenters for doing a great job in their presentations. I have some questions.
As Mr. Beaudoin rightly pointed out in his opening remarks, our federal government entrenched our commitment to undertaking a human rights-based approach to housing policy in Canadian law, so the National Housing Strategy Act was introduced and passed in the last Parliament.
I'll start with you, Mr. Pawson, and then I'll go to Mr. Beaudoin. In your view, how has the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for a human rights-based federal housing strategy?
Doug Pawson
View Doug Pawson Profile
Doug Pawson
2020-06-19 14:53
I think the commitment made by the government to adopt housing as a human right is not just a symbolic gesture. It allows us to chart a path to ensure that folks who are experiencing homelessness or who may need to avail themselves of emergency shelter supports can be quickly moved into housing. To do that, we need more housing. Simply put, we need more housing and more supports embedded around it. This, to me, would ensure that housing as a human right can be actioned across Canada.
Jacques Beaudoin
View Jacques Beaudoin Profile
Jacques Beaudoin
2020-06-19 14:54
The crisis has really demonstrated the extent to which housing is a human right. It was a historic decision last year to enshrine this objective in an act of Parliament. We really saw in practice what that meant. All Canadians were asked to confine themselves, to respect emergency measures, to stay home. No one wanted this situation, and it was not desirable, but we could not have had a better demonstration of the fact that housing is a fundamental human right.
Having a home—where you can live in safety, where you're not overcrowded, where there are no families of five or six in one- or two-bedroom units, where the unit is big enough to meet your needs—allowed those who had access to that to respect containment. However, for those who did not have access to such a home, it was very difficult.
View James Cumming Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all of the witnesses for being here.
I'll start with Mr. Perrault. In a report on the housing market that you did last month, you estimated that the rebound will be quick, partially because of a rebound in immigration.
I'm now wondering if you would change that prediction at all given the latest changes that CMHC has announced for tightening up of credit.
I might want to send that to Ms. Cooper, as well.
Jean-François Perrault
View Jean-François Perrault Profile
Jean-François Perrault
2020-06-18 16:33
No, we wouldn't change that. Our perspective on the changes by the CMHC is essentially that they're moving out of a market that is going to be serviced by the private sector providers. At the very margin, it might have an impact on housing market activity in the urban centres, but we don't think it's going to have a significant impact, as I said, because they're basically freeing up space for the private sector folks to go in. Whether that was the intention or not, I think that's what's going to happen.
The bigger issue in the housing market from our perspective is simply the supply-demand imbalance, which is that the housing market in Canada remains generally under-supplied. Population growth has been really strong. Because of COVID there's been a slowdown in construction activity, so these factors conspire, if you will, to put us in pretty good standing when we reopen and folks are more comfortable going back out.
That's part of what you're seeing, I think, in some of the housing market activity in June and May. There's a sense out there that folks need to jump on a property while they still can, because there still is a shortage, generally speaking.
Sherry Cooper
View Sherry Cooper Profile
Sherry Cooper
2020-06-18 16:35
I do. I think the immigration issue is a very important one for the economy as a whole, and certainly for the housing market specifically. Permanent residents in Canada are typically not welcome at the Canadian banks, particularly new Canadians. They are going through alternative lenders. They're borrowing money outside the country and they're also going into the private sector.
Our assessment is that the CMHC's changes will have very little impact.
View Matthew Green Profile
NDP (ON)
We floated the idea of a home energy retrofit program to help offset the demand on fuel for the economy of sustainable urban development. What role could your association play in more sustainable urban development?
Mary Van Buren
View Mary Van Buren Profile
Mary Van Buren
2020-06-05 12:43
We'd be happy to participate in any way we can.
Kevin Lee
View Kevin Lee Profile
Kevin Lee
2020-06-04 15:27
CHBA has very much welcomed the work of the government to provide emergency programs to support workers and businesses. We've also appreciated how responsive the government has been to feedback to make changes to close gaps and maximize impact. In particular, the Canada emergency business account and the Canada emergency wage subsidy program have helped support many businesses.
Changes to the reference period for the wage subsidy and the ability to use the cash or accrual accounting method have been very important, as have changes to CEBA to lower the minimum payroll threshold and to render dividends eligible. We're very thankful for those on-the-fly adjustments that have been made that have allowed many more of our challenged companies to qualify.
At the same time, though, as we have expressed in our ongoing dialogue with government, there remain outstanding challenges, particularly with regard to the wage subsidy program. The challenge is that in residential construction the revenue cycles are long and essentially 95% of the revenues don't accrue until the close of the home when the keys are handed to the homeowner. A sale made in early 2019, for example, with a small deposit of typically 5% is financed over many months or years, and revenue comes at closing.
Due to this revenue cycle, closings have still occurred in recent months from construction over the past year or years, but new sales have dried up. In these circumstances, many businesses haven't been able to meet the revenue-decline criteria of the wage subsidy program because of closings. Meanwhile, sales have plummeted and as a result many companies have very little or no new work and, therefore, no new financing and won't until sales pick up. As a result, they have laid off and will continue to lay off workers. Unfortunately, neither the changes to the reference period or to allow cash or accrual accounting capture this situation.
To make the program work better for this situation, CHBA has been recommending that the program criteria be amended to allow the fair value of contracts signed to be used in calculating the revenue. This would capture the steep decline in sales, which is the measure needed to capture these situations and keep workers employed or get them back.
A quick note, too, on financing is that our members will need to have the financial system meet the credit requirements of businesses trying to stay afloat in the short term and scale up construction over the longer term. Unfortunately, some of our companies are having issues securing the capital they need when opportunities present themselves during this difficult time, or to extend financing due to delayed closing and lost sales. It would be important that the measures put in place by government to provide more liquidity to the financial institutions actually translate into the financing requirements of businesses in our sector and other sectors.
As I know many of us are starting to think in these terms as well, I'd like to speak for a moment on recovery.
While the forecasts vary on the impact that COVID-19 will have on the housing market, there is no question that government policy can and should help to ensure housing markets remain stable, rather than dampen activity or slow the recovery. Housing can and should be a solid part of economic recovery as it has been in the past.
For those Canadians who have maintained their financial situation through the crisis, there should be opportunities for them to act on home ownership or to renovate their homes to meet the evolving needs of their situation. For many, COVID has placed new priorities on their needs and aspirations regarding their homes. A multiplier effect in residential construction to other related goods and services and jobs is extensive. Economic recovery and housing recovery go hand in hand.
In terms of recovery programming, the good thing about housing is that it can achieve many other policy objectives too. To that end, we have some recommendations.
One is removing the GST or HST on new housing across the continuum for 2020 and 2021 to improve affordability immediately, and post that period, index the existing rebate program to better reflect current house prices.
We recommend introducing a home renovation tax credit for 2020 and 2021 for all types of home renovations, and connected to that, a permanent energy retrofit tax credit to tackle climate change now and into the future.
As for mortgage financing, we need to encourage and enable those well-qualified Canadians still in a position to invest in home ownership to do so. Now more than ever, it makes sense to give them the option of a 30-year amortization on insured mortgages to help well-qualified buyers enter home ownership and also to free up much-needed rental space as our supply challenges remain.
It's also time to move forward with the previously announced changes to the stress test benchmark that were to come into effect on April 6 but were suspended.
Given the Bank of Canada's recommendation to move to longer-term mortgages, we also recommend supplementary changes to the stress test to better mitigate risks for Canadians and the financial system by incenting longer-term seven- and 10-year mortgage terms through a stepping down of the 200-point buffer for the longer-term mortgages with respect to the stress test.
These are changes that keep sound controls on consumer indebtedness risks while also enabling those still with the means and the dreams to achieve home ownership, this at a time when that activity can also be pivotal in the economic recovery.
Thank you very much. I look forward to any questions you may have.
View Marty Morantz Profile
CPC (MB)
I wanted to turn to that before; it's just that I had limited time. You discussed a couple of stimulatory measures in addition to having CMHC on side, which hopefully will happen. You talked about a reduction of the GST, maybe the elimination of the GST for a short period of time, and the home renovation tax credit.
From my perspective, these measures are fundamental to getting the housing market back up and running as quickly as possible. Have you had any discussions with government, other than with this panel, on the possibility of implementing these types of measures?
Kevin Lee
View Kevin Lee Profile
Kevin Lee
2020-06-04 16:44
Those are the types of recommendations we have been making. We have submissions on those. Obviously, times are tricky as we also try to figure out the current crisis and work to fix and deal with the current programs that are in place. As the government turns its mind to how we deal with the recovery, we're very anxious to have further discussions on these opportunities.
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
Well, minister, I would say that B.C. is still looking for the government to step up. We bought our first hotel to house the homeless in permanent housing, and the government has yet to provide any funding to them.
The next question is for the Minister of Immigration. The first migrant worker died yesterday due to COVID-19. Migrant workers are warehoused in a space with no barriers between each sleeping cot. Others are housed in crowded communal bunkhouses.
What action will the minister take to address this alarming situation?
View Marco Mendicino Profile
Lib. (ON)
I thank my colleague for the question, and I want to extend our sympathies regarding the temporary worker who passed away from COVID-19.
Of course, we continue to support workers by ensuring that they have the accommodations and the spacing necessary to work when they are here providing food security for all Canadians. We're also providing support to farmers to ensure that those accommodations are made. We put in place the regulations and the rules that are necessary, and we continue to work very closely with our provincial partners as well as leaders in this sector so that we can protect workers and ensure that Canadians have access to safe and affordable food.
View Marco Mendicino Profile
Lib. (ON)
In fact, Mr. Chair, I would clarify that temporary foreign workers do have a pathway to permanent residence. Of course, that is an opportunity we will continue to offer those who are ensuring that Canadians have access to healthy, safe and affordable food. We will continue to make the investments that are necessary to maintain a high standard of professionalism and workplace safety.
View Laurel Collins Profile
NDP (BC)
View Laurel Collins Profile
2020-06-01 13:57
Mr. Chair, in Victoria housing and homelessness were at a crisis point long before the pandemic hit, but now people are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. If you don't have a place to live, you don't have the luxury of following public health advice and staying home. As part of the recovery, will this government be increasing funding to build or buy the housing needed to address homelessness?
View Ahmed Hussen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Chair, very early in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, our government provided $157.5 million directly to 51 community entities to respond directly to the needs of homeless Canadians. We also provided $50 million in additional money to women's shelters. We are continuing with the national housing strategy. We are providing supports to communities and NGOs, as well as municipalities that are moving projects forward.
View Laurel Collins Profile
NDP (BC)
View Laurel Collins Profile
2020-06-01 13:58
Mr. Chair, the federal government allocated just $1.3 million in Reaching Home funds to my region. While the province has stepped up, it cost them $18.5 million to purchase just one hotel in Victoria. The federal funding is clearly inadequate. Is the government going to show some leadership and at least match the provincial funds?
View Ahmed Hussen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Chair, we moved very quickly. The $157.5 million, I must note, was additional money on top of the base funding that we provide every year to address the needs of Canada's most vulnerable. In addition to that, our projects under the national housing strategy are continuing. We are providing leadership. We are trusting the community entities to make the decisions on where the funding goes and to respond in a way that meets the—
View Laurel Collins Profile
NDP (BC)
View Laurel Collins Profile
2020-06-01 13:59
The minister mentioned the national housing strategy. This government's national housing strategy reduces the level of targeted funding for lower-income households, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. My question is simple: Coming out of the pandemic in the coming months, is the government going to increase housing funding to address the immediate need, yes or no?
View Ahmed Hussen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Chair, I disagree with the honourable member. Our money is targeted to communities. They have community advisory boards that decide how to spend the money. If the NDP does not trust local communities to make decisions, they should say so.
Fiona York
View Fiona York Profile
Fiona York
2020-05-27 16:25
Thank you for inviting me to be a witness at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health.
I would like to first acknowledge that I'm speaking to you from the unceded traditional territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the Musqueam, the Squamish and the Tsleil-Waututh nations.
My name is Fiona York. I'm the coordinator and administrator of the Carnegie Community Action Project. I've worked in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver for 10 years.
I'm speaking today about those who are homeless, under-housed or inadequately housed, and impacted by poverty and trauma in the Downtown Eastside. Among the most impacted by the current crisis are those who are homeless and living in shelters and SROs, single-room occupancy hotels.
Fiona York
View Fiona York Profile
Fiona York
2020-05-27 16:26
The last City of Vancouver homelessness count showed that there are over 1,200 homeless people in the Downtown Eastside, including 600 unsheltered, which is an undercount. In March, the City of Vancouver declared a homelessness emergency in the city of Vancouver. This is a population that has sustained trauma—personal, systemic and colonial trauma, poverty and stigma, and the trauma of the HIV epidemic in the 1990s.
Fiona York
View Fiona York Profile
Fiona York
2020-05-27 16:27
Now it is in the midst of one of the worst traumas: the opioid crisis that has claimed almost 1,000 lives in the last four years. Added to this is the current pandemic, which both directly and indirectly impacts people in many ways.
The CDC explains that COVID-19 most affects older adults and those with pre-existing health conditions, such as those with heart disease, diabetes, asthma, HIV, COPD and lupus. Housing activists have stated over the years that housing is health care. Homeless people already die at a rate that is twice as high as that of the rest of the population.
Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition in the U.S., says it has never been so obvious that “housing is health care” and that we must provide resources to protect people who are homeless from infection and contagion. We also need to prevent others from becoming homeless during a public health emergency. It's really critical. Not only is it a moral imperative that we do so, but a public health necessity.
Homelessness is currently at an all-time high. Numbers increased by 1% to 2% over the last few years, and homelessness counts are always undercounts. SROs, shelters and supportive housing went into lockdown early in the pandemic.
Fiona York
View Fiona York Profile
Fiona York
2020-05-27 16:28
This has added more homeless who used to shelter with friends and family. One estimate is as high as an additional 400 homeless due to no-guest policies. As well, shelters reduced capacity by up to 50%, meaning even more people in the street.
Privately owned SROs are often poorly maintained and have shared washrooms and kitchens, meaning that residents are in close contact and unable to safely self-isolate. Government funding provided meals and cleaning in only 11 SROs, which will be ending soon.
Peers and non-profit groups have been providing meals, supplies, information and support to people living in tents, on the street and in inadequate housing in the Downtown Eastside. Over 10,000 meals and hygiene kits have been provided by CCAP volunteer efforts.
Coming out of this crisis, housing needs to be radically rethought. The lack of housing is devastating and contributes to unsheltered deaths through exposure, violence, substance use and ill health. Now it is clearer than ever that housing is essential to support the most vulnerable.
A demand for hotels from the province and city was answered by the targeted evacuation of Oppenheimer Park tent city, bypassing those most in need and most at risk of COVID.
Taking into account the homeless population, the newly homeless, those in SROs and shelters, close to 9,000 hotel rooms would be needed; 262 were offered to Oppenheimer Park residents, with a reported 638 rooms being provided in total.
As borders closed, the illicit drug supply closed and drugs became even more lethal. Several overdose prevention sites, OPS, closed, and OPS use went down from 6,000 per week to 2,000 per week. Overdoses spiked in March, with eight deaths in one week in March. Safe supply measures have helped to address the crisis, but there is no confirmation that it will continue past the pandemic.
Sex workers are another group that is disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Sex workers have been pushed into more unsafe situations, unable to work at home due to no-guest policies and left without an income.
Lack of communication and Internet contributes to lack of safety and health-related information. Community centres, libraries and daytime drop-in spaces all closed, eliminating access points for information, phones, charging phones, Wi-Fi and Internet, and pushing people into the street. On one side of one block at Hastings and Main streets 167 people were counted. These enforced crowded conditions contribute to lack of social distancing and inability to follow health directives.
Community groups have called to open the streets to pedestrians to give those displaced from other spaces somewhere to go, and to close a portion of Hastings Street to non-emergency vehicular traffic. Once again these displacements from public spaces, services, housing, shelters and parks displace the most vulnerable and, disproportionately, the indigenous and those affected by trauma, poverty and colonialism.
Over-policing has been the response to the crowded conditions outdoors. Overuse and misuse of policing is a way to respond and control a community facing a pandemic and unprecedented closures and lack of supports, once again stigmatizing and pathologizing those most in need.
The lack of indoor and daytime services has also led to a massive failure of sanitation and washrooms. Handwashing stations and porta-potties were placed on Hastings Street and a few other locations. These inadequate facilities led to two deaths in two weeks, including an infant found passed away in a porta-potty.
Many peers found themselves out of work when facilities and services shut down. Community members subsist on punitively small incomes and the small amounts received from peer work are essential supplements.
Food security was immediately, and continues to be, one of the major concerns during the pandemic, with so many daytime facilities and resources closed. Community members and groups responded with donations, in-kind donations and support for meal distribution programs.
The issues of housing, food security, washrooms and handwashing were nowhere more apparent than the tent city at Oppenheimer Park. There were over 200 tents and 250 people in Oppenheimer Park until May. The provincial announcement on April 25 was welcome news that hotels would be leveraged to safely house those who are homeless, but didn't go nearly far enough and clearly targeted the eyesore of very visible homelessness in Oppenheimer Park.
Once again, hotel units and SROs were stockpiled for those in the park and bypassed others far more in need and at risk.
The hotels offered did not address community needs or respond to community input. Restrictive guest policies, no pets or partners and punitive and restrictive rules have made then inaccessible to many vulnerable people.
A new tent city has been established in the federally owned parking lot at CRAB Park nearby in the Downtown Eastside, with 40 community members who were unhoused or inadequately housed after Oppenheimer Park, or the many others who are homeless. Park bylaws in Vancouver have lagged behind the provincial requirements that camping be allowed overnight, and street sweeps displace those sleeping in the street on a daily basis. For many, there is simply nowhere to go.
My recommendations are as follows.
Call on the federal government to have a national plan and to work with all levels of government to immediately house the homeless by securing empty hotel rooms to house the homeless and the under-housed. Secure the hotels now and turn them into permanent housing.
House the most vulnerable, not just the most visible. Follow the examples of other cities by triaging and housing those with the highest risk factors, those who are over 65 years old and with underlying health conditions.
Have an open and honest sit-down dialogue about any plan to house first peoples in urban environments and about what plan is coming to provide homes for on-reserve families with all the basics, including drinking water.
Make homes available for the 2,000 plus sidewalk-dwelling persons, especially during this coronavirus, and secure federal funds to open the Balmoral and Regent hotel rooms, which would give downtown residents a home in a known service-providing community.
The national housing strategy only suggests reducing homelessness by 50% over 20 years. Instead, we need a federal commitment for the prevention and elimination of homelessness, with expanded federal investment in community-based homelessness responses.
We recommend the construction of over 300,000 new permanent shelter-rate housing units and enhanced rental supports for low-income Canadians.
We recommend the meaningful implementation of the right to housing. Immediately purchase or build 3,000 homes that are shelter-rate homes.
Develop and fund an aggressive acquisition strategy and work in partnership with provincial, municipal and non-profit sectors to purchase properties and assets for shelter-rate permanent housing now.
Prevent those with deep pockets from sweeping up assets and protect against predatory purchasing of properties.
Make reconciliation a reality through respectful engagement with indigenous peoples and no pipelines on unceded territories and by following the recommendations of Red Women Rising, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Given that urban indigenous people are overrepresented among the homeless population, the federal government needs a national strategy addressing urban indigenous, one that is led by indigenous people for indigenous people.
Don't further displace indigenous people from unceded land by moving people encamped on federal lands or spaces. Let the homeless—mostly indigenous people—stay at CRAB Park, where they are safely encamped now but are facing an injunction that will displace them into streets and alleys that are more dangerous.
Enact the national protocol on tent encampments written by former UN rapporteur on adequate housing, Leilani Farha.
Invest in the guidance and direction of peers to ensure the efficacy and appropriateness of any response to homelessness.
Work with provinces and territories to provide adequate supplies of personal protective equipment to peers and front-line workers.
Finally, ensure access to real safe supply. The opioid crisis remains the biggest health and safety threat in the Downtown Eastside.
Thank you very much for your attention.
View Sylvie Bérubé Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you.
I'd like to ask Mr. Chartrand a question. We know that indigenous people have difficulty complying with quarantine and self-isolation measures because of overcrowding and poor housing conditions.
Could you describe the situation in your respective communities?
View Mumilaaq Qaqqaq Profile
NDP (NU)
View Mumilaaq Qaqqaq Profile
2020-05-06 16:44
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I carry a lot of passion and strength, and I think the majority of that comes from my family but also from my constituents.
Before I really dive into anything, I just want to mention a couple of things.
I often wear these earrings, made by a young lady in Nunavik, who is working on graduating and has young children with her. My support of her means that she is able to attend school. The sealskin bracelet is from a Canadian Roots Exchange event that brought together hundreds of individuals, indigenous and non-indigenous, from across the country. I wear a HopePact bracelet from the We Matter campaign, which promotes youth by creating positive messages to share with one another. Often for indigenous peoples we see very devastating rates of violence and suicide, so it's a platform that allows for positive messaging to be sent out. In regard to yesterday, as well, I also have on a MMIWG red dress to show support and solidarity with our stolen and missing indigenous sisters, and to promote that awareness as well. I have kamik or sealskin boots on, which you can't see. Those come from Arviligjuaq. It's really important and it directly, in my view, reflects the challenges we face all too often as indigenous peoples, but also the beauty and strength that comes from it.
When I walk around, and especially here in the House of Commons, I like to think that I'm representing more than what you sometimes see me standing here for.
COVID-19 and our time during this pandemic have done a lot to highlight all the inequalities that we see in my riding, throughout Nunavut and throughout Inuit Nunangat, throughout communities that contain a majority of indigenous peoples. This pandemic has done nothing but shine that bright light on things we often hear, especially here in the House of Commons, which we know are still issues.
The frustrating aspect about that is that there are a lot of things that could have been prevented if measures had been taken so that my constituents weren't as frustrated or stressed or scared. There are so many unanswered questions, Madam Chair.
These inequalities are something we've been experiencing in the territory for decades and on which we've been needing action for a long time. When I'm talking about action, I'm talking about basic human rights. I'm talking about the fundamental aspects of being a human being and being in this country and being a Canadian. I'm talking about year-round clean drinking water. I'm talking about being able to afford to feed yourself and your family. I'm talking about a safe place to live. That is not what I, as the representative of an entire territory, should be standing here talking about in 2020. If we are going to come out of this pandemic in a manageable state, the federal government must address these basic human rights that we need to see more of throughout my riding.
Frustratingly, we've been seeing funding being promised but not actually coming to the territory. It has been asked for three times. One of my colleagues asked during a finance committee meeting when the territory could expect to see that money. I asked at my committee as well. And here I am asking for a third time, still with no answers.
Luckily, we do not have any confirmed positive cases yet. We had an incident in the territory, in Pond Inlet, that was deemed to be a false positive. Pond Inlet is also already facing major issues with water infrastructure and access to clean drinkable water. They have been facing these since October, well before this pandemic.
I would really love to give credit to the Government of Nunavut, to the chief public health officer and to Pond Inlet for reacting so quickly and already having their plan in place, and using the limited resources and equipment they have to respond to it so well.
As I've also mentioned...and I hope I don't have to do it for much longer, but I'm going to do it until it's something that is actually addressed. For so many of my constituents, so many Nunavummiut, primarily Inuit, and we see this throughout Inuit Nunangat as well, throughout the four regions, housing is a major issue. It's the lack of housing, and also housing that is black mould-infested. I get dozens of pictures all the time, and it's absolutely appalling what people are living in. We know this is an issue, and we've heard it from multiple individuals in the House of Commons that we know these are still issues.
The last federal budget, unfortunately, resulted this year in even less housing than we've seen in previous years. Already we have that glaring gap, but we're seeing things being cut from us.
The rates of respiratory illness are very high in my constituency. Tuberculosis, for Nunavummiut versus non-Nunavummiut, is still 290 times the rate. I believe it's even worse in Nunavik. Tuberculosis is an issue throughout Inuit Nunangat, and we continue to see.... I don't even know if I can say “failed efforts”, because I don't even know how much effort has actually been put in.
Nunavut unfortunately only has seven ventilator units. If there are any more pressing health concerns that might require even minor surgery, things like having a child, most often we see people having to leave the territory. Can you imagine having your first child and not being able to be around your family and friends, because you can't even have a child in your home community?
Heath services have been very much lacking for a long time. We need further clarification as to how and when the federal government will make key items like personal protective equipment come to the territory. That is something that I know is pressing throughout the country, but these are also opportunities to start initiatives where we get to work with our seamstresses. We can promote items that create the well-being of the community, that sense of community.
We've been waiting for critical answers on resources and services for weeks from multiple ministers. As I have said before, I continue to see no concrete answers. A lot of the time we are forced, as Nunavummiut and Inuit, to accommodate a southern way of thinking or a southern way of doing things, when accessing resources and services is already so limited. A lot of the time it doesn't even make sense. It doesn't have the culture of humility aspect.
As I had previously mentioned, medevacs and serious conditions need to be sent out of the territory. As of right now, my riding has one of the most, if not the most, restrictive travel policies around it. All of the surgeries that can be put on hold are now put on hold. We need to ensure that when we come to what our new normal is we are not facing backlogs and we don't have people who potentially have serious illnesses now because they've had to wait for their surgeries or their follow-ups. We need to make sure there is a plan for individuals past this pandemic.
We see a lot of wait times for getting our testing results back. Luckily, I have very patient constituents in my riding, because it's frustrating. The housing that I've mentioned, already being in overcrowding, already not having as much access to food, to water, these are all issues. How can we be asking Canadians to do these things when those services and resources are not even there to begin with?
During normal times, Nunavummiut in some communities in particular, more than others, especially during our spring melt, see that inconsistency of clean drinking water year-round. This is when we see a lot of boil water advisories. This is when we see infrastructure often failing because of our circumstances in the north.
How are we supposed to ask a community to make sure they're constantly washing their hands and to make sure they're disinfecting and keeping their homes clean when the community doesn't even have the infrastructure to provide accessible clean drinking water?
I also had the opportunity to talk at committee about Internet service in my communities. It's not great, to put it nicely. I don't know if I could participate in virtual Parliament from my riding. I cannot confidently say that I could. The number of megabits per second and that kind of stuff in some communities is absolutely devastating.
Now, a lot of the time we talk about individual effects. What we don't talk about are the bigger items. When you're applying for Government of Nunavut identification or your driver's licence, because of the lack of bandwidth it actually gets sent down here to Ottawa and then sent back to our communities. We have people who wait months. I have constituents reaching out to me who are sometimes waiting for over a year for their piece of ID.
How are they going to access the many things that are tied to that? There are so many things you need that information for. I guess it's a glimpse of the reality that something as big as that, which should be accessible, is not. Also, how are we going to ask you to work from home on that poor bandwidth? How are we going to ask you to access online resources for your children in school? These are the kinds of things that aren't taken into full consideration, I think, especially when it comes to my riding. Even though it seems like one smaller aspect, the trickle effect, with the connectivity that it has to so many other issues in my riding, is very alive and well, unfortunately.
Take access to banking services, whether online or not. In my hometown, I've been with a particular bank for a number of years. I could never access that service except by phone, because we don't have a branch in my hometown. The next branch is a 40-minute plane ride and about an $800 ticket. That doesn't make sense. Accessibility is something that is so key, and it is something that is very much failing in my riding.
We have seen announcements made, like the $25 million for the nutrition north program. That program does not at all address the root cause of food insecurity in my riding. There are so many issues in that program already. Layer on a pandemic, and it doesn't make sense for my riding and my constituents even more so.
As I mentioned, the Government of Nunavut is still waiting for the $30.8 million that was promised out of the $42 million requested. I hope to have an answer soon on that. I will keep pushing until I do. We're still waiting to hear more information about the support from territorial grants and the Canada emergency student benefit, in direct relation to providing assistance to our students.
We are still seeing so many holes in the small business loans. CERB sometimes is inaccessible for my constituents. I have so many jewellers, carvers, musicians, artists, artisans and so many other people being left out. This is across the country as well. Many indigenous artists and artisans are falling through the cracks.
With all this being said, I would like to try to put it into perspective as, I guess, a race. Let's say we were all lined up together and were told this at the start: “Please step forward if you grew up in a safe, comfortable home that wasn't overcrowded.” I would need to stand back. “Step forward if you've never been affected by suicide.” I would need to step back. “Step forward if you can afford to feed your family.” In so many instances, I, as a representative of my constituents, would be at that same line while so many other people would be way ahead of me already.
That's the gap right there. That's what we need to close.
Help me assist my constituents to have an equal starting line so that they are able to do the things that we all should be able to do in life as Canadians with every equal opportunity.
View Laurel Collins Profile
NDP (BC)
View Laurel Collins Profile
2020-05-05 12:30
Thanks so much, Mr. Chair.
My last question is about housing and homelessness. My community was facing a crisis long before the pandemic hit, and now people who are living on the streets or in parks don't have the luxury of following public health advice and just staying home. In Victoria, the province and the municipality have stepped up with solutions to house people, at least for the short term, in local hotels.
Will the federal government respond to this immediate crisis and provide the needed investments in long-term, stable housing?
View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Yes, Mr. Chair, we have moved forward with a historic national housing strategy that puts $40 billion toward housing. Working with partners, we have reduced poverty by over a million people in this country, but there is more to do. We are reducing homelessness by half with historic investments.
We recognize that during this pandemic there's even more to do for vulnerable Canadians, and we are partnering with orders of government to make sure that happens.
Evan Siddall
View Evan Siddall Profile
Evan Siddall
2020-04-30 17:13
Under the current revised program, we stand ready to purchase up to $150 billion of insured mortgages to ensure that banks have access to reliable funding.
In short, the insured mortgage purchase program provides a safety net to ensure that banks can continue their lending activities so that housing markets remain functional.
We are also ready to expand the issuance of conventional Canada mortgage bonds, depending on market conditions and investor demand.
As Canadians do their part to contain the spread of the coronavirus, more than ever, our homes have become a sanctuary—a sacred place of safety and refuge in challenging times. We therefore acted quickly to offer help to Canadians who are having difficulty paying their mortgages or rent.
As the committee knows, the mortgages of millions of Canadian homeowners are insured by CMHC, Genworth Canada, or Canada Guaranty. This insurance protects the lender against default should the homeowner not be able to meet their mortgage obligations.
In the face of significant job and income loss due to COVID-19, we provided lenders with the ability to help homeowners who have been financially impacted by the pandemic. In coordination with private insurers, we're offering, first, temporary deferral of mortgage payments for up to six months; second, mortgage reamoritization so that homeowners can make lower payments over a longer period; and third, adding missed payments to the mortgage balance and spreading them over the repayment period.
We're urging Canadians who can pay their mortgages to do so, to keep our economy going and reserve financial relief for those who need it most.
The same mortgage deferral relief has been made available to our multi-unit clients. These are people who own apartment buildings, for example. In return, we've insisted on patience from landlords, specifically that they refrain from evictions during this crisis.
Meanwhile, we've accelerated support for non-profit and co-op housing providers to ensure that they continue to receive federal rent subsidies so that low-income tenants are not themselves forced from their homes. Again, we made it clear that evictions will not be tolerated.
For renters affected by COVID-19, the first defence is of course the income support measures announced by the Government of Canada, such as the CERB, the temporary salary top-up for low-income essential workers and the increased Canada child benefit. As is the case with mortgage holders, people who can afford to pay their rent must continue to do so.
Direct affordability support to households in housing need is also available in a number of provinces via the Canada housing benefit, which took effect on April 1. We're continuing discussions right now with other provinces and territories to accelerate the flow of this benefit to Canadians in need of assistance.
Finally, CMHC will administer the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance for small business. This program will lower rent by 75% for small businesses that have been affected by the crisis. While the program is not housing related, we were pleased to be called upon to deploy our real estate expertise to help struggling entrepreneurs.
I want to assure the committee that we stand ready to deliver other pandemic-related initiatives should the need arise. A rapid response in the past few weeks reaffirms CMHC's capacity to develop and launch new financial support programs quickly and effectively.
Looking to the future and our recovery, the pandemic has only underscored the importance of housing and our aspiration that by 2030 everyone in Canada has a home that they can afford and that meets their needs. We must continue our work investing in the supply of new housing and promoting urban densification as an answer to the shortage of affordable housing.
In closing, I will add one further thought for committee members. Please take note that almost everything we've done to respond to the crisis involves more borrowing. Governments need to borrow to finance new programs, just as mortgage deferrals add to already historic levels of household indebtedness. However, as Hyman Minsky, the economist, said, debt causes fragility. We leave this crisis less well prepared for the next one, and we must think ahead.
CMHC will share housing market forecasts shortly. I expect it to project a decline in prices. Combined with increasing unemployment, this prospect should give us pause. My colleagues and I are preparing ourselves to help Canadian households without offering bailouts, the tempting short fixes that have perverse long-term economic consequences. In my view, we must also confront the powerful incentives for excessive household borrowing that have contributed to the run-up in house prices.
CMHC was founded to help rebuild our post-war economy. We're at our best when we're responding to crises and helping our country get out the other side. We look forward to continuing our work in housing Canada, post crisis.
Thank you, Chair and committee members. I look forward to answering your questions.
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
I would appreciate that very much.
Yesterday, I got another email from another constituent who has been trying to reach Service Canada for 17 days. Literally, with May 1 coming on, he was extremely stressed about not having money for rent and not having received CERB for this period of time and being unable to contact Service Canada. These are the realities of people who are struggling out there today. I would appreciate it if someone would call my office in that regard.
I'd like to turn my question to housing. Across the country, this is hitting people in a very significant way, as we know. Earlier, I think a question was asked about the resources that have been provided to provinces and cities across the country. Could the committee get from CMHC the breakdown under each program of how much money is being offered to support provinces, and then have that broken down into cities, so that we actually have that information?
In terms of British Columbia, I know for a fact that while it all sounds good that the federal government is at the table, in reality much of the dollars have actually not really flowed. This last weekend, B.C.'s minister of poverty reduction made an announcement about the purchase of hotels and motels to house people who are in homeless encampments in Vancouver and Victoria. Has the federal government offered dollars to provinces and territories across the country to support purchases of empty hotels to house the homeless population during this pandemic?
Evan Siddall
View Evan Siddall Profile
Evan Siddall
2020-04-30 17:44
Mr. Chair, there is no such offer at this point. The programs that have gone through CMHC are national in scope. The only exception to that would be the Canada housing benefit, which is being shared with provinces as agreements are reached.
I can follow up, though, with a response to the member's question with respect to the breakdown of spending by province.
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you. I would ask that if you don't have that breakdown by city at this moment, you continue to endeavour to get that information and provide that information to us so that we can have a clear picture of the lay of the land.
With respect to decisions on policy, has CMHC given any thought to putting in, or recommending to the government to put in, restrictions on predatory purchases of assets during this period?
Evan Siddall
View Evan Siddall Profile
Evan Siddall
2020-04-30 17:46
That's not currently on the radar. I think that may be a matter of provincial jurisdiction.
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
I'm thinking about a national standard.
View Ahmed Hussen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you so much, Mr. Chair and committee members.
Before I begin, I'd like to take a moment to express my sincere condolences to the families and loved ones as well as the crew members of HMCS Fredericton who were affected by yesterday's tragic accident involving the crash of a Royal Canadian Navy helicopter, carrying six members of the Canadian Armed Forces, off the coast of Greece. As our Prime Minister said today, all of them are heroes. Our Canadian Armed Forces members serve our country with amazing dignity and courage.
Mr. Chair, I am pleased to be here with you today as we continue our important work to support Canadians and protect them from the COVID-19 virus and its inevitable consequences. There is no question that we have to continue working together, and quickly, to ensure that Canadians have the supports they need. That is why our government implemented an emergency response plan to protect Canadians' health and shelter them from the financial hardships that are resulting from this pandemic.
As the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and as the minister responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, I'm proud to present the government's COVID-19 plan and related measures under my portfolio.
To help families with the cost of caring for their children during this challenging time, the Government of Canada is providing a one-time enhancement to the Canada child benefit. This means that families who are currently eligible for the Canada child benefit will receive an extra $300 per child as part of their May 2020 payment. There is no need to apply for this additional amount.
Committee members, as the COVID-19 situation evolves, Canadians are becoming more and more concerned about their ability to pay their rent and their mortgages.
This situation underscores how crucial it is to make sure that everyone has a safe place to call home.
That is why we have put measures in place to help Canadians stay in their homes and find appropriate shelter to protect themselves and their families. Our first and foremost defence measure for all Canadians who are financially impacted by COVID-19, whether they are homeowners, landlords or renters, is the Canada emergency response benefit. This being said, it is important to note that housing providers have a most important role to play in safeguarding public health and protecting our economy. We are all in this together.
This is how the government is taking concrete action to help Canadians find a place to call home.
There is help available for homeowners who are having difficulty paying their mortgage due to the COVID-19 outbreak. If their mortgage is insured through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Genworth Canada or Canada Guaranty, the government has put the following options in place: temporary short-term deferral of mortgage payments for up to six months; loan re-amortization, making lower mortgage payments over a longer period of time; adding missed payments to the mortgage balance and spreading them over the repayment period; or a combination of the above options. Canada's six major banks and mortgage lenders have announced measures to support all homeowners in the eventualities where mortgages would not be insured by CMHC.
Landlords who are having financial difficulties also have access to the same relief measures as homeowners, such as mortgage payment deferral. These measures will allow landlords to show compassion and patience to their tenants in these extraordinary times.
Tenants who cannot pay their rent because of financial difficulties related to COVID-19 should contact their landlord. All provinces and most territories, representing nearly all of Canada's population, have issued full or partial eviction bans. The government expects housing providers to act compassionately and refrain from evicting their fellow Canadians, especially housing providers who have received funding support or mortgage insurance from CMHC.
It is also important that renters, homeowners and tenants who are still able to pay their rent do so on a regular basis. Canadians must continue to remember that financial relief measures are for those who need it the most.
The COVID-19 pandemic in Canada is also having real and tangible public health, economic and safety impacts on all Canadians. Those experiencing homelessness are at a heightened risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19. The government has to ensure that the sector serving the homeless has the support it needs to prepare for, prevent and manage any COVID-19 outbreaks.
In addition to the $157.5-million investment announced to support people experiencing homelessness through the existing federal program called reaching home, the government has provided $15 million to help the large urban centres that faced immediate and urgent needs at the start of the pandemic. This includes funding to purchase beds and physical barriers for social distancing and to secure additional accommodation space to reduce overcrowding in shelters. The government is investing this money quickly through our existing community partners. In addition, we also moved $50 million directly to women's shelters to enable them to deal with the consequences of COVID-19. This funding will enable communities to quickly invest in services that have the most impact based on their circumstances and needs.
Last, we acted quickly to support charities and non-profit organizations. These organizations have always been at the forefront in helping the most vulnerable in our communities. At a time when they're being called on to do more by more Canadians, they're finding that they're facing unprecedented challenges as there is a drop in donations and a drop in the number of volunteers available to deliver their services. That is why we made sure these organizations were eligible for the wage subsidy. We also announced a $350-million emergency support fund that will help the sector respond to COVID-19.
Committee members, we are all in this together. By addressing the financial needs of Canadians, the government is doing its part to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus and protect Canadians during this pandemic.
Thank you, and I will be very happy to answer any questions you may have.
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Minister, are the Liberals looking at policies with respect to purchase of distressed assets that currently potentially would be on the market, and would the government consider putting restrictions on the purchase of those assets from predatory purchasers?
View Ahmed Hussen Profile
Lib. (ON)
To use the example of the City of Montreal, the municipal government passed a bylaw to empower the city to have the right of first refusal for properties that are abandoned, and then obviously once it does that, we can then use the national housing strategy to fund any housing project proposal brought forward by the municipal government or by an NGO. I think that would be the way to go about it.
Véronique Laflamme
View Véronique Laflamme Profile
Véronique Laflamme
2020-04-17 14:16
Hi, everyone.
My name is Véronique Laflamme. Today, I am representing the Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain, FRAPRU, which is a Quebec-wide group of housing committees, tenants' associations and citizens' committees from various regions of Quebec.
We have 140 groups in Quebec, 30 of which are active groups that work daily with tenants, mainly low- and modest-income tenants, and with people who want to start social housing projects. Our groups support these projects, and provide support and services to tenants, particularly vulnerable tenants. In the context of the current pandemic, our groups receive many calls from tenants who are worried about losing their homes or who have reached the threshold of being able to pay.
FRAPRU is a group that promotes the right to housing, a right to which Canada committed itself as a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, but also by recently adopting, last June, Bill C-97, which included the recognition of the right to housing.
I would point out that the right to housing includes protection against eviction and a criterion relating to the ability to pay, which every home must meet, and that it must be implemented progressively, not regressively, using the maximum available resources.
The current pandemic highlights the interrelation between the right to adequate income, the right to health, the right to food and the right to housing. The particular consequences of the lack of decent housing for the homeless in particular have just been clearly highlighted by the person who spoke before me, but the consequences for seniors are also revealed by the current situation. It is important to remember that there are many seniors who are not in public institutions, but rather in rooming houses or in poor housing situations.
FRAPRU's main concern in the current pandemic is therefore to avoid mass evictions after the end of the health emergency. In most provinces and in Quebec, there is a moratorium on tenant evictions during the health emergency. Unfortunately, in most cases, this will disappear at the end of the pandemic. Since tenants' ability to pay is affected, we fear a wave of mass evictions, particularly because of the lack of employment insurance for many low-income workers, despite the income assistance provided by the Canada emergency response benefit.
We are concerned that many people will not be able to pay their rent and that they will be even more precarious after the pandemic, not to mention those who will not be able to return to work or low-income households that do not qualify for these programs. I am thinking in particular of low-income retirees and people on social assistance who have to pay more for food because of the closure of resources that often allow them to have access to some free food. These people will become more vulnerable and will have a harder time paying their rent because of the pandemic and the end of various services.
So our main concern is to avoid evictions during the pandemic, but we're also thinking about what will happen afterwards. We are well aware that this is a provincial jurisdiction, but it remains a concern that the federal government must have, given its commitments to housing rights.
Our other concern has to do with the ability to pay. The Canadian government has been able to take action on the income side, particularly through the benefit programs that have been announced but, as I was saying, we don't think that will be enough, for a number of reasons. It isn't yet the case in all Quebec cities, but in several Canadian cities, the $2,000 is close to the amount charged for rent—it's important to remember that. In Toronto and Vancouver, but also in Montreal, many tenants are already paying $1,500 or more in rent. Therefore, additional resources are needed. Later on, I will suggest some measures that could be implemented by the federal government.
At the same time, I would point out that tenants are all the more vulnerable to eviction because hundreds of thousands of them were already in core housing need at the time of the last census. In fact, 1.7 million tenant households in Canada were paying more than the standard of 30% of their income for housing, and 800,000 tenant households in Canada, including 195,000 in Quebec, were spending more than half of their income on housing.
This prevents them from meeting their other basic needs.
Food banks were already highlighting the impact of the lack of affordable housing on the increased demand for food assistance. These situations are exacerbated by the current pandemic. There was a pre-existing housing crisis in Quebec and in several Canadian cities because of the scarcity of affordable rental housing, but especially because of the high cost of housing, which was already leading to the exclusion of many tenants from their neighbourhoods. Finally, there was also a context of real estate speculation, which is still present and will unfortunately not disappear with the pandemic.
The major problem in Canada is the lack of alternatives for all these tenants. At FRAPRU, we have often highlighted the fact that this crisis has been caused by the lack of social housing and the federal government's withdrawal from housing outside the private market, whether it be low-rent housing, co-ops or non-profit organizations. According to the OECD, Canada ranks 16th in terms of its percentage of social housing. Social housing accounts for 4% of Canada's housing stock.
As Ms. Arbaud said, in this case social housing is inaccessible to many, making many tenants even more vulnerable to eviction. They have nowhere else to go, which leads to more homelessness.
In the current context, bearing in mind that Quebec's areas of jurisdiction must be respected, the demands we are making of the federal government are not the same as those we are making of the Quebec government. First of all, we are talking about a contingency fund. Yesterday, the government announced assistance measures of this type, including loans for commercial rents. We believe that this requires a contingency fund and not just interest-free loans, because we must avoid increasing debt. It takes special grants and then perhaps interest-free loans for tenants.
In Canada, particularly in Ontario, there is already such a fund to help people who, for one reason or another, can't pay their rent. It could be set up by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which already manages mortgage loans.
Then there is the funding of emergency rent supplement programs. Rent supplement programs have been federally subsidized in the past. They can be managed by the provinces, which have infrastructure. These programs need to be funded quickly to help people stay in their homes with financial assistance.
At the same time, funds must be made available now to rehabilitate the social housing that Ottawa has funded in the past. This would make it possible to quickly rehouse people who can no longer afford to pay their current rent. Because of underfunding by the federal government, 300 social housing units are shuttered in Montreal alone. Renovating these units would not take as long as building new ones.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
Again, I keep coming back to this. Everyone who's in this business says that the number one driver for higher prices is supply constraints imposed by municipal and provincial governments. These increased prices then affect the entire market. They affect people who are lower on the economic scale the worst, because they don't yet have property. Those who have property are better off, because their main asset increases in value.
We keep hearing from municipal leaders that they need more money for social housing, but at the same time municipal and provincial regulations are making housing more and more expensive. Do you see anything inconsistent about these two simultaneous phenomena—requests for more housing and restrictions on more housing?
Keith Lancastle
View Keith Lancastle Profile
Keith Lancastle
2020-02-06 12:18
I think it's important to remember this. Toronto gets approximately 100,000 new citizens every year. These are people who want to come, and they're at the household formation stage. They want to get into the housing market. In fact, you're not seeing 100,000 new houses brought on year over year, so you're getting that disconnect between what is available on the supply side and the increased demand solely as the result of people moving into a community. Then you overlay that with the fact that people are urbanizing; they want to remain closer to the downtown core and not deal with the commutes that they deal with in some cities.
I think you have that collision between supply and demand.
Kevin Lee
View Kevin Lee Profile
Kevin Lee
2020-02-05 18:41
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
As you know, CHBA is the voice of Canada's residential construction industry—new construction, renovation and land development. With over 9,000 member firms across the country, we represent an industry that is the source of 1.2 million jobs and 160 billion dollars' worth of economic activity.
The recent election campaign confirmed how concerned Canadians are about housing affordability. It showed the dream of home ownership is still very much alive in Canada, and the next generation of new Canadians is very concerned about home ownership slipping away. It doesn't have to be this way. We can protect the financial system, and, in fact, strengthen it through policy adjustments around housing.
We know there have been successive demand-side measures to address financial system vulnerabilities, but we also know these have had an impact. The problem is that the impact in some cases has been quite severe, and it's definitely time to recalibrate the system accordingly.
CHBA estimates that 147,000 potential buyers have been knocked out of the market by the stress test. About half of those are first-time buyers. Arrears rates have gone up in some struggling areas. Overall, they continue to be below one-quarter of 1% nationally, and young Canadians have the lowest arrears rate of any cohort. The mortgage system right now is penalizing the wrong group.
We, therefore, continue to recommend adjustments to the stress test to reduce it the longer the term of the mortgage. Leave it at 2% for one-year terms, but decrease it over the longer term down to 0.75% for five-year terms. To encourage even longer-term mortgages, as promoted by the Bank of Canada, there is no need to stress-test seven-year and 10-year terms. This will maintain financial system stability, promote longer mortgage terms and help more well-qualified Canadians achieve home ownership.
We are pleased to see the federal government is committed to review the stress test with a view to making it more dynamic. We encourage the minister to expand consultations beyond just the financial institutions to ensure industry voices are part of the review.
In addition, regarding first-time buyers, we still recommend a return to 30-year amortizations for insured mortgages. The millennial generation, who are now well into their careers, are ready to get a foothold into housing, and can do so responsibly. Given that most will move up the market, the idea that they shouldn't have a 30-year mortgage is a fallacy, since most will take on another 25-year mortgage in a move-up home in a few years anyway, if all goes well. The average time to pay off a 25-year mortgage is also only about 17 years in Canada. Again, we are penalizing the wrong group when we prevent entry into home ownership. All that said, demand-side measures have been a problem, but fixing them alone is not a solution by itself. Prices are affected by both demand and supply factors.
The federal government can set up its leadership to work with the provinces and municipalities to increase market rate housing supply where we see so much in the way of shortages and resultant price increases that are rightly so concerning to Canadians.
We need more homes that meet Canadians' needs in the places they work and want to live, and this includes units for both ownership and rental. A rental can be best spurred on by tax reform, but I'll leave that discussion for another time. Governments at all levels need to target getting more housing supply online using the various levers at their disposal.
The year 2019 saw a decline in housing starts of over 4,000 units nationally, compared to 2018, at a time when we all acknowledge we need more, not less housing supply. We're also seeing severe declines in the value of building permits in western Canada, contributing to weakening local economies and job losses in residential construction at a time when those jobs and economic activity are so desperately needed. It's time to enact policy to help turn that around.
Like housing affordability, climate change emerged as an important issue for Canadians during the election. Undoubtedly, there is an important role that housing can play, but smart policies are required to ensure that addressing climate change doesn't further erode housing affordability.
CHBA and our membership have always been leaders in energy efficiency, and we continue to do so with our net-zero home-labelling program. Our leading-edge builders are pioneering this space to find best approaches to meet these goals by building net-zero houses for Canadians who want to invest in their homes that way, but the affordability gap that still exists must be closed before code changes and regulations are made. Further R and D and innovation are needed for higher levels of energy performance to be affordable for all.
We are calling on government not to go to extreme levels of energy performance and code until they are affordable for consumers. We're also calling for affordability to be enshrined as a core objective in the National Building Code for energy efficiency and for all other code changes.
Very importantly, CHBA welcomed the recognition in the election campaign of the impact that home energy retrofits can have in helping to meet Canada's climate change goals. We have long called for home energy labelling at the time of resale and an energy retrofit tax credit, both using the Government of Canada's EnerGuide labelling system. We encourage more support for the EnerGuide rating system for houses, expanding and promoting this system as the backbone of all currently proposed housing incentives, tax credits and other energy efficiency initiatives by governments, utilities and all other organizations to build on the same system to maximize results. For instance, the new interest-free retrofit loan program should certainly require the use of the EnerGuide rating system.
Elections sent a clear message. Canadians want a government that works together and works for them. Budget 2020 is an opportunity to do just that. All parties rightly identified housing affordability, home ownership and climate change as key concerns in their platforms. CHBA looks forward to working with you to bring those solutions to these key issues for Canadians.
Thank you.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
You mentioned demand-side factors. Are there any supply-side factors?
Kevin Lee
View Kevin Lee Profile
Kevin Lee
2020-02-05 19:23
We've got a lot of supply-side issues. Definitely in our largest urban centres it's very difficult to bring new residential construction online. There are lots of delays, red tape and development taxes that are affecting affordability. There are a lot of factors affecting things and it's very inelastic, so in our largest cities—where we have a lot of immigration—it's very difficult to bring new construction online quickly enough to meet demand. You're seeing that in the house prices, especially in the GTA and the Lower Mainland in B.C.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
Has there been any improvement in these big markets in the delays for approval?
Kevin Lee
View Kevin Lee Profile
Kevin Lee
2020-02-05 19:23
There's a little bit starting in Ontario. There's not a heck of a lot going on in B.C., although there is a new joint panel trying to work on that, so we shall see.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
Do you find it ironic that we hear municipal politicians tell us there's a housing crisis and yet municipal, and sometimes provincial, policies prevent the construction of housing in the first instance?
Kevin Lee
View Kevin Lee Profile
Kevin Lee
2020-02-05 19:24
Yes, although usually when they're talking about a housing crisis, it's more around homelessness and low-income housing. Obviously it's a concern when there's not enough shelter for people in need.
By the same token, the problem we have right now is that the whole housing continuum is stuck. We don't have enough new construction. We don't have enough people able to get out of rentals and into their first home because of the mortgage rules. Normally, 80% of new rentals that come online every year come from people vacating rental units because they've become a first-time homebuyer. When we no longer have enough first-time homebuyers, we have tight rental markets, and it works its way through the whole rental system and into those in housing need as well.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
Right.
What would be the fastest way to increase supply at this point?
Kevin Lee
View Kevin Lee Profile
Kevin Lee
2020-02-05 19:25
At this point, it would very much be collaboration between the three levels of government to recognize and acknowledge that it is a huge problem and truly address the zoning regulatory and red tape issues that are moving forward. As well, in certain instances in Canada right now, the way the mortgage system is working means nobody's building on spec right now and so supply is down.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
In Canada, it takes 249 days on average to get a permit to build a warehouse. In the United States it takes 81 days. Canada's now ranked, I think, 61st or 62nd in the world for speed of obtaining construction permits. That's a problem for all three levels of government. Do you believe that this kind of restriction and delay on building is holding back our economy and our quality of life?
Kevin Lee
View Kevin Lee Profile
Kevin Lee
2020-02-05 19:26
Yes, it certainly is. There's no question about it. There are some Canadian cities that are starting to do a good job on this and have identified this as an issue and so—
Kevin Lee
View Kevin Lee Profile
Kevin Lee
2020-02-05 19:26
Saskatoon, for example, is doing a very good job right now in moving things forward, and others are trying to follow suit.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm going to direct my questions to Mr. Lee.
In terms of the stress test, looking at the time it was implemented, would you agree that the main issue for the overheated markets in greater Vancouver and greater Toronto was one of supply and not demand?
Kevin Lee
View Kevin Lee Profile
Kevin Lee
2020-02-05 19:41
There was a lot going on there. Definitely a shortage of supply was and continues to be the main driver of house prices there, but there were many elements going on. There was also quite a bit of speculation going on. There was definitely a certain element of foreign investment. One of the challenges we have in Canada is that we don't have sufficient data to really know exactly how much of that is going on. There were a lot of different factors at play, but there's no question right now that, as we continue to see now that prices are starting to rebound again, the issue of supply.... We have a constant growth of population. Until we can get supply to match demand, prices will continue to go up.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
Certainly the stress test was aimed at demand, and it suppressed demand by keeping hundreds of thousands of potential homebuyers out of the market. You talked about some of the consequences, including in the greater Vancouver area. Would you agree that reduced demand did not improve affordability because any stabilization of pricing was matched by reduced spending or borrowing power?
Kevin Lee
View Kevin Lee Profile
Kevin Lee
2020-02-05 19:42
Yes, really you haven't actually reduced demand in that instance; you've just tried to suppress it artificially. Those people are still looking to become homeowners but can't right now. It's not that the demand is gone; it's just that they cannot.
The problem is that you haven't improved affordability. The element of any house price stabilization or decline that comes from locking people out isn't affordability. That's just reducing the ability of people to buy, reducing equity for people who have houses and reducing affordability by telling people they can't qualify.
There is a better happy medium that we can find and move forward, to help people get into the market. As long as we can provide the right amount of supply moving forward, continuing to have mortgage rules that enable people to get out of rental is very good, not only for them but to open up the rental stock for other people who need more affordable rent.
Results: 1 - 79 of 79

Export As: XML CSV RSS

For more data options, please see Open Data