Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to rise in the House to speak to the report tabled by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. It is also a privilege to be the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Housing, because we know that the housing problem is a concern today and has also been a long-standing concern for many of us here in the House and for many Canadians across the country.
It was certainly a concern for me, my family and my mother. For a long time, I lived with my disabled brother in a third-floor apartment. I often had to carry my brother on my back up three flights of stairs, set him down in the hallway of our small two-bedroom apartment, and then go back down for his wheelchair and carry it up to the third floor, in a building that was not designed for persons with disabilities who need accessible housing. I lived in low-rental housing, where the rent is set at 25% of the household income, because my working-class family could not afford to pay for housing at market prices.
My story would be familiar to many Canadians, especially in my riding. The government recently invested in my riding, including in projects to help people experiencing homelessness. For example, the organization L'Anonyme has a unique and innovative program for making rooms available to people experiencing homelessness. Les Auberges du coeur is a shelter network that gets young adults off the street and into a suitable apartment, with the community support they need. There are numerous similar examples across the country, such as the project recently implemented by Sen̓áḵw in Vancouver, in the home province of my colleague who just addressed the House. It is a 6,000-unit project in which $1.7 billion was invested thanks to the national housing strategy.
We have invested in recent years. Critics claim that we have not built enough housing units, but we have made sure to renovate many units to maintain affordability. We recently announced that 58,000 housing units in Vancouver would be renovated thanks to a $1.3‑billion investment. Just last year, we also announced that 4,000 units in Montreal would be renovated. These are units that are currently boarded up and inaccessible to families. To maintain affordability, it is just as important to renovate as to build.
Many of us have mentioned that each order of government has a role to play in housing. It is a shared responsibility. I used to be a city councillor for one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Montreal, Saint‑Michel. The neighbourhood had one low-cost housing complex known as Habitations Saint‑Michel‑Nord. In our first two or three years in power, our government invested in the “Saint‑Michel plan” to remodel the entire complex in order to give these families a decent place to live.
Responsibility for the project was shared with the municipality and the province. We cannot do it alone. The federal government does not have a magic wand. It takes leadership, and that is exactly what we provided with the national housing strategy. However, insulting the municipalities and calling them incompetent is certainly not going to get more housing built. We need to sit down with all stakeholders, including the different orders of government, community organizations and the private sector, to make sure that we are working not only on social and affordable housing, but also on the entire housing spectrum. We need to consider the most vulnerable, as well as those hoping to purchase a property.
I have a 22-year-old daughter, and all I hear from her is that it is impossible for her to get on the property ladder. Right now, the generation gap between our children and the people who bought property years ago is immense. We need to make sure that people have shelter and do not have to live in the street, but also that young families can buy a home. Between the two ends of the spectrum, we must ensure that there is social and affordable housing for everyone. Offering funding to build and renovate housing is one thing, but this is the first time that a government has introduced legislation on the right to housing.
We do believe that having a roof over one's head is a human right. We wrote that right into law though the act that created the position of federal housing advocate.
Our government is ready to be held accountable for the actions it is taking through the national housing strategy. However, a federal housing advocate does not necessarily create a right in the provinces and municipalities. How can we work with the provinces and municipalities so that they also take measures that will protect Canadians, especially tenants?
As I have said, we have put in place measures concerning the right to housing, including the federal housing advocate. However, we particularly want to work on the issue of renovictions. Speculation is making it all too easy to force people out of their homes to financialize housing.
I should take this opportunity to say that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Nepean. I want to thank my colleague for reminding me.
No one should lose their home, and no one should lose an affordable home because of housing financialization. The measures we want to take and work on will require collaboration with the provinces. As we know, housing is a provincial jurisdiction.
Several of my colleagues have spoken about the various programs under the national housing strategy. The committee report mentioned the housing accelerator fund for municipalities. This program aims to increase the housing supply by 100,000 new units across the country. We want to be sure to give to municipalities—which I hope will no longer be called “gate keepers,” “incompetent” and “woke”—the means to be real partners and work together with various levels of government to build more housing. What does that mean?
That means that if the municipalities want to access this fund, they will need to increase housing density and ensure the sustainable development of units and their affordability. Through the CMHC, the government will give money and invest in these municipalities based on their performance. That is exactly what the opposition is asking us to do.
We are already doing that. I do not understand why the opposition members are criticizing the program—actually, they are not criticizing it, they are just not voting for it—and are asking us to do things that we have already done. I would invite them to read the program information and, among other things, attend the webinar provided by the CMHC. I think that it may shed some light on the details of this program.
I would also like to talk about the co-investment fund. We are talking about forcing the levels of government to work with us to build more housing. The co-investment fund does exactly that: It stimulates partnership. To access the co-investment fund, an organization must have partners from the municipal, provincial or other levels to carry out projects. At this time, the average rent for the co-investment fund is $718 in the country. The co-investment fund ensures that housing in this country is affordable.
The committee report outlines several excellent recommendations. They are already part of the program that was announced. In addition, I invite all my colleagues in the House to talk with their municipalities so that they are prepared to work with the federal government and submit projects shortly.
We recognize that there is a whole lot of work to be done. However, one thing is certain: Through all the programs under the national housing strategy, the federal government returned to the table with leadership that will stimulate partnership and collaboration. The government wants to ensure that, across the country, the supply of affordable housing will increase, that young families will get access to home ownership and that no one is left out on the street. The right to housing is a human right.