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December 18, 2018 December 18, 2018

Action needed on affordable housing

Posted on December 4, 2018 by Sunny South News

We have seen federal governments both keep and break election promises. This is nothing new; in a best world scenario, politicians really mean to keep these promises, but sometimes pesky things like time, money or changes-of-heart mean they can’t keep them.

What does seem unusual is that a government put time and money into a promise, and then it just goes nowhere.

Last year, the Liberal government released a $40 billion, decade-long housing strategy that would be based on a “right to housing”, according to Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, who’s in charge of the mandate.

This meant although you would not see members of Cabinet building you a new house, the idea of it is to help provide a remedy to those wrongfully denied an apartment or home for reasons like religion or gender identity, and introduce legislation to require federal governments to maintain a National Housing Strategy and report to Parliament on housing targets and outcomes.

This would be complimented by significant investment to build and repair affordable housing. A federal housing advocate would also be introduced to advise government and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) on dealing with affordable housing shortages. After the strategy’s launch last year, consultations over the potential bill’s scope began and were wrapped up in June, and a report on it was released last month.

It takes time to turn a promise into a reality, especially when you are dealing with all the political regulations and forms that go with it. But although it was promised the corresponding legislation would be introduced this fall, there is less than two weeks on the Parliamentary Calendar this year, and so far, there has been no word on the next move for it.

Instead, according to a Canadian Press story, the Liberals are considering putting the right to housing legislation and the housing strategy into the budget-implementation bill in 2019, instead of moving it forward with its own bill, to get it passed quicker as debate would be more limited on the budget bill.

Although they have started out strong, the Liberals appear to be getting weary of their own housing strategy. Given that owning a home remains out of reach for many Canadians, and it’s near impossible for people living in larger urban centers such as Toronto — where a two bedroom total gut-job was on the market for $750,000 in January this year — or Vancouver — where a burned down house in a popular neighbourhood was for sale for nearly $4 million back in August — the Liberals housing plan was well received last year.

The issue is we haven’t heard much about it since then, and there really isn’t much point in having a housing strategy if you are not going to implement it. Again, there’s beaurocracy involved, but given that there’s supposedly $40 billion involved — not chump change by any means — one would have thought that they would have heard something about it this fall. That begs the question; did they decide that it was too grand of a plan?

The apparent inaction over the housing strategy has housing advocates concerned that the government will walk back on their pledges, such as creating a watchdog to oversee federal housing efforts.

Although the majority of funding for the strategy won’t be dealt out until after the 2019 election, it seems odd for them to be getting cold feet about it now, a year after the big announcement.

Housing isn’t an issue like legalized cannabis; people need a roof over their heads to survive. This is Canada; no matter where you live, we get weather.

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the average price of a house in Canada in 1984 was $76,351; in 2016 it was $442,264. That’s an increase in price of more then five times, and salaries have certainly not kept pace with that increase. According to information taken from a 2011 Conference Board of Canada study on income inequality, in 1984 the average family after-tax income was $48,500, while in 2009, it was $60,000.

Although house prices may be more affordable in some parts of the country more so then others — according to the CREA, the average price of a house sold in Lethbridge in August 2018 was $252,941, while in Toronto it was $807,340 in October 2018 — this is an issue that people across the country can recognize.

A lack of affordable housing is not something that we, as a country, should be proud of. Although the Liberal government has made some encouraging steps to address the problem, they need to put hammer to the nail and show they believe in their own housing strategy.

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