I agree with the United Nations when it identifies adequate housing as a fundamental human right, including the right to a security of tenure, adequate conditions, protection against forced evictions and access to affordable housing.
But for too many families in Canada, safe and affordable housing is increasingly out of reach, thanks to ballooning home prices, skyrocketing rents.
Average rents rose in every single province last year, and far too many households spend more than 30 per cent of their income on housing.
In some parts of the country there are 10 to 15 year wait lists for affordable social housing.
The national housing crisis is impacting every area of the country, and this must be a priority for the federal government. It will be one of my top priorities if elected as the M.P. for Kings-Hants.
One in three Canadians is a renter so there needs to be much more focus on creating rental housing stock, particularly for low and middle-income Canadians. The NDP’s pledge is to create at least 500,000 units of quality, affordable housing in the next ten years, with half of that done within five years. An NDP government would also make it easier for families to pay rent by providing help of up to $5,000 a year while they are waiting for more affordable housing.
The fundamental difference between the NDP platform and those of the other two major parties is that our focus is on affordable alternatives to market housing: non-profit housing, government-subsidized social housing, co-operative housing, and co-housing.
One of the reasons we are in this housing crisis is that there has been far too much reliance on market housing. However, not enough developers are building rental housing and governments are not financing enough social housing. In some parts of the country there are 10 to 15 year wait lists for affordable social housing.
It is within this context that I strongly support inclusionary zoning and other proven municipal housing incentives to encourage more alternatives to market housing. I would also support any municipal tax on those companies that are buying up rental housing and turning them into short-term rentals (e.g., “Air B&Bs”) and using the tax revenue to fund more social housing.
A key part of the NDP’s housing platform is provide resources to promote co-operative housing. To kick-start the construction of co-ops, social and non-profit housing the NDP promises to set up a dedicated fund of investment capital and to streamline the process and help communities get the expertise and assistance they need to get co-op projects off the ground as soon as possible. It typically takes around 10 years from when a co-operative is organized until construction begins. I would like to see that halved to five years. To save even more time, I would like to organize tenants of market-rental housing into co-operatives with the long-term goal of transitioning towards a co-operative housing development.
The federal government must become more directly involved in funding social housing – that is helping to create more government-subsidized public housing. The NDP plan calls for increasing federal resources to finance and build more government-subsidized housing for those who cannot afford market housing.
First Nations Housing
The housing crisis is most acute in First Nations communities. Statistics Canada indicates that one in five Indigenous people lived in a dwelling that is in need of major repairs and/or lives in over-crowded conditions. I support the Assembly of First Nations resolution that calls “for a comprehensive approach that includes all aspects of housing, from social housing and the care and control of band-owned housing to individual home ownership” and for a “balanced Housing Framework that maintains the ability of First Nations communities to move forward with local, territorial and regional housing strategies.” The federal government must respect this resolution while providing more dedicated funding to support new construction and repairs to First Nations housing on reserves.
In short, a major focus of the NDP is increasing affordable, safe, and suitable housing for renters, low and middle-income people, Indigenous peoples, and others who cannot buy a home. It is essential that the federal government play a larger role in providing alternatives to market housing in collaboration between federal, provincial, municipal and First Nations governments.
- Steve Schneider