Mayors demand housing measures before federal elections

Mayors in Canada are calling on federal parties to take urgent action on housing and the homeless as vote day approaches.

In a open letter To federal parties, 17 mayors of cities across the country, including Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Halifax, Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg and Edmonton, pressure the next federal government to use its leadership to deal with the “devastating consequences.” Affordable Housing and Underfunded Social Services.

“Wait this letter it is a clear signal to federal party leaders and Canadians that there is a housing and homeless crisis, ”said Tim Richter, president of the Canadian Alliance to End the Homeless (CAEH), a national group advocacy that aims to end homeless people across the country.

“There is support for action to end homelessness and address Canada’s need for housing beyond the homeownership portion of the Canadian housing crisis.”

The letter endorses a six-point platform by Vote Housing, a national non-partisan campaign to end homelessness and improve housing in Canada, as well as a housing platform by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Both platforms call for urgent federal action, major new investments in home construction, and supports such as rental assistance to reduce the need for primary housing, which is when a home is in need of major repairs, is too small for the household that lives there, or it costs more than 30 percent of household income.

Richter said this is the first federal election in his memory in which housing has been a priority and reflects the views of Canadians.

Eighty percent of Canadians said they would be more or somewhat supportive of a political party proposing concrete actions to end homelessness and build safe and affordable housing in Canada, according to a Nano Survey for the CAEH held in August.

The letter explains that Canada’s increase in homelessness and unaffordable housing is a direct result of the federal government withdrawing investments in affordable housing and social services in the 1980s and 1990s.

“This situation was created by federal policy, and it will take federal leadership to reverse its devastating consequences,” the statement read.

Greens are the only party promising supportive housing

Although each party addresses housing on its platform, some commitments are stronger than others.

the The Green Party platform is the only one that mentions solidarity housing, promising to invest in the construction and operation of 50,000 solidarity housing units for 10 years.

Supportive housing involves providing tenants with an allowance to make housing more affordable and linking them with social workers and other services to help tenants with finances, requests for assistance, appointments, and other types of support.

It’s considered one of the most effective ways to address long-term homelessness, said Nick Falvo, a Calgary-based consultant and research associate at Carleton University who specializes in homelessness and affordability.

“When four out of five parties don’t even mention supported housing, that’s pretty disappointing,” he said.

He said Liberals, Conservatives and the NDP put significant emphasis on first-time home buyers on their platforms and little emphasis on homelessness, while Bloc Québécois and the Greens put more emphasis on addressing homelessness. living place.

A green government would “declare housing affordability and homelessness a national emergency,” said a Green Party spokesperson, and would require housing developments that receive federal funds to guarantee that 30 percent of all units in each development is deeply affordable and / or available to people with disabilities and special needs.

Along with its commitment to supportive housing, the Green Party also shares the Vote Housing call to action to build and acquire a minimum of 300,000 units of deeply affordable non-commercial, cooperative and non-profit housing over a decade.

The Greens are also committed to “refocusing” the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation “on supporting the development of affordable cooperative and non-commercial housing, as opposed to their current priority of supporting Canadian lenders to reduce the risk of investing in the home ownership “. which Falvo said is “bold”.

A Vote Housing volunteer places a sign on the lawn while campaigning in Calgary, Alta. Photo provided by the Vote for Housing Campaign

Liberals, NDP Platforms Emphasize Homeownership

Steve Pomeroy, a housing policy research consultant in Ottawa, says the Liberal and NDP platforms heavily emphasize homeownership, despite the fact that only about four percent of all Canadian households purchase a home each. year, meanwhile, tenants represent 32 percent of the population. .

“(Renters) face massive challenges in terms of increasing rents, ‘renovations’ and a ton of issues like that, and there is very little on (the platforms) that really address serious affordability challenges for tenants,” he said. Pomeroy.

The NDP platform it is also ambitious but less specific than the Greens’, committing to “create at least 500,000 quality affordable housing units in the next 10 years, and half of that will be done in five years.”

The NDP platform does mention “fully implementing the right to housing” and says the party will work “toward the goal of ending homelessness in Canada within a decade,” which is in line with the requests from the NDP. letter, but scant on implementation details. The platform mentions adopting a “housing first” approach, a strategy that focuses on permanently housing the homeless as quickly as possible.

During the election campaign, the federal leader of the NDP, Jagmeet Singh, promised $ 5,000 in annual rental subsidies, although this is not reflected on the official platform.

The liberal housing plan would support the construction of 100,000 middle-class homes, build more than 20,000 more units of new affordable rental housing, and revitalize 130,000 units that are in disrepair.

“Affordable” means a lot of different things to different people, Pomeroy said, which means the devil will be in the details. However, it is true that it is difficult to delve into all the details of an electoral campaign dominated by 10-second snippets of sound, he said.

In 2017, the Liberals aimed to reduce homelessness by 50 percent, but last fall, the party upped the ante, saying its new approach would be to eliminate homelessness in Canada.

Your platform It also mentions making $ 4 billion available to cities through a Housing Accelerator Fund to advance its goal of creating the 100,000 middle-class homes, but it is unknown whether the $ 4 billion would be administered as grants or loans.

Liberals also say they would double the existing 2021 Budget commitment to $ 600 million to support the conversion of vacant office space into housing.

“Every Canadian deserves a place to call home,” Liberal Party spokesman Brook Simpson said in a statement, adding that the party will build “on the success of the National Housing Strategy to address housing for Canadians. vulnerable “to” accelerate new construction “and” make it more affordable and viable for first-time home buyers. “

Overall, Falvo said the Liberals and the NDP share a similar strategy, “doing everything possible to impress first-time home buyers.”

Conservatives’ ‘out of touch’ housing plan

For Falvo, conservatives seem less interested in helping tenants. The party’s commitment to invest “$ 325 million over the next three years to create 1,000 residential drug treatment beds and build 50 community recovery centers across the country” is positive in the sense that treatment programs generally do not they are adequately funded but should not be seen as a primary response to the homeless. , he said.

“It suggests that Mr. O’Toole’s conservatives are quite disconnected from mainstream thinking about homelessness these days,” Falvo said.

The Conservatives pledges to build one million homes in the next three years, a plan that includes a proposal to incentivize corporations and private owners to donate properties to Land Trusts for affordable housing development, but does not mention specific numbers of affordable units.

Between rising house and rent prices and an increase in homeless camps as a result of COVID, this issue is the biggest concern for Canadians, Pomeroy said.

The mayors’ letter is less about determining which party currently has the adequate housing formula and more about encouraging everyone to adopt calls to action, at least to some extent, so that the federal government can be held accountable afterward. of the elections, he said. additional.

“I think the concern that mayors are raising is that the platforms don’t really say much about what it’s really going to do for the most vulnerable,” Pomeroy said.

Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada National Observer

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