On the doorstep people are asking me about affordability and in particular affordable housing.
Housing affordability is deteriorating across Canada. Vancouver has the worst affordability in the country, and within our city Vancouver-Granville is the worst of all. Whether you dream of home ownership, are looking to rent, or want to keep the kids close, affordability matters to us all. It is also critical to our local economy.
If not resolved, the issue of affordable housing will seriously hurt our city’s future prospects. The shrinking of affordable housing options is already making it more difficult for our local economy to grow, to attract new workers, and to meet the needs of our most vulnerable people. While homeowners in our riding have seen their property values increase considerably in recent years – and of course want their nest egg to continually go up – such unaffordable prices also makes it next to impossible for many young people to buy, or for the children of people already living here to stay. It also pushes up market rents. And there is the question of foreign buyers.
Nearly 40% of households in Vancouver spend more than 30% of their income on housing. Economists consider this to be dangerously high. To compound matters, new construction of rental housing has been less than 10% of all housing starts on average for the last 20 years across Canada.
The party best placed to address the looming housing crisis in our city is the Liberal Party. On September 9, 2015, Justin Trudeau announced Real Change: Affordable housing for Canadians as part of an historic and bold infrastructure plan. The Liberal party has committed to a significant investment in social infrastructure of nearly $6 billion over the next four years and almost $20 billion over ten years. The Liberal plan will renew federal leadership in affordable housing, help build more housing units, refurbish existing ones, renew existing co-operative agreements, and provide operational funding support for municipalities.
Importantly, the new funding will be predictable and will be controlled locally. This means it will be used to meet local priorities and implement local community plans, including those in our riding.
Many of you might not be aware that Canada is the only G20 member with no national housing plan despite committing to develop one in 2009 following a request from the United Nations. The Harper government apparently had no intention of meeting this commitment even though a well-funded national housing strategy is an economic driver.
The truth is affordable housing has never been a priority for the Harper Conservatives. They have systematically reduced their funding commitment to housing and have abandoned the critical federal role. The CMHC has withdrawn from providing many types of rental housing resulting in a shortfall of available units. Meanwhile, the current federal budget contains not one dollar to provide new social housing units. In fact, in 2012 the late Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said his interventions in the housing market were at an end and he wanted to see the CMHC privatized in the next 5-10 years. Based on the evidence one could conclude the Conservatives want to get out of housing altogether!
As for the NDP, while local candidates may advocate for affordable housing, it is unclear in this election where they intend to get the money to pay for it or what their real plan is. Mr. Mulcair, contrary to the prevailing economic wisdom, insists that he will not run a deficit and that austerity is now the order of the day. This means cut backs like the Conservatives, not investments. Not a good thing if you need to build affordable housing. If the NDP continues to insist they will not run a deficit they will simply not be able to deliver. In contrast, the responsible Liberal plan is to grow the economy now by taking advantage of low interest rates to build much need infrastructure today and to be out of deficit by 2019.
There is no question that as redevelopment continues many of our communities within Vancouver-Granville are being transformed. All you have to do is drive along Cambie, Granville or Oak to see this process unfold with dozens of homes sold or vacant and being pulled down with condos going up.
The real question we have to ask ourselves, will enough of the new housing be affordable and available to those who need it and want to live here? We need to make sure it is. As your Member of Parliament, working in partnership with the City and the Province, I will work to ensure there is.
 P. 33, Gaetz, Gulliver, and Tim Richter. The State of Homelessness in Canada. http://www.homelesshub.ca/sites/default/files/SOHC2014.pdf
 Cited in LPC-BC Toward a National Housing Strategy (Draft 2013) https://bc.liberal.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/1014/2013/01/Draft-Housing-Policy-Paper-Jan-13.pdf page 7