Canada’s Housing Affordability Crisis
For people on low incomes, Canada’s rental housing market is in crisis. Rents have been escalating in many cities, and high rent increases are being demanded by many property owners. As well, the high number of Airbnb units has greatly reduced the number of rental units available; and many rooming houses have been displaced by new condo developments. In Toronto alone, there are over 100,000 individuals on the waitlist for subsidized units at Toronto Community Housing, and in the city of Edmonton, over 22,000 people pay more than 50% of their monthly income on rent.
25 years ago the federal government cancelled its national social housing supply program which provided about 20,000 new units per year (from the 1960s to 1990s). That austerity measure means that today low income households must compete for access to fewer and more expensive rental units in an aging stock of private and social rental housing. Also, the cost of ‘starter homes’ has skyrocketed. See: 20-years-ago-canada-had-a-housing-plan
Even under the recently announced ‘National Housing Strategy’ almost no new social housing is being built. In contrast, there have been hundreds of billions of dollars in direct and tax subsidies for home ownership.
And David Hulchanski, Professor of Housing and Community Development at the University of Toronto, notes that “the needs of vulnerable populations will not be met by the Federal government’s recent National Housing Strategy, and that the proposed subsidies will help very few in housing need”. See “Ottawa has not put forth a national housing strategy”
In Ontario there are over 950,000 individuals on social assistance and many more earning minimum wage; most of these individuals and families do not have access to subsidized housing. And people who rent do not receive the substantial tax benefits that home owners receive when they sell their homes. Homeowners pay no capital gains tax when they sell their house. The extreme inflation in the market value of real estate values benefits existing home owners and raises residential land values and rent levels, thereby punishing people who rent or hope to purchase a home.
In addition, many provincial governments have cut back on support for families, such as the Ontario government’s recent cuts to the ‘Transition Child Benefit’ that impacts 16,000 children each month.
Priorities & Choices – www.prioritiesandchoices.org is a platform for individuals and organizations to coordinate their efforts for public education and citizen engagement. We need to show our politicians that there are citizens who care about the injustices affecting the most vulnerable.
A basic premise underlying our call for a shift in Priorities is that greatly increased funding is required for low-rental housing. We have endless research on the need for affordable housing and on strategies for creating housing. Redirecting more Federal dollars to create this rental housing needs to be a priority!
The Canadian government recently invited bids for 88 new fighter jets at a cost of over $100 million each. How many jets do we need for air shows? If this number can be reduced by 50 jets (from 88 to 38 jets), then the savings of $5 billion would fund 25,000 new permanently affordable low-rent social housing units.
In June 2017, all Federal parties supported a bill in Parliament to increase Canadian military spending by 70%. See graphs in this Defense Policy Report: Strong, Secure and Engaged. https://www.cgai.ca/strong_secure_engaged_a_two_year_review
These increases directly affects the money available for humanitarian needs such as housing. We need to make our priorities known to political candidates in the upcoming Federal election.
If the annual increase in military spending were capped at 3% (rather than 7%), then there could be a savings of $100 billion over 20 years that could fund an additional 25,000 low-rental housing units each year. This calculation is based on average funding of $5 billion per year, and subsidized capital costs of $200,000 per unit in order to provide deep subsidies for people on social assistance and those working at low wages. This housing should include co-ops, non-profit models and low-cost home ownership.
Our estimate of an average of $200,000 per unit subsidy is based on a number of factors, such as, the levels of social assistance, the minimum wage, the varying land and construction costs in different parts of the country, and considering new innovative ways of creating housing. We can also call on developers and property owners who have benefited from high real estate prices and high rents to contribute towards creating new low-rental units.
These changes will only happen if concerned citizens find creative ways to work together and speak with a loud voice.
Please share this message with others who are concerned about housing in our city. Priorities & Choices – People Make Choices: Choices Make History