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 wait list 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. In contrast, there have been hundreds of billions of dollars in direct and tax subsidies to fund home ownership.
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.
Even under the recently announced ‘National Housing Strategy’ very little new social housing is being built. 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, and the extreme inflation in the market value of real estate benefits existing home owners and raises residential land values and rent levels, thereby punishing people who rent or hope to purchase a home.
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 the 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, as well as co-ops, non-profit models and low-cost home ownership. Redirecting more Federal dollars to create this rental housing has to be a priority!
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. These increases directly affects the money available for humanitarian needs such as housing.
And 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.
The federal budget for military spending over 20 years is $553 Billion. If 20% of this amount were redirected to housing affordability, then the savings of $100 Billion could fund an additional 25,000 low-rental housing units each year. This calculation is based on average subsidized capital costs of $200,000 per unit – to provide deep subsidies for people on social assistance and those working at low wages. This housing could include co-ops, non-profit models, and low cost ownership options.
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 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.
We need to make our priorities known to political candidates in this Federal election. Change will only happen if concerned citizens find creative ways to work together.
Please share this message with other concerned citizens in our city.