House of Commons Hansard #117 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was housing.

Topics

Housing
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on affordable housing. This is a major issue in British Columbia. In fact, it is a major challenge. Many B.C. families do not have adequate housing. The high cost of housing is undermining the social and economic structure of our rural and urban communities.

This issue of affordable housing is not going away and it is really not improving. It is an issue that affects about 15% of all Canadian families, families that are essentially in a situation of not having stable, suitable and affordable shelter. That is known as “core housing need”. Can members imagine that, in a country like Canada?

Actually, I will correct my number; it was 13% in 2006, but my guess is that the statistics are higher now.

There are that many Canadian families not able to focus on the other important aspects of their lives, such as raising strong, responsible children. They are distracted by wondering whether they will be able to pay the rent or find housing that has enough space for family members, or whether that housing can be heated and whether the electrical wiring is safe. So many health and safety concerns are raised when one does not have access to safe, affordable housing that it would be safe to say that it would distract families from their other important objectives. As a health and safety concern, it is a matter of social justice in our country that we address that core housing need of the 13% of families who do not have access.

This issue is also hugely important from an economic perspective, because when housing is not supporting and nourishing the family, it is difficult to focus on other issues, whether it is education, suitable employment, or income mobility, meaning the efforts of the family members to lift themselves up to an income level sufficient to make housing affordable. It is a matter of social justice that we address this issue.

This is one of those big, complex issues that governments really have a responsibility to address and for which they must take a leadership role. That is something that the current Conservative government is completely failing to do.

Affordable housing is an issue that cannot be left to the municipalities, even though our City of Vancouver has made huge strides in bringing together an affordable housing task force and putting affordable housing on the provincial and federal radar again. Vancouver has made a commitment to emergency shelters and to having spaces for people who otherwise would be on the streets of our city.

Municipalities have a role, but they cannot do it alone, and provinces cannot address this complex challenge of affordable housing alone either, even though in British Columbia, as in other provinces, there have been major influxes of resources and time and effort. In downtown Vancouver, the British Columbia government—and I am sure this is happening in other provinces as well—has purchased buildings and has converted what were rundown hotels into single-resident rooms that can be combined with supports for families or individuals who have other needs in order to reduce the number of people living on the streets and create a portfolio of affordable housing.

So provinces work on this, but they cannot do it alone. What they do not need is a federal government that pumps out some money once in a while but does not have stable, predictable funding and does not take a leadership role on this issue. That is what I am asking the Conservative government to do.

A leadership role does not mean that it is the federal government's responsibility and that the federal government has to be a landlord for affordable housing. However, leadership does mean having discussions with the provinces and municipalities. It does mean taking a lead role in carefully assessing the problem in all its complexities and, with its partners, developing a strategy that will perhaps require funding or other tax measures but that has a compass point that all of the partners are headed toward. It also means having the flexibility to address the issues in the communities where affordable housing is the biggest challenge in the way they need to be addressed to get on top of this problem.

This is one of those big public policy issues, like access to affordable child care and like access to pension security, that Canadians have faced over the generations. Federal governments, especially the Liberal governments, have actually said in this regard, “Yes, this is not easy to fix, but it is our responsibility, for the fabric of our country and its future, to tackle it.” That is what the Liberal governments did with a number of our social programs that today we are all proud of, programs that provide social security upon retirement.

That is one program, unfortunately, that the current government wants to change, and to change in such a way that those with the lowest incomes will have to wait two more years to get their pensions, so the burden of the supposed fix would fall most heavily on low-income senior single women. Liberal governments over the years have had the courage and taken the bold action to put those social safety nets in place, and that kind of effort and commitment is needed on the issue of affordable housing.

In British Columbia, affordable housing was the most important and highest-profile policy discussed at the Liberal Party convention last November. The people of British Columbia, along with Liberals from across the province, agreed that affordable housing is critical to the well-being of our residents. It is the responsibility of all citizens and those who have affordable housing to help create a framework to ensure that all people have that right.

It was a primary proposal by Liberals at our last convention. The solution is federal government leadership, which we are not seeing. In fact, the Conservative government is doing a variety of things to undermine income equality in Canada. Not having affordable housing, which 15% of our families do not have, costs families not only their well-being but also their economic opportunities. In Canada the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing faster than it is in the United States, and some of the government's policies are responsible for that.

I will cite the example of tax credits. Those credits go only to families who can afford to pay income taxes. For example, the sport tax credit is a transfer of $120 million from the treasury to above-average-income Canadian families, totally leaving out those families who probably are the ones in need of affordable housing.

The government has a job to do on affordable housing, and it is not doing it.

I call upon the government, for humanitarian, economic, equality, and justice reasons, to take a leadership role and begin to do its job.

Housing
Private Members' Business

May 4th, 2012 / 1:45 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today about Motion M-331, which was moved by the hon. member for Shefford, concerning the right to housing and the fight against homelessness. I would like to commend him for his work on this issue.

Since this is a short motion, I would like to read it in order to make sure that the people watching know what we are talking about. It states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) keep with Canada’s obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the right to housing under the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; (b) support efforts by Canadian municipalities to combat homelessness; and (c) adopt measures to expand the stock of affordable rental housing, with a view to providing economic benefits to local housing construction businesses.

Access to housing is a problematic situation across Canada. According to the CMHC's most complete data, in 2008, 13% of urban households had core housing needs. Households have core housing needs if their housing is unacceptable because of its quality, size or price. The CMHC found that 1.3 million Canadians in urban centres live in poor-quality housing, housing that is too costly or housing that is too small for the number of family members.

As one may imagine, low-income families, single-parent families and persons living alone are the ones most likely to be facing core housing needs.

According to the Observatoire Grand Montréal of the Montreal metropolitan community, 21.8% of rental households in greater Montreal have core housing needs; 49,945 are households with minor children and 23,685 are households in which the primary financial support is a recent immigrant.

According to the 2006 census, of the 706,619 rental households in the Montreal metropolitan community, 126,580 must spend more than half of their income on housing rather than on other basic needs, such as medication, food and transportation. In the past 10 years, the average rental cost of a two-bedroom home has increased 38% in the greater Montreal area.

Despite relative prosperity, the situation in the northern ring of Montreal is a concern as the growing population there is putting pressure on housing availability and prices. In the town of Saint-Eustache, for example, 23.2% of households have core housing needs.

I recently commissioned a survey from Segma Recherche to get a clearer idea of the priorities of people in the riding of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles. One thousand people were surveyed there in March, and the figures from that survey are consistent with the Observatoire Grand Montréal’s data.

In Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, 25% of tenants say they have been forced to cut spending on food or medication in order to pay rent in the past year. One in four individuals is paying too much for housing.

Housing accounts for more than half the disposable income of some households. As that cost cannot be reduced, other basic needs are not being met.

In view of this disastrous housing situation in Canada, it is not surprising that in May 2006, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights described the situation as a national emergency and demanded that Canada meet its international obligations respecting the right to housing. Little meaningful investment has been made since then.

The latest Conservative budget contains no satisfactory measures to address the problems of homelessness and housing. On the contrary, the government is making matters worse by cutting CMHC's budget by $102 million by 2014-15.

The government has also refused to increase its investments in housing and homelessness, which, in real dollar terms, are at their lowest level in 10 years, as they have not increased during that period.

The Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain condemned the housing provisions of the last budget as follows:

...Over the next two years, Ottawa will continue to allocate a total of only $250 million a year to all provinces and territories, including $57.7 million to Quebec, for all of their affordable housing construction and renovation programs...in addition, the budget earmarked to fight homelessness will remain frozen for another two years at $134.8 million, despite the growing number of homeless people in Canada and Quebec.

Similarly, Bruce Pearce of the Canadian Housing & Renewal Association said:

The 2012 federal budget outlines no plans to invest in affordable housing or in measures to end homelessness.

...

...we are disappointed that this budget was effectively silent on affordable housing because so many needs remain.

The Réseau d'aide aux personnes seules et itinérantes de Montréal and the people helped by that organization were among the big victims of the most recent budget. I simply cannot understand how the Conservative government could have denied RAPSIM a subsidy, when that organization does such remarkable work with the poorest of the poor.

I would remind the House that RAPSIM has been receiving financial support from Ottawa for several years now as part of the homelessness partnering strategy. Federal support for RAPSIM was supposed to help safeguard rooming houses and encourage stakeholders to work together on issues like access to services for homeless people.

The NDP has studied the housing problem very thoroughly and has proposed real solutions over the years. While waiting lists for affordable housing continue to grow, which is completely unacceptable, we think it is crucial that Canada have a national housing policy to ensure that the federal government contributes to the construction of new housing, which it has not done since the 1990s. This is unacceptable.

In February, the NDP again presented a Canadian housing strategy. It is time the federal government made substantial investments in social housing and affordable housing. Canada is in fact the only G8 country in the industrialized world that does not have a national housing strategy. I say investment, because funding for social housing creates jobs and reduces the social costs associated with poverty.

The objective of the NDP’s bill is to develop an effective affordable housing program by requiring that the federal government hold consultations with organizations that work in the field of housing, aboriginal communities, and provincial, territorial and municipal governments. The NDP is also committed to restoring funding for homeowners under the residential rehabilitation assistance program and the affordable housing initiative.

As well, with the cost of living and the need to address homelessness constantly rising, funding for the homelessness partnering strategy has never been increased or even indexed since it was created early in the last decade. It is high time the government lightened the load on community organizations that assist people who are homeless.

We must remember that there are currently 300,000 people without homes in Canada. The NDP supports the Réseau SOLIDARITÉ Itinérance du Québec, which is calling on the Prime Minister's government to increase funding for the HPS to $50 million in Quebec and to make that funding available starting in 2015.

I would like to conclude by saluting the extraordinary work done by the Association de promotion et d'éducation en logement de Saint-Eustache. APEL is a community organization dedicated to doing advocacy work for tenants, educating, and developing social housing in the Deux-Montagnes RCM and the southern part of the Mirabel RCM. APEL has a broad network of partners and receives support from, among others, Centraide Laurentides and the Government of Quebec’s Secrétariat à l'action communautaire autonome et aux initiatives sociales.

If the Conservative government listened more to communities and community groups like APEL, it would realize that access to safe, affordable housing comes well ahead of F-35s, gazebos and the minister’s $16 orange juice on the public’s list of priorities.

The housing shortage affects the health and well-being of tens of thousands of families. We have to remember that investing in housing creates jobs that stay in the communities. It is time the government took action.

I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his work on this issue.

Housing
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to rise today in the House to speak on Motion M-331 moved by my colleague from Shefford. I would like to thank him sincerely for his work on this issue. I would also like to thank all my colleagues who support my colleague from Shefford.

The New Democrats have a clear position on affordable housing: it is absolutely essential to make affordable housing accessible for Canadian families. We are committed to implementing legislation to ensure that housing is adequate and accessible. This is what we are proposing today.

In Canada, the shortage of affordable housing is flagrant. In Quebec, for example, it is estimated that about 325,000 households have core housing needs. It is appalling that, at the present time, only 10% of all housing starts will provide rental housing. Given that housing is being lost at a greater rate than new housing is being built, the number of rental units offered by the private sector is shrinking every day.

Moreover, according to estimates by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, there will be an additional 50,000 rental households every year over the next decade. The low supply of suitable accommodation is increasing pressure on rents and making it more difficult to find affordable housing.

Some of my colleagues will of course prefer statistics and figures. So here are some that clearly show that the shortage of housing in Canada is critical. Of the households that cannot afford housing, 750,000 have children under the age of 15, 26% are single-parent families, 15% are immigrant families and 20% are aboriginal households.

In addition, nearly 1.5 million households in Canada cannot afford decent housing, which is totally unacceptable. Of this 1.5 million, 25.7% are single-parent families, 18.2% are immigrant families and 20.4% are aboriginal households. The situation is disturbing and now is the time to act.

The shortage of affordable rental housing forces renters into deplorable situations. In the vast majority of cases, if housing is affordable, it is in poor condition. It is also sometimes the case that, given the lack of options available to renters, they are faced with owners who take advantage of their circumstances. This is the situation we are currently seeing in the Montreal area.

Some owners neglect to maintain their units. For example, damage goes unrepaired, pest infestations go unresolved, and problems with mould are left untreated. Residents have their backs against the wall and have no option but to live in these conditions.

Canadian families should not have to live like this. Families in Quebec and in Canada deserve much better.

In the past, the federal government played a major role in the construction of social housing, particularly between 1967 and 1993. Thanks to the funding that was available during that period, many co-operatives and all the low-income housing units were built. It was the Mulroney government that made devastating cuts to that funding.

FRAPRU estimates that, if that funding had continued after 1993, there would be an additional 60,000 social housing units in Quebec alone. There are currently 1,120 low-cost housing units in Laval, 93 of which are located in my riding of Alfred-Pellan. Only 12 of those 93 units are set aside for families and the rest are reserved for seniors.

There are clearly not enough units, and it has come to the point where every week my riding office receives requests from my constituents for help in finding social housing. People are desperate. Some, like Ms. Galipeau, have been waiting for a place in social housing for nine years. Nine years.

The lack of social housing was underlined by my predecessor, who tabled many petitions, including one signed by 135 tenants of social housing asking for funding merely to renovate the low-income units and another one signed by 2,813 residents in Laval asking that the old Saint-Vincent-de-Paul prison be converted into social housing.

There is an urgent need for the government to deal with the social housing it has built. Many low-income housing properties are coming to the end of their agreement with the federal government. Low-income housing was built in partnership with the municipalities and the federal government. Tenants spend 25% of their income on rent, and the federal subsidy pays the remaining operating costs only until the mortgages are repaid. As a result of the expiring agreements, 85% of the social housing stock is facing radical rent increases. In addition, as we all know, once the first mortgage is repaid, major work on the buildings is often necessary. However, the federal government does not appear to be interested.

What is even more alarming is that some families are being forced into homelessness as a result of the housing shortage. In recent years, homelessness has persisted and increased in Canada, and an estimated 150,000 to 300,000 Canadians are currently homeless.

Contrary to what some would think, homelessness is also a problem in the Laval region, as the program Les Francs-Tireurs showed last March. I suggest that anyone who did not see it go to the Les Francs-Tireurs website and watch the episode on the homelessness problem in Laval. It is extremely relevant to this issue.

However, there is very little in the way of resources to assist homeless Canadians, and funding still appears unstable. Needs are growing, whether it be in Montreal, Laval, Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax or any other city in the country, but funding under the homelessness partnering strategy, the HPS, has not been indexed since 1999. In fact, the program will be expiring in 2014, and this government, the one opposite, is refusing to be clear and specific about its plans after 2014. Will this government abandon Canadians? I wonder.

The last budget, which the government brought down in March, does not offer even a glimmer of hope to families looking for housing. In fact, it announces a $10.2 million cut to CMHC's budget by 2014-15. There is also no provision for affordable housing and absolutely nothing about renewing social housing operating agreements.

In reaction to that budget, the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association indicated that a commitment to at least extend existing programs, such as the homelessness partnering strategy, would have been appropriate.

The right to housing is part of the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights for good reason, as a number of my colleagues have already said.

This is also an issue that overly affects people who are already marginalized such as women, aboriginal populations, newcomers, people with disabilities, seniors, and many others.

Access to decent, affordable housing is a health and safety issue in Canada. The report entitled “Housing and Population Health”, by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, indicates clearly that the type of housing affects health. Renters have average health or, at least, their health is not as good as that of homeowners. The poor conditions that exist in some housing are one reason for this disparity, but the percentage of income spent on housing also has an impact, since it influences the ability to spend on other needs such as food, suitable clothing, health services and so forth.

I want to reiterate that I subscribe to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says that access to suitable housing is a fundamental right, not a privilege. I urge the government to take this declaration seriously. Canadian families have the right to have a roof over their heads for their safety, health and survival.

I want to thank my colleague who took the initiative to move this motion and my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, who introduced Bill C-400 to ensure that Canadians have secure, adequate, accessible housing.

I invite the government to support this motion and our affordable housing initiatives because housing is a necessity, not a luxury. It is time to open a dialogue on this.

Housing
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, I am truly pleased to support the motion of my colleague from Shefford, and I thank him very much for introducing his bill on affordable housing.

The motion clearly indicates the social and economic aspects of rental housing and articulates a vision for housing in Canada. The motion addresses a matter that is a national emergency, and it is vital that we advocate for rental housing in Canada.

First, I would like to make you aware of a reality that is unfamiliar to many, but one faced by many Canadians every day. Access to affordable rental housing must also be considered from the viewpoint of people with disabilities. Finding rental housing suited to their needs is a difficult task.

Housing is of vital importance for people with disabilities because it gives them the autonomy and independence needed to believe in themselves, knowing that they are valued and accepting their qualities and their limitations. It helps them appreciate and accept themselves for who they are.

Housing also fosters full participation in the community. People with disabilities cannot live wherever they want. Some neighbourhoods simply do not have suitable rental housing. These people find themselves constrained by the fact that they have to find housing close to their place of work, which limits their options and often forces them to pay much higher rent.

I had a great deal of difficulty finding housing that met my needs in close proximity to Parliament, in Gatineau. I needed an entrance that was easily accessible and, above all, a bathroom that could accommodate a wheelchair, not to mention the fact that most buildings do not have elevators.

You will realize, Mr. Speaker, that I quickly abandoned the idea of having an affordable place to live just a few minutes from Parliament. I can assure you that I quickly realized that there are very few areas that have truly accessible housing that is affordable, and where people with functional limitations can live.

A person living with functional limitations must basically, out of necessity, have criteria not just for the layout and accessibility of the building but also for their safety. I am not talking about one or two criteria, but of many criteria.

I would like to mention a few of them.

To begin with, parking lots must be accessible and well lit. Imagine getting out of a car into a wheelchair and standing on ice in an unlit area: it is dreadful.

Moreover, very few landlords want to widen access at entries and doors. And too often, it is impossible to move around in the common areas. I am not asking for access to balconies because that would be a real luxury for disabled people.

Building access ramps should also be a prerequisite in many cases. Improving the flooring by removing carpets and installing simple linoleum costs money and few landlords are prepared to pay the price—imagine what a carpet is like when you come inside with snow-covered wheels; it is awful.

Adaptive bathrooms that make it easy to move about and access the shower and bath are also very rare. Sometimes, it turns into an acrobatic feat for people using wheelchairs.

Finally, to guarantee real autonomy, there must be access to switches and taps and to windows so that they can be opened in the summer.

That is a list of features required to adapt housing to the special needs of a person living with a functional limitation.

It is clear when adaptive housing is adequate, because the abilities of the disabled person are matched to the characteristics of the housing to ensure full autonomy.

Unfortunately, this kind of match is all too rare, and I have experienced this myself on many occasions.

The list is long and the obstacles to carrying out work on an apartment block are also numerous. You can imagine therefore just how rare it is for rental housing to meet all these criteria because each individual has specific needs, and expecting this kind of housing to be affordable is almost inconceivable.

I hope that this brief overview of what it is like for people living with a functional limitation to reside in rental housing has demonstrated just how vulnerable Canadian households can be in these situations.

Yet, housing is a human right. And this government's negligence is not without consequences for the welfare of Canadians, especially since Canada has a legal obligation in this regard, whether the government likes it or not.

Canada is a signatory to the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which recognizes the right to adequate housing. It is very unfortunate that the government does not approach the issue of housing and poverty from a rights perspective.

Genuine equality of access to rental housing has to be promoted. To achieve that, there has to be a better balance between the supply of housing and the demand, and location must also into account. We are looking at an extremely disturbing situation, where one-third of Canadians are renters but rental housing accounts for only 10% of total housing construction. This is unprecedented in Canada, in fact, because the number of rental units declined between 2001 and 2006.

Rental housing construction carries benefits for many segments of the population. And yet Canadian households are facing high rents because of tight supply, which makes finding affordable housing increasingly difficult for many households. This is an issue that affects households across the country, regardless of the region where they live or whether they are in big cities or small towns.

This is a financial choice made by young families, newcomers, the aging population and young people. We have to make sure that we continue to offer them this choice, because they are entitled to make it. Homelessness should not be one of their choices, but it is unfortunately widespread in spite of everything. As well, organizations working to combat homelessness are not receiving the support they need from the government, and this is undermining the effectiveness of their work. That is the situation for the Réseau d'aide pour les personnes seules et itinérantes de Montréal, for example, which was recently denied support from the federal government to fund a project that would cost barely $80,000 over two years. That is nowhere near the $16 that a glass of orange juice costs, in any event.

This is happening at the same time as homelessness is on the rise in Quebec. The government has to shoulder its responsibility for helping individuals and families. Support for renter households is also particularly crucial in economic terms. Renter households have lower than average incomes and must have access to affordable housing. When households spend less on rent, they are able to buy more consumer goods—necessary goods like clothing, food and electricity.

An adequate supply of affordable rental housing also facilitates labour force mobility. This is an important economic stimulus. It is therefore essential that we have available a larger supply of affordable, better-quality housing in Canada, to give full effect to the right to housing.

Supply is simply not meeting demand, particularly when we consider the predictions made regarding demand in the next decade. It is estimated that there will be about 50,000 new renter households per year over the coming decade. If nothing is done, we will have to anticipate the worst. Homelessness is a threat that too many people in this country unfortunately live under. The government has a role to play when it comes to encouraging rental housing across Canada.

It must work with the municipalities to do that. It must also recognize that housing is an economic incentive. Our economic growth depends on expanding the rental housing market and also on more jobs in the construction industry. Cutting jobs in that industry is extremely harmful to our economy.

Because of the shortage of rental housing units, the government should take a leadership role and work alongside stakeholders in the rental housing community, including the municipalities. The government needs to understand just how bad the problems of housing and poverty are in this country. The government has an obligation to implement the policies necessary to promote affordable rental housing.

I therefore urge the government to recognize the need to increase the supply of rental housing units in Canada while maintaining the current housing units. The government must take steps to ensure that the right to housing is fully respected in Canada. I thank my colleague from Shefford along with all my colleagues who are going to support this motion.

Housing
Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Before we resume debate, I will let the hon. member for Nickel Belt know that I will need to interrupt him at 2:25 p.m. in order to leave time for the right of reply of the hon. member for Shefford.

The hon. member for Nickel Belt.

Housing
Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, the motion that we are debating today is very important for a lot of Canadians, especially young families just starting out and senior citizens. In order to ensure that Canadians know what we are talking about today, I would like to read the motion into the record. It states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) keep with Canada’s obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the right to housing under the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; (b) support efforts by Canadian municipalities to combat homelessness; and (c) adopt measures to expand the stock of affordable rental housing, with a view to providing economic benefits to local housing construction businesses.

My colleague has brought a very important motion to the House. I would like to congratulate him for doing that.

A lot of people are living in rental housing. One-third of Canadians are renters. Unfortunately, of the number of housing starts from coast to coast to coast, approximately 10% are for rental housing. This causes a deficiency in the number of rental housing units available. Because of the low number of housing starts, there is a supply and demand deficiency. The fewer the rental units, the higher the costs.

As members know, most people who live in rental housing may be some of the poorer Canadians, perhaps seniors or families just starting out. The number of seniors who will be renting in the future will increase. Why? As a result of the budget bill the Conservative government is bringing forth. As we know, in the budget bill, the age of eligibility for OAS and GIS would increase from 65 to 67.

This would do two things. First, it would make the poorest Canadians even poorer, and they would be poorer for two extra years. In order to avoid being poor for two more years, they might be forced to work longer, and that would put a strain on our workforce. Second, it might cause homelessness. If seniors cannot afford to rent an apartment, where would that leave them? That would leave them in the street. Homelessness is something that we want to discourage and help prevent from coast to coast to coast.

If we do not invest in rental units that people can afford, we are going to decrease the number of people who can rent units and we are going to increase homelessness. So, if the government were to spend money to help build rental units, it would certainly help Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has come up with some statistics that say that there is presently a deficiency of 50,000 jobs in the construction industry, which is responsible for constructing rental units.

Therefore, if we were to start investing in rental units we would create jobs. When we create jobs, it reduces unemployment and creates revenue for the government. I would impress on the government the need to invest in rental housing.

Housing is an important human right. If there is not sufficient rental stock, that right is in jeopardy. The alternative is homelessness.

Investment in housing is also important for economic stimulus. The report of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities that I referred to says that if we invested in more rental housing, we would create jobs. The supply of private rental housing is shrinking. That is obvious because one-third of Canadians are renters, but only 10% of construction is for rental housing.

I see my time is up. I hope that colleagues will support my good friend's motion.

Housing
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Shefford has five minutes for his right of reply.

Housing
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Réjean Genest Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have another opportunity to speak to my Motion M-331 about rental housing.

I listened very closely to everything my colleagues said in the context of this debate. I would like to thank them. I would also like to thank everyone who plans to support this motion.

I would like to begin by responding to arguments that some members raised during the first hour of debate on my motion. Specifically, I would like to respond the the Conservatives' oft-repeated argument that we, the members of the New Democratic Party, voted against measures to help Canadians obtain housing and to fight homelessness. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The NDP is not opposed to policies that subsidize and increase the availability of social housing. That has been our stance for decades.

Take for example Bill C-38, the budget implementation bill that we are now debating and that several Quebec media outlets have described as “mammoth”. I want to make it clear that we cannot vote for this omnibus bill because it contains a hodgepodge of separate bills that have nothing to do with one another. This bill is like a garage sale or a flea market.

Conservative members can say whatever they want in the House, but if the government chose to split the omnibus bill, then the NDP, as a social-democratic party, would support any social measures designed to improve quality of life for people across the country. We would also be prepared to share our opinions and suggestions about measures that raise questions or concerns.

Any discussion about housing has to be placed in context. We have to talk not only about rental housing, as we are doing now, but also about a range of measures, such as subsidies for social housing, programs to deal with homelessness, partnerships with the non-profit sector to provide more good-quality housing, and measures to improve low-income individuals' access to capital.

It is clear that this Conservative government, rather than pursuing these comprehensive measures, has opted to do away with crucial homelessness programs and is refusing to implement amendments to the bill, proposed by the NDP, that would establish national housing standards. This, along with the government's ongoing abdication of its responsibilities—to the point that these responsibilities have now to a large extent fallen on the shoulders of the municipalities—has eroded the very notion of safe, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for all Canadians.

The situation is only getting worse. In the past, low income earners had the option of investing in a mobile home, but today, even that option is rarely a possibility. Unfortunately, with the federal government's ongoing cuts to the funding of housing, the trend in many municipalities across the country has been to replace mobile home parks with condominiums and other high cost housing. This is happening in Granby with the Tropicana campground, which has nothing to do with orange juice.

With Motion M-331, my colleagues and I from the New Democratic Party are trying to draw attention to an extremely important problem, which is growing throughout the country.

The United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognizes access to housing as a human right. The government can and must do more to ensure that all Canadians have access to safe, adequate, accessible and affordable housing. We encourage all members to support this motion.

Housing
Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

It being 2:30 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired.

The vote is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Housing
Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Housing
Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Housing
Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Housing
Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Housing
Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Housing
Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, May 9, 2012, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until Monday at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:32 p.m.)