Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-48, the NDP budget, and to remind people that in the 2000 Liberal red book the government promised to build up to 120,000 units of affordable housing for $680 million by the year 2005. To date, there are less than 25,000 units of housing that have cost over three times that allotted funding that have been built, some $2.1 billion.
Bill C-48 commits $1.6 billion, with no plan and no number of housing units the government expects to build. It just simply does not know how many it would be able to build.
The current hodgepodge Liberal approach to affordable rental housing and homeless emergency shelters for single people is both financially wasteful and appallingly ineffective. Homeless emergency shelter usage and affordable housing availability for singles are interrelated concerns. A shortage of available low-cost, entry level rental units for singles leaves many no option but to seek very costly emergency social shelter space. Any discussion on housing needs must include a basic understanding of the most needy, the single people who dwell in Canada's emergency shelters.
It might be impossible to individually categorize all the sheltered homeless because some have varied levels of mental capabilities and addictions that generally inhibit independent, unsupervised living, let alone employment. Most of those living in homeless shelters are fully capable of paying their own way in modest, independent living and affordable homes, but none are available.
Canada's sheltered homeless population can be broken down by cause. Some 25% are what we call the de-institutionalized from the '70s. They are singles who are really in need of institutional care. Some 25% more are unemployable. They are hard-to-house singles with addictions. However, 50% are simply low-income singles in need of affordable rental housing.
Statistics Canada in 2001, the last year it took the statistics, said there were 14,150 homeless single persons in Canada's emergency shelter system. In Edmonton, there are 590.
Canada needs affordable rental housing for low-income families, but for those 14,000 singles in emergency shelters across the country who are able to live independently, the need is great for simple, entry level, single-room housing. Research has indicated that 50% of those residing in the shelters are actually low-income individuals with some income but with no independent living rental housing alternatives.
Federal funding flows into replacement emergency shelters, assisted living, transitional social shelters, but not into the building of independent living, private, singles homes.
Nationally, 75% of all private, single-person, entry level rental housing has been torn down or closed down over the last 30 years and has not been replaced. During the same period, singles homeless emergency shelters have been expanded and are now one of Canada's fastest growing industries.
Unavailable, private, $350-per-month, self-paid, and entry level singles homes have now been replaced out of necessity by $1,500-per-month emergency shelter and transitional social shelter, industry-taxpayer paid emergency beds.
One contributing problem is that affordable housing funding agents are very disconnected from the emergency shelter funding agents and, sadly, neither prioritize the true need for private, basic, entry level, singles, independent living rental homes.
New, multiple unit, family rental apartment housing numbers have also drastically declined over the last 30 years while new multiple unit condo ownership apartment housing numbers have grown. Over 30 years ago, 90% of all multiple unit housing being built were rental units. Today, 90% of all multiple unit buildings are condo ownership apartments and the very few rental apartments being built are not entry level, economical apartments but upscale, expensive, luxury units.
While Canada's population has grown greatly, society's most basic housing need has not changed. Virtually all of us first leaving home are low income earners and rent because we cannot afford the down payment to buy a house. The need for affordable, entry level rental housing is great, but assistance by government to help create more should not be made in isolation from private, professional rental owner market forces.
The decline in the new rental construction market and an increasing need for affordable rental units must be explored statistically to determine what went wrong with the marketplace. The private rental market knows that affordable rental housing begins by building economical basic entry level housing, with fees, levies and taxes no higher than those for home ownership, and allowing private developers to access funding meant to encourage construction of new affordable housing.
Private developers of economical, multi-unit rental projects are discouraged by the barriers against building new rental units, such as proportionally higher property taxes, higher construction fees and levies, as compared to ownership condo units. Excessive city planning aesthetic requirements unnecessarily add considerably to costs of economical basic housing.
Research would show that these barriers are more numerous and much higher than they were 30 years ago. In short, fees, levies, grand municipal architecture vision and taxes have together served to halt development of building basic rental apartment units, while artificial rent controls and rent subsidies made certain new development would not start.
The federal Liberal government position on affordable housing and homeless funding is little different from the NDP's 1% solution, other than that the Liberals put more money into it. The federal government has failed to provide provinces and municipalities with statistical guidance that would help them understand the barriers and offer solutions to affordable rental home development. Instead, the Liberals bring out the federal chequebook, which, with poor guidelines and no remedial long term measures, actually exacerbates the problem and loads more taxation burden on the fewer and fewer unsubsidized rental taxpayers.
Proper statistical analysis of the cause and effect of taxation, fee burdens and subsidies would point to long term solutions for governments to recognize the problems and then work toward correcting them.
Once again, in the 2000 election red book, the promise was to create 120,000 homes for 680 million before 2005. Less than 25,000 have been committed to construction to date.
Non-profit landlords have many times received up to 100% of the project funding from multi-sourcing of taxpayer funding grants, pay no property taxes and charge just slightly less than market average rents. Liberal funding mismanagement is quickly destroying what little is left of the private competition in rental housing. The problem is that the federal Liberal government has no more idea of how to effectively control these funds than does the NDP.
Most of these funds were disbursed over the last five years and very little housing has resulted. Properly planned and disbursed, the $2.1 billion, partnered with provinces, could have helped build over 150,000 new homes and could have half emptied Canada's emergency shelter spaces.
Over 50% of Canada's 15,000 emergency shelter units have some money and could pay themselves for moderate entry level single room homes, but none have been built, and sadly, the $2.1 billion has leveraged no more than 25,000 homes, most of them social non-profit housing. Meanwhile, private developers would build, pay taxes and rent apartments at less than market rents for a fraction of the grants now being made, but they are discouraged from applying.
We need to return to the competitive enthusiasm of the private rental building construction market of the 1970s, where literally thousands of very affordable modest apartment buildings were built for entry level renters. The cause of today's affordable rental housing crisis is that we no longer build significant quantities of very necessary affordable housing for entry level renters.
Statistically identifying and then working with the federal-provincial-municipal departments to remove the barriers that inhibit private rental development should be the first priority. Then we must work with the provinces on a plan to proceed with workable guidelines to encourage competitive private enterprise to return to the business of building, owning and renting affordable entry level housing.
Throwing more billions of dollars at the problem without a plan most certainly will not address the housing needs of low income and homeless Canadians. It will only continue a trend of policy incoherence and ineptitude.
The promise made in 2000 was a promise broken. The government did not create a fraction of the homes promised. The money grew to $2.1 billion and produced less than 25,000 units. Of the provincial-federal share, that is approximately $170,000 per unit produced, a colossal mismanagement on a monumental scale. Shamefully, this bill is not about building housing. This bill is all about buying votes.