Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to have the opportunity to speak on an important issue that matters to all of us in the House. I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Markham—Unionville, as well.
Now that the weather is nice and all of us are getting out, I have to tell members that this past weekend, when I was out in my riding, I had the opportunity to pass through the area around Saint Augustine's church, an important part of the riding. I also passed 35 Shoreham Drive, 711 Arleta Avenue, and 415 Driftwood Avenue, all places that exhibit a tremendous sense of community and neighbourhood pride.
These places are similar for more than just their community spirit. They are buildings owned and managed by Toronto Community Housing, and they are places in which residents are worried. The residents of these buildings are hard-working families who are struggling just to make ends meet. In fact, even with a portion of the rent subsidized, many of these residents are spending as much as 85% of their income on rent alone, leaving just pennies for food, clothing, transportation, medicine, and other essentials.
For many of the tenants living at 2350 Finch Avenue West or 2765 Islington Avenue, the dream of home ownership has crumbled at their feet under the weight of inescapable daily struggles just to survive a vicious and punishing cycle of poverty.
In the past, the concept of personal home ownership was a near guarantee. All that one needed to do was work hard for a decent wage, and the rest was possible. Sadly, for many low-income families in my riding and across Canada, including working families, that promise is now a faint remembrance of a distant dream.
In 1980, the average cost of a detached home was roughly $100,000. The average Canadian made about $41,000 a year, which meant that there was room for a mortgage, transportation, groceries, and the other essentials that come out of a paycheque. Today, the average detached home costs more than double what it did just 30 years ago. In Toronto, the average home price now hovers around $1 million. Despite the spike in costs, the average Canadian still makes about $41,000 a year.
I would also like to point out that many working families in my riding make than far less than $41,000, which only intensifies the problems that they face when it comes to housing. Some are forced, as I said, to pay 85% of their income in rent. Clearly this is not a tenable position, and the fact that the Conservative government is intentionally allowing more and more housing co-operatives' operating agreements to expire is only making issues worse. The government's decision to scale back funding to social housing is reckless and it is, in effect, leaving low-income families out on the street.
Families living in these units know that there is a housing crisis, and they need to understand why. Of course, we know that the housing crisis has hit because the NDP clearly torpedoed both the Liberals' national housing strategy and the current premier's provincial housing program. Worse yet, Tim Hudak is mimicking the inaction of his federal cousins with his pink slip promise. That really unnerves an awful lot of people in my riding.
Put another way, the Conservatives have done nothing to lower or manage housing costs, and they are doing less than nothing to help fix the income situations that our middle-class families face. For example, rather than work to create jobs, Tim Hudak has promised to fire 100,000 Ontario workers. I call it his pink slip promise, and it pulls back the veil on the Conservative ideology when it comes to social programming of all sorts.
The NDP, despite tough-sounding talk, torpedoed both the Liberals' national housing strategy and Kathleen Wynne's housing program in the most recent Ontario budget. Of course, the NDP also voted against a new pension plan for low-income workers as well. It seems that three million working Ontarians who do not have an employer-sponsored pension just had the rug pulled out from under them by an NDP lusting for power.
It is interesting to note that this is the same group that was punished when the NDP smashed the federal day care and early learning strategy. It seems that there is a trend developing there.
When Andrea, Tim, and their federal counterparts fiddle, middle-class Canadian families feel the burn.
Canadians need a means to ensure their own future, and it is our duty to help give them that means. This does not mean handouts, but it does mean ensuring that the systems and structures necessary are in place to again help make the dream, pride and freedom of home ownership a reality.
The government needs to ensure that hard-working Canadians will be building their own futures and not that of the person who is holding the purse strings.
For my part, yesterday I met with representatives of the Canadian and Toronto real estate boards, as many members in the House have done. We talked about the fact that given more Canadians are now renting properties, the disproportionate costs of housing has created a trap, forcing Canadians into a cycle of working hard for weeks just to scrape by.
We talked about programs such as the home buyers plan, how it was positive but limited to those who had the resources to put into vehicles such as RRSPs. We also talked about the need for innovative programs such as rent to own and government-regulated reverse mortgages that might allow people to both secure and remain in adequate housing.
There was a clear consensus that many working families became trapped in a cycle of high rent payments and were unable to set aside the funds needed for a down payment on a home of their own. This limits their options and prevents them from building equity in their home, from leveraging assets for debt reduction, and from experiencing the pride of ownership.
All in all, without some kind of a national housing strategy, or better yet a national housing action plan, my constituents living in the San Romanoway community or in the Yorkwoods Village will not have the opportunities they truly deserve and desire.
Knowing all of this, it seems almost inconceivable that the government will sit idle and allow billions of dollars of funding for social housing to simply dry up.
I am glad to see that the NDP have come back to the table that it once abandoned in favour of the Liberals' stand in support of social housing and opportunities for personal home ownership, but I would like to see the government do more. I would like to see the Prime Minister launch a national housing strategy for the low income seniors, students and families who worry about having a roof over their head.
Allow me to recap and sum up before my time is done.
First, as of last year, rent in Toronto for all types of housing was the highest of anywhere in Ontario.
Second, home prices in all regions continue to rise faster than income has over the past 30 years.
Third, while the city of Toronto is the largest landlord in North America, it cannot act alone to improve housing conditions because it cannot put the leverage of the equity of its housing units toward repairs.
Fourth, the biggest problem for many Canadians is the down payment for their home.
What does all this mean? It means that many hard-working constituents in my riding and in ridings all across Canada, in every part of it, have come to accept that home ownership is becoming nothing more than a dream.
As parliamentarians living and working in one of our planet's wealthiest nations, we need to redouble our efforts to overcome the problems associated with social housing.
Is the government prepared to commit to renewing the rent-geared-to-income housing model so that we provide real security and avoid making the housing crisis worse? Is the government prepared to renew the partnership with the Co-operative Housing Federation?
We must remember that we are not on the brink of a housing crisis, rather we are in a housing crisis.
We must also remember that social housing solutions may lead to solutions to other problems on the national agenda. We need student housing to reduce student debt. Supportive housing will reduce health care costs. New and adequate housing for rural, aboriginal and first nation communities is a way to honour our existing commitments.
Public housing is more than just a place to live. Public housing programs should provide opportunities to residents and their families.
As a Liberal, I am pleased to support this motion today. I hope it will provide the impetus needed to put affordable housing solutions back on track for a national action plan.