Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the issue of affordable housing, which is such a priority for the people of Toronto and my community of Parkdale—High Park. I want to thank my colleague from York South—Weston for putting forward this opposition day motion today on behalf of the New Democratic Party.
To remind people, for those who are watching, this motion states:
That the House recognize that Canadians are faced with a housing crunch of rising costs and growing waiting lists due to chronic underfunding of affordable housing from 1993 to the present, and [therefore this House] call[s] on the government to work with the provinces, territories, municipalities, and with First Nations, Inuit, and Metis, to immediately renew long-term social housing funding and reinvest in the development of affordable housing units.
We face a tremendous housing crunch in this country. I see it on the streets of Toronto every day. I see people whose wages do not allow them to pay the rents in the city of Toronto and people who have other challenges, such as disabilities and mental health challenges. The thing they need most is a roof over their heads. They need housing stability, and that is what is lacking in the city of Toronto and across this country.
A country as large and as cold as Canada ought to have a national policy on this so that we can ensure that everyone is housed and has a warm, safe place to stay. However, in fact, Canada is the only OECD country, the only major developed country, without a national housing strategy. In fact, it has been without a housing strategy since the early 1990s. Why? We used to have one. It was the Liberal government of the time that tabled a constitutional proposal calling for an end to its financial involvement in a number of areas of provincial jurisdiction, including housing.
It is pretty sad for a country as wealthy as Canada to abandon people that way. The Liberals also ended co-operative housing funding, a program that over its lifetime built nearly 60,000 homes for low- and moderate-income Canadians.
Let us look at the picture today. One in four Canadians spend more than 30% of their income on shelter; 380,000 Canadians live in severe housing need, spending more than 50% of their income on shelter. We are also in a situation where Canadians have record-high personal debt levels, where they owe $1.64 for every dollar of disposable income, and where housing prices are skyrocketing, especially in our urban areas.
In the city of Toronto, when houses are for sale, we have multiple bids. So many families are driven out of the housing purchase market because they cannot afford these skyrocketing prices, but there are so few affordable housing options. In addition to that, we have about 200,000 social housing units that will be at risk of closing when the long-term federal funding for social housing expires. That will be a calamity for far too many Canadians.
More and more young people are living at home with their parents. It used to be, back in 1981, that about a quarter of young people between the ages of 20 and 29 lived with their parents. Today that number is up to 42% of young people between 20 and 29 living with their parents. I hear that from young people. I also hear that from their parents, who are so concerned about the next generation and what is going to happen to them.
It is an absolute disgrace that we do not have a national housing strategy and that we are not investing the money we have as a country into building the kind of housing we need.
I want to tell members a bit about my community in Toronto. In Toronto, we have over 167,000 people on the affordable housing wait-list, more than 90,000 households. There are more households on the waiting list for affordable housing than actually live in Toronto's community housing. That is how severe the problem is. We have more people on housing wait-lists than live in some cities across Canada. We have whole cities of people looking for housing.
Let me tell the House about a family I met with who had come here as refugees from a war-torn country. They came here; they finally got accepted. They were living in a bachelor apartment. They were a family of four living in a bachelor apartment in Toronto housing. When I knocked on their door and talked with them, they were so thankful to be here in a safe country like Canada. However, the man I spoke to said that they really needed a better place to live, because they were four people in a bachelor apartment. Their kids were school-aged kids, and they did not have any privacy or a place to study. Surely, we can do better.
I spoke to a family a couple of weeks ago. They were in an apartment, paying $800 a month. They were hoping to move to a two-bedroom apartment. They were in a one-bedroom apartment, but they were a family of five. The two-bedroom apartment was going for $1,100. A month before they were given the new apartment, the ownership of the building changed, and guess what? The rent went from $1,100 to $2,000. It almost doubled. They are going to have to leave because they cannot stay in a one-bedroom apartment and they cannot afford $2,000 a month.
These are the kinds of severe situations that people, certainly in my community of Toronto, are facing. The Liberals cancelled the national housing strategy, but frankly, the Conservatives have made it even worse by not investing in affordable housing and abandoning Canadian families. It is simply unacceptable.
Because no money is being spent on upgrading housing, we are seeing housing that could be available for people but is going vacant. There is a Toronto community house in my riding, on Maria Street, a three-bedroom house that has sat vacant for a year because there was not the money to do the repairs on the house. When we have 70,000 families on the waiting list, and we have places sitting vacant because there is not the money to make these houses inhabitable, that is also a disgrace.
There is so much we ought to be doing. For those who are concerned about costs, the cost of investing in housing, it is more cost effective to give people a roof over their heads and keep them healthy and well than it is to lock people up in jail. That is what happens when people cannot keep body and soul together and have a decent place to live in.
What we are calling for, as New Democrats, is a co-operative approach from the federal government to work with provinces, territories, municipalities, and first nations to address housing needs together, instead of abandoning everyone to their own resources. We are also calling for the federal government to abandon this take it or leave it attitude that it has had for so long. We need a commitment to work with the social housing sector. We need to renew these operating agreements and to provide one-time capital injections for renovations and to reinvest the savings from expired agreements that do not need to be renewed into developing new affordable housing units.
We need to immediately invest in the development of new housing. This could be in the form of new investment from the federal government, low-cost loans from the CMHC, or tax credits for developers of affordable housing, such as those proposed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
So many Canadian organizations support this, including the Chamber of Commerce, as I said, the FCM, the C.D. Howe Institute, and many mayors across the country. Everyone seems to agree with it except the Conservatives, and we hope we can change their minds with this debate.
People of Toronto rely on it. Canadians rely on it. Let us just do our jobs, do a better job for Canadians, and let us keep a roof over everybody's head.