Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister on Thursday, January 29, had to do with Beech Hall, a co-op seniors complex in my riding of York South—Weston.
This complex uses federal funding to provide rent assistance to 41 low-income seniors. When the government ends this funding at the end of this year, those 41 seniors will no longer be able to afford their rents and will risk becoming homeless.
The government position seems to be that these operating agreements, which subsidize housing for some 200,000 low-income Canadians, can expire and the funds can be returned to the treasury. The funds are no longer available for rent subsidy. They are available for the Conservatives to help the rich through devices such as income-splitting for high-wage earners and tax-free savings accounts for the rich to hide more of their income from tax. This is so wrong.
Jack Layton, rest his soul, pressured the Liberals to put back some of the money they had so ruthlessly taken out of Canada's housing commitments. The Conservatives voted against it, but they now take glee in pointing to the money as somehow being their idea. It was not.
The bottom line is that as these agreements expire, the Conservatives are refusing to reinvest it in any way in housing. Many of these co-ops are in need of major retrofits. Forty-year-old buildings need new roofs, new heating systems, new windows, and new energy-saving technology. Co-ops will not be able to afford both the necessary repairs and rent subsidies, and the government knows this.
Beech Hall is one such complex. Besides the reality that the government will end their subsidy, the truth is that they do not own the property. It is leased. Lease payments will continue; the subsidy will not. The buildings need $20 million in retrofits over the next 10 years. Beech Hall does have a small reserve, but it is nowhere near the amount needed to provide either the subsidy or the building repairs.
To glibly say, as the minister did when I asked the question, that the federal government provides the provinces with $1.25 billion in housing funding and that the provinces should decide which properties, such as Beech Hall, should receive a provincial subsidy is ignoring the reality of the situation. In 2010 Canada provided $3.6 billion to affordable housing at the federal level. Funding is now down to about $2 billion, and it will fall still further as the operating agreements expire. Just as the Liberals did in the 1990s, the Conservatives are eliminating affordable housing as a federal responsibility.
After the Liberal cuts, the waiting lists in my city of Toronto have continued to grow, to the point that there are more families waiting for housing than there are units in total. Wait lists are now measured not in months or years but decades. The city of Toronto's housing stock, inherited when the Liberals got out of the housing business, needs nearly $2 billion in repairs. The city cannot afford the repairs, let alone try to build new stock for some of those 80,000 families on the wait list. The repair backlog is so great that some 4,000 units are in danger of being unfit for human habitation.
For the government to take even a nickel out of the housing subsidies so that it can give it to the well off to buy their vote is despicable and not in keeping with Canada's rich history of helping the less fortunate.
House prices in Toronto reached a new high of over $1 million for a detached house, and rental prices have followed in lockstep. A recent conversation with a single mother of a disabled child showed just how desperate the situation is. Her rent is more than her income, plus her child support, plus a large part of her child's disability benefits. What is left for food is paltry. She and her child have been on a wait list for eight years.
Conservatives just do not get that their policies will make people homeless. It is time they stopped taking money out of housing to give tax breaks to the rich and started dealing with the problem the Liberals created.
The seniors at Beech Hall are waiting for the minister's answer. Will 41 seniors be left homeless by the government?