Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to be here today to speak in strong support of the private member's bill brought by my colleague from North Island—Powell River, which would make the right to housing part of Canadian law through the Canadian Bill of Rights. Her passion for this topic came through loud and clear during her remarks. It is so easy to get lost in the statistics of the housing crisis that Canadians face, but she has put faces behind those statistics so that we all understand just what a crisis we are dealing with in this country.
It is our belief that all Canadians have a right to housing as a place of refuge and a sense of security for themselves and their families. Therefore, we ask that the Canadian Bill of Rights be amended to include the internationally recognized right to housing, which should be at the heart of any national housing strategy the government is anticipating. We have heard about this strategy and on this side fervently hope that it is not simply a case of platitudes piled upon platitudes but real action in the short term. I say this because in the 2017 budget, the Liberals promised over $11 billion over 11 years, with 90% of that funding allocated after the next election, should they be re-elected.
I live in a community with a housing crises that is an emergency. Therefore, words do not do enough. The money is nowhere to be found in my community, and we have to get serious about this issue. As my time is limited, I will start with the specifics in Victoria, British Columbia.
Every day we have people come into our constituency office who are concerned about this crisis. It has meant that our city is now ranked among the most expensive places to buy housing in Canada. For those who live in Victoria, the high cost of purchasing a home remains a barrier to so many people. The reality facing those looking for an affordable place to rent is also a daunting problem.
In addition to the homelessness crises in our community, many of our working poor are barely able to make ends meet. That was confirmed by a recent research study by the United Way. Renter households face far greater housing affordability challenges and hardships. They have lower incomes and pay a larger proportion of their income for housing than owners do. Victoria has one of the lowest vacancy rates of rental properties across this country. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation listed the vacancy rate for rentals in Victoria at a shocking 0.6% last fall.
How people can afford housing and rent is a serious mystery to many of us. It is simply an affordability challenge. Paired with the extremely low vacancy rate I spoke of, securing suitable accommodations is virtually impossible for many people in our community. The rents are so high that people who are working for minimum wage are often simply unable to afford a place to live should they be able to find one.
To better understand the situation, we should consider the CMHC's discussion of what it terms “core housing need”. If a family spends more than 30% of its income on housing, it is said to have a core housing need. Therefore, as the cost of rent remains high, far too many Victorians experience a core housing need. Of Victoria's renters, almost half spent more than 30% of their income on shelter in 2011, and a quarter spent more than 50% of their income on housing.
Our constituency office has been deluged with people struggling with this reality. My office is currently working with Beth, for example, one of many seniors who can no longer afford her rent after she separated from her partner. We work with young families who have no money left at the end of each month for contingencies given how much they pay for housing. They could find themselves in dire financial straits if they had to cover an unforseen emergency, take their child to a dental appointment, suddenly require vehicle maintenance, or even purchase new shoes for their child. Those examples could put people in a state of housing crisis. We feel the stress of our constituents daily.
This also has a disproportionate impact on our indigenous population. According to our local newspaper earlier this year, the Times Colonist, indigenous people in Victoria made up 21% of shelter users experiencing chronic homelessness despite making up just 4.1% of the population.
Across Canada, almost one in two senior-led households faces rent affordability challenges, and affordable housing options for seniors are very limited. Senior women who live alone are much more likely to live in poverty than senior men. We find that to be very much a fact of life in our community as well.
The housing crisis is having an enormous impact on our business sector as well, because people cannot afford to live where the jobs are. We hear that every day from our chamber of commerce and other local business groups that are struggling to attract and retain talented people, because prospective employees simply cannot find affordable, suitable places to live in Victoria. Without adequate staff, business owners are afraid of losing their livelihoods.
This past spring, CTV did a story about students in Victoria who, faced with the exorbitant cost of accommodations, had to drop out of university. Some live in their vehicles to try to stay at university.
The housing crisis affects people from young to old; indigenous and non-indigenous; people who rent; people who are living on fixed wages, often minimum wage; and even young families who are trying to get a foothold to purchase in the housing market. It has simply become unaffordable. This is shocking in a country like Canada.
I have not spoken adequately in the time available about those living in homelessness, but we have estimated that there are 1,500 homeless people in the greater Victoria area today, according to the City of Victoria's recent statistics. These circumstances are simply unacceptable in a country as wealthy as ours.
As Canadians hear about the housing hardship in my riding and elsewhere in Canada, does it sound like the federal government is ensuring their right to adequate housing? I do not think so. The seniors I spoke of, the young families, local business owners, indigenous people, students, and the homeless are in crisis now. They cannot wait for the Liberals to finally do something serious and immediate about this crisis. They must have the government live up to its obligations. This bill would allow that to occur.