Mr. Speaker, everybody makes mistakes. All is forgiven.
Again, I am very proud to rise in the House today to debate and support the motion moved by my colleague from Saskatoon West. This motion deals with a very important issue, the housing crisis in Canada. The motion calls on the government to do much more than it is doing right now. We are in a crisis situation. Many people are living on the streets and are forced into homelessness because they cannot afford housing, when that should be a right.
Canada is experiencing an unprecedented housing crisis. We are seeing skyrocketing house prices, rising rents, rental shortages, long waiting lists for social housing, and a rise in homelessness.
An RBC study shows that the average cost of home ownership in major cities amounts to 48% of a household's income. Half of the household income goes to housing. Generally speaking, for housing to be affordable for an individual or a family, they should be investing a maximum of 30% of their after-tax income. The study shows that on average, households spend half their income on housing. That is truly exorbitant. It is very hard to get by. In Vancouver, that number spikes to a whopping 88%. People in Vancouver have a hard time surviving when housing costs nearly 100% of their earnings. It is therefore not surprising that far too often, many graduates and young workers can neither buy a home nor find a decent place to rent.
Paul Kershaw of Generation Squeeze, which is based in British Columbia, conducted a study in 2016. He found that while the cost of housing had doubled across the country since 1976, and tripled in metro Vancouver, incomes had fallen for younger Canadians. After adjusting for inflation, full-time earnings for a typical Canadian aged 25 to 34 had fallen over $4,000 since 1976. This drop in earnings makes it even harder to buy a home, especially in major urban centres.
In the 40 years between 1976 and 2016, the rate of home ownership among young Canadians dropped 24%. Between 1976 and 1980, it took five years of full-time work for a person aged 25 to 34 to save a 20% down payment for a house. Because wages are down and housing prices are so much higher, it now takes younger Canadians nearly 12 years of work to save a comparable down payment. In short, it is becoming harder and harder for young people to put a roof over their heads, even working full time.
Immediate action is needed to combat Canada's housing crisis. The lack of social and affordable housing is deeply troubling. In a country as rich as ours, it is unacceptable that so many people are desperately searching for social or affordable housing.
I want to remind members that housing is a right and that Canada signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, or ICESCR. The first paragraph of article 11 reads as follows:
The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international co-operation based on free consent.
As a signatory to the ICESCR, our country has a duty to take concrete action on this right to housing. This means that the government is required to provide a sufficient number of low-cost housing units and to guarantee access for the poorest citizens. This is absolutely not the case right now, since 1.7 million families are living in inadequate, unsuitable or unaffordable conditions. The problem with the national housing strategy proposed by the Liberals is that 90% of the money allocated will not be spent until after the next election.
The money was announced two years ago, but 90% of it will not be spent until after the next election. There is no light at the end of the tunnel for people living with stress, anxiety, depression and addiction issues, because the funds are not flowing. The government is handling this crisis as though it is no big deal, as though it is not even a crisis.
Even government members, following the Prime Minister's lead, boast about making housing available to vast numbers of Canadians. The harsh reality is that there may be as few as 15,000 new units and about 100,000 repaired units. All of the money that has been spent had already been earmarked. That is not tackling the crisis; that is just maintaining the existing housing supply.
The member for Spadina—Fort York grudgingly admitted that the Liberals inflate figures to rhetorical advantage. That is absolutely scandalous. We know that families and children are suffering because of the nationwide housing shortage. What should I tell Claude, a constituent of mine who is having a hard time making ends meet while he waits for housing? The Liberals just see housing as something to be used to rhetorical advantage.
I will outline the situation in the biggest city in my riding. There is a desperate lack of social and affordable housing in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. A family making less than $21,000 must spend between 40% and 70% of its income on rent and hydro. Thousands of people back home in Salaberry—Suroît are in that situation.
Claude, whom I mentioned a moment ago, is a young man in his 40s living with an illness that has kept him from working for the past two years. He gets some assistance from the provincial government, but nothing from the federal government. His monthly income is a little over $1,000, which is not very much. Half of his income goes to his rent and hydro. After he pays all his bills, he has only $80 a week left to buy food and clothing or to get a haircut. He has requested subsidized housing, but since he just moved to Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, he will have to wait for several months before he can even apply. Even once he does apply, he will be on a wait list that is between three and five years long.
In a country as rich as Canada, why do our vulnerable citizens have to wait so long just to get a roof over their heads, when housing is a right?
This has been going on in Canada for decades. The Conservatives and the Liberals have let the situation deteriorate. No, the right to housing should not be fodder for rhetoric. We are talking about the lives of millions of Canadians, among them thousands of people in my riding. Anyone who does not believe me can talk to people working on the ground, like Christina Girard, the coordinator of the Comité logement Beauharnois, who says that there is an urgent need for new social housing units.
This housing crisis is particularly hard on women, whether they are by themselves or have children. Salaberry-de-Valleyfield has a very high rate of single-parent families, or 32.4%, compared to all of Quebec, with about 25%. Women are strongly affected by not being able to afford rent or the possibility of ending up on the street, which can cause mental health or addiction issues. The most common solution to this instability is to provide single-room housing, in spite of the health risks associated with this type of housing. The bathrooms and kitchens in these buildings are shared and are rarely in good shape.
A study shows that the rising use of single-room housing, where the other rooms are shared, exacerbates women's inequality. The authors of this study observed various types of abuse against women in this type of housing, including lack of security, difficult living conditions, paternalistic rules and even employees demanding sexual favours in exchange for providing access to the women's mail. Abusive acts coupled with women's unstable situations make them more vulnerable to eviction and force them to challenge such abuse.
In 2015, in the Suroît area, 8.6% of families with children between the ages of 0 and 17 lived below the poverty line, after taxes. In Salaberry-de-Valleyfield alone, the average cost of housing is $678 a month. The Valleyfield housing committee intervened 533 times in 2017. In 2018 there were 366 homeless persons and 1,176 people at risk of becoming homeless in the Suroît area.
The situation is so urgent and alarming that housing issues are part of the social development plan of the Beauharnois-Salaberry RCM. Reeve Maude Laberge invited me and other municipal and provincial elected officials to discuss a strategy and to ensure that housing, among other things, is a priority. When a rural area is not a priority, as is the case with our area, it is difficult to obtain funding for affordable housing, since we are not a major urban centre. All the money is spent in major urban centres, and regions like Salaberry—Suroît are left with the crumbs. We have the data to prove that rural areas have a desperate need for housing, and it is about time that the minister woke up and changed the funding.