Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be the first on my side of the House, and hope not to be the last, to rise to speak about both affordable housing and housing that is affordable. I want to look at both sides of the equation. I know that the member who moved this motion has done a lot of work on this issue, and I do not want to take away from her work or belittle the work or the subject in any way.
With temperatures going so low, -42° or -43° in Regina, as Canadians, we can all agree that we should look after our neighbours and those around us who do not have permanent housing. We should look after our own and make sure that everyone has a place to stay during this cold winter spell. It is being called a polar vortex. I just call it Canadian winter. I have gotten used to it.
In my speech today on the subject, I want to make sure, being the first in my party to speak on this subject in this interim chamber, that I live up to the Yiddish proverb that says that no good comes from hurrying. I want to take some time to elaborate my thoughts on the subject of affordable housing. I think some of the things I mentioned and questions I posed to the minister are worth remembering.
One of the first things the Liberal government did was change the homelessness partnering strategy by eliminating the housing first targets. Those were proven targets to effectively reduce homelessness. They ensured that close to a million families had access to affordable housing. On that one million figure, the minister will know that reporters and professors have said that they cannot reproduce that number and that there is double and triple counting going on. Because it goes over multiple years, families are being over counted. That was a point raised by the leader of the NDP. The Liberals are patting themselves on the back for work they have not done, which I think all of us on this side of the House have gotten used to.
I raised the issue of the numbers being wrong on that CMHC report back in November. It looked at the $5.7 billion spent by the government, the so-called government spending on affordable housing. It had only built 15,000 affordable housing units, and about ten times as many had been renovated. That is a prodigious amount of taxpayer dollars spent on one problem, with so little to show for it. There is very little to show for it. Who is going to pay for this mistake? It will be the taxpayers of Canada. The taxpayers are going to be required to pay more and more for very few affordable housing units to be built.
The minister will quote certain builders in Canada who are pleased with the program. Of course they are pleased. They want to build homes. They are in the business of producing private-sector units, but they will sell them to whoever wants to buy them. The $5.7-billion figure for 15,000 affordable housing units is a pretty darn good deal for those doing the construction.
The government has created no pathways for home ownership for Canadians. That is leading to an affordable housing crisis. Housing affordability is an issue. It is an issue for young people and Canadian families, and the government has made it worse. The government has introduced a stress test of 2% on the posted rate that OSFI lenders have. The big six banks have a posted rate for mortgages. They say it is to reduce prices. That is what the Minister of Finance said, which is interesting, because it is not the regulator's job to reduce prices in any market in Canada. It is interesting that the minister admitted that there was a political reason for introducing the stress test for Canadian mortgages for those trying to get into their first homes, whether they be condos, townhouses or detached or semi-detached homes, like the ones in my riding.
I live in a suburban riding of Calgary. When I moved there back in 2005, there were entire communities that did not exist, such as Cranston and Mahogany, communities of 30,000 people each, the largest communities in Calgary, all suburban communities with multiple types of housing. Today I hear story after story about how the stress test on mortgages is causing people to either lose their homes during refinancing, because they simply cannot afford to continue living in their homes and pay the now higher mortgage interest rates, or to not get into the homes they need due to having kids or getting married and needing something bigger or downsizing. We see the impact in the numbers. In all of 2018, there were 20% fewer mortgages for young people, millennials or generation Z, whichever terminology you want to use.
When we talk about affordable housing and the housing affordability crisis in our country, the Liberal government is making it worse, with the carbon tax, higher taxes, nickel-and-diming Canadians. At the end of the month, Canadians have less money in their pockets, so how can they afford to save to invest in a unit they can live in? That is simple math.
Also, for those people who are trying to move into affordable housing units, how are they supposed to afford their day-to-day expenses and then save a little on the side so they can save for their own home? They cannot do it under the current government. The Liberals are making Canadians pay for the government's mistakes, and that is not right.
We on this side, the Conservatives, are in the business of planting seeds of success for Canadians, not the government deciding where people should live and what type of housing they should live in, and, as much as possible, allowing people the opportunity to find the housing choices they want and need. Some are unable to do so because events of life make it impossible, such as fleeing an abusive spouse or a job loss, which is happening a lot in my riding right now because of the war on energy jobs that the Canadian government has insisted on leading. I know people who have lost their homes. They find themselves in temporary housing. They are looking for affordable housing units. Some of it is rundown stock that has not been well maintained. Sometimes they just cannot find anything at a price they can afford to buy or to pay rent on, because rents have not come down all that much.
We are in the business of planting seeds. We want other people to have that success. We are also thinking about future generations. We are not a one generation party. We are looking at the long term. The member who tabled the motion talked about the government's commitment to build 250,000 housing units in five years. I looked at the total production of the private sector and how many units it was building and providing. It is a drop in the bucket. A lot of housing is needed. We have high immigration levels. A lot of people want to come to Canada, bring their families and start a family here. They want great paying jobs. They want to earn a living.
When my family came here, that was a big driver. It came down to Canada or Australia. I am very thankful my uncle chose to come to Canada. Canada was the first country to issue him a passport when he was waiting, almost homeless, to come to Canada. Thanks to that, my grandfather came here and the rest of our family was able to move here.
We do not intend to be a party that only looks at one generation. We want a Canada that is more than just a one generation society. Right now we have a government that is introducing a series of policies. It is never one thing. It is always nickel-and-diming. It is always a series of policies that lead to a situation where housing becomes unaffordable and there is simply not enough affordable housing.
The issue is supply. I compliment the NDP in at least identifying the crux of the problem, which is a supply problem. There is not enough housing being built to keep prices down. Ask Jack Mintz, one of Canada's premier tax professors, and he will say the same thing. It is basic economics. The more supply we have, the more it keeps prices down and controls pricing. Real estate is very much a regional or local good that is purchased. We rarely compare homes across two different cities or two different towns. Also, housing has become more expensive.
I want to talk more about the price of housing in Canada. That is a big driver of forcing people into situations where they need affordable housing, because they simply cannot afford to live anywhere else. We know about the problems in Toronto and Vancouver and how much prices have risen there. However, smaller communities, like the member who tabled the motion comes from and the one I come from, have been heavily impacted by things like the stress test, depressing the prices of the housing people are in already. Sometimes this leads them to have underwater mortgages, where they owe more than what they could get selling the house. It wipes them out financially. Those are policies of the Liberal government. Those are its own failures. In three short years, this is what it has managed to do.
If we were to build 50,000 units every year, it would be double what Canada used to see built in what we call the heyday of the 1970s and 1980s, when roughly 20,000 to 25,000 affordable rental units were created annually. Nowadays, about 200,000 units are being built all across Canada.
I have talked about affordable housing and housing affordability and why it is so important. Over 2018, we have seen the depression of prices in a specific segment of the housing market. Specifically single-family homes, residential properties, have gone down in pricing quite substantially, about 11.3%. Part of the reason for that are higher interest rates and the stress test. With regard to general affordability at the end of the month, Canadians have less and less in their pockets because of the government policy, which reduces their ability to meet their day-to-day needs. Some might consider moving into smaller units or something that is more affordable for them.
However, during the same time period, the largest price increases, 14.7%, were for townhouses and row units. Row units actually went up 6.5% according to CREA. The government has forced a group of people, people who could afford their own homes before, who would save money for themselves through their homes. We know that whatever type of housing people are in, if they are trying to get onto that property ladder and save money, paying interest and paying into the principal on the side, they are saving through their house. The house is a savings vehicle.
The government, through the stress test, changes to the mortgage rules, carbon taxes and higher daily costs of living, is suppressing the ability of people to meet the day-to-day needs and pay for their needs. People need to eat, heat their homes and pay their mortgages most of the time, whenever possible.
The government has moved an entire segment of the population down into row houses and townhouse and has pushed others out. Therefore, we have a crunch of people in between. We have those who are trying to get out of shelters and those who are trying to move out of affordable housing, maybe because the ones they are in do not quite suit their needs right now and they want to move into that first part of home ownership, the first townhome.
I know the first property I ever bought, as an older 20-year old, was a condo in Edmonton with my wife. It was the first piece of property we had, and we paid quite a bit for it. We were quite happy we were able to do that. We stretched our finances. Today, we would not be able to do the same thing. Today, like many people I know, my cousins, other family members and many young people I have talked to, cannot do that. They have no ability to get into first ladder of housing.
Speaking of young people, 54% say that it is more difficult to buy a residential property in the past year. That is according to Abacus data. What affects affordability? This is one of my favourite figures that the Abacus data has produced. Down payments are at 47%. People are having a hard time saving for that down payment. Can we blame them? We have carbon taxes and higher income taxes. The tax credits that families were using have been eliminated. Can we blame them for not having enough money at the end of the day to save a little on the side for that home, the townhouse, or the condo or apartment, whatever it is? The second figure of 44% represents the affordability of monthly payments. There are taxes, unemployment uncertainty, loan approval and foreign buyers.
Foreign buyers account for 10% of buyers in Vancouver. It is a very small part. We focus so much time on trying to chase down foreign buyers. We spend less time looking at how the rules are working in the local municipalities to make it possible for builders to provide housing that is affordable, to build affordable housing. How complex are the rules? When a neighbourhood is made more dense, the rules become more complex. A 30-storey, 80 to 90-unit condo block has much more complex rules because there are more people living within the same type of footprint.
We are getting into the granular, micro-level decision-making at the local level, which has an impact on the macro level of federal government policy making. Federal government policy making is having a drastic impact on the ability of Canadians to purchase the types of homes that meets their needs.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I have the very recent CMHC study from November that looks at the $5.7 billion spent on affordable housing by the Liberal government. It shows that 50,000 affordable housing units have been built since 2016. That is not me saying this. That is a government Crown corporation making a judgment call on what it is doing. It is important to remember that the government has numbers coming out of its own side which demonstrate that it is wrong.
We heard the minister again double down on the one million figure that has already been critiqued in the media. It has shown that it is actually not the case. Double and triple counting is going on. It cannot reproduce those numbers. It is incumbent upon the government to provide accurate information, to be clear about what the goals are and to not make taxpayers pay for its mistakes.
Under the Liberals, the cost of living has been raised and has accumulated record high deficits. We were supposed to have a surplus this year of a billion dollars. With a billion dollar surplus, we could build more affordable housing. We are going to be building affordable housing on borrowed money so future generations will have higher taxes to pay for today's needs.
I will return to the 2% stress test imposed by the government, which OSFI officials say was meant for the solvency of banks. For political reasons, the Minister of Finance said it was to suppress prices in Toronto and Vancouver. However, it has had a serious impact on Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary and Edmonton. Only three markets regionally have actually gained in prices: Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax. Twenty per cent mortgages are being denied by the big banks, sending borrowers down the credit ladder and taking on more financial risk.
I have met some of those people who have taken on more financial risk. I have met people who have gone bankrupt and then have gone into affordable housing because they have lost everything. They took a chance and then the compression, because of bad government policy making or over several years they may have lost their jobs, such as energy jobs, because the government decided pipeline construction and the oil sands and energy sector were not worthy of being championed by it or at least it getting out of the way. Now those people are finding themselves in affordable housing and going to the food banks to meet their day-to-day needs.
I volunteered at the food bank in Calgary and I met oil sands workers, trade workers, people who were proud of the work they used to do, proud of having been able to live the Canadian dream. Today they are finding it more difficult than ever to meet their day-to-day needs and to get back into the housing they need. They find themselves in affordable housing. Some find themselves in shelters. Others find themselves asking for money on suburban streets, something I have never seen before in Calgary.
On 130th Avenue, in my corner of the city in the deep southeast, is an area where we would have never seen homelessness before the downturn in the economy and the constant actions by the federal government to continue depressing the market and hurting Canadian energy jobs.
As the rules are written today for the stress test, as the carbon tax is being imposed today, as higher income taxes have started to hit middle-income families, this problem is only going to get worse, and the impact is harshest on young people. They are having the hardest time moving into housing that is appropriately priced and that meets their needs.
Last year, there was 20% less mortgage origination by young Canadians. At the same time, the greatest generation, the pre-war generation, great grandparents, are taking out 63% more mortgages than before. We can only assume what that means. If they are taking on more complex financial risks, they are making more complex financial decisions that could lead them into situations where they could find themselves in bankruptcy.
I agree with the intent and principle of the motion. We have to look at both sides of the issue: affordable housing and housing affordability. CMHC has laid it out. The government is just not doing enough with the money it has been given, has so little to show for it and taxpayers are footing the bill. That is not right. In October 2019, it has to change. Taxpayers cannot afford another four years of this.
The Liberals could have done so much more with $5.7 billion directed toward affordable housing. None of their programs are meeting the needs of Canadians and taxes will continue to go up. There is just no way the Canadian middle class and Canadian workers can continue to afford the Liberal government.