House of Commons Hansard #113 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was prices.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, if we are talking about a housing crisis, I invite my colleagues to come to Kashechewan, where 1,900 people are sharing 364 houses. That is roughly 16 people per house, and COVID has hit. We have 60 active cases and potentially 70 cases at high risk. That means out of the 30 Canadian Rangers who were sent in only five are working, because the rest are isolated with COVID. Nine health workers have been sent home. We have 10 to 15 people to a house and COVID is spreading. We are talking about a potential humanitarian disaster, with over 172 cases right now on the Mushkegowuk part of the James Bay coast.

I am asking my colleagues to get serious about the underfunding in the first nations communities. We need to look at bringing in the army to help. They do not have the housing, the infrastructure and the medical teams necessary to keep people safe when they are living so many in a home with the COVID variants that are hitting them very hard.

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I completely agree with my hon. colleague.

I could not believe it when I saw the news about the 215 children who were found in Kamloops last week. The government's only response was to dust off Bill C-8 and say that it is taking action for indigenous peoples by adding four words to the Canadian oath of citizenship. Meanwhile, there are still indigenous reserves in northern Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba that do not yet have drinking water and where there are 25 people living in substandard and unheated one-bedroom homes.

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the fantastic member for Vancouver East.

Like the member for Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, I was shocked to see that the Conservative motion is about housing. It is rare that we hear them talk about this subject. So much the better if their motion talks about housing because it is a real subject, a real issue and a real problem.

Does the motion present real solutions? That is another matter, and we can talk about it later.

Housing is a critical issue that affects thousands of people in Montreal, Quebec and across Canada. Obviously, my speech is going to focus on Montreal because that is where my riding is located. There is a real housing crisis in my riding. It is not the only place in Quebec that has been affected by the crisis, but it is one of the places that has been hardest hit by it.

The vacancy rate is approximately 1%, which is extremely low. That means that people do not have a lot of choices. Sometimes they are even forced to stay where they are because there are no other options available. Some housing units are dangerous and can jeopardize the health of their occupants. I will come back to that later.

As I was saying, the vacancy rate is really low. The delay regarding the Canada-Quebec agreement exacerbated the crisis. The federal government waited three years before releasing the funds and getting out the shovels and bricks to start real housing projects. Unfortunately, Quebec has been the last in line when it comes to housing.

The vacancy rate puts intense pressure on both the rental market and on home ownership. People are paying ridiculously high prices for housing. In Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, 74% of residents are renters. I recently saw a two-bedroom apartment going for $1,750 a month. A two-bedroom apartment cannot house a big family. Furthermore, I wonder what kind of job someone needs to have to be able to pay $1,750 a month. The average income is around $40,000 or $45,000 a year. Rent is, on average, $1,200 or $1,300. This puts a lot of pressure on workers, on the middle class and, obviously, the less fortunate.

Why is housing so important? It is because there are a few things we can do to help improve people's lives.

People need better working conditions. If someone earns more and inflation is not too high, they can increase their purchasing power. Higher wages are therefore a good thing.

The government can also use fiscal tools, such as taxes, to redistribute wealth and achieve greater equality within our society. One of the best ways to fight poverty and reduce inequality is to tackle the biggest expense for individuals, families and households. That biggest expense is rent.

Let us tackle that problem so we can really help people and lift them out of poverty. Maybe that just means giving them a little bit of a leg up to help improve their quality of life so they can take a vacation or go to a restaurant or the movies. When those activities are allowed, of course, but we all agree that it is coming.

Everyone knows that if a person spends more than 30% of their income on rent, they will end up poor and vulnerable. Right now, 20% of people spend more than 50% of their income on rent. In other words, one in five people spends more than half their paycheque on rent. That is outrageous. About 3,000 households or 6,000 to 7,000 people in Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie are in that situation. That is a lot of people.

As I said off the top, I was happy to read the Conservatives' motion. Then I started combing through it for a couple of words that turned out not to be there: “affordable” and “social”. The motion says nothing about affordable or social housing even though social housing in particular is the best way to help people get decent housing that is within their means. It is possible to create housing that costs people no more than 25% of their income, of their pay.

That makes a huge difference. It helps people in a tangible way. However, the Conservatives have disregarded this and have not included it among the options on the table, even if it is the best tool we have to help people and give them decent housing.

The Liberals occasionally talk about social housing, but they do not invest enough in it.

The Liberal plan, of which they are so proud, is to create 160,000 affordable or social housing units. I will get to what affordability means. The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness says that there is an urgent need to build 300,000 housing units in Canada. The plan in question, of which the Liberals are so proud, barely manages to offer half of what is needed to meet the needs of the population. Personally, I would not pat myself on the back as much as they do.

The NDP wants to go farther, faster. We want to make the kind of effort that has not been seen since the Second World War and build 500,000 new affordable social housing units in the next 10 years.

When we use the word “affordable”, we must consider certain criteria and be mindful of the definition. I will get right to the issue of affordability. As a matter of fact, depending on the definition, it can refer to some completely absurd situations. If our only criteria is that these units are rented 5% cheaper than the market average, which is exploding and reaching outrageous and ridiculous prices, we end up with housing that is considered “affordable”, but for which people need to have an outrageously high salary and an outrageously low standard of living.

According to the Liberal definition, in Ottawa, a unit that rents for $2,750 a month is considered affordable. The Liberal government thinks this is affordable for the poor and the middle class. I cannot wait to go door to door on this issue.

We need to be able to build housing outside the logic of the market. That is why the NDP puts so much emphasis on building social housing and co-operative housing, which is another way to deal with the housing problem. This goes beyond the single perspective of real estate developers, profits and business objectives. There is obviously room for a lucrative private real estate market. There is also nothing wrong with helping people get a better deal in the market and helping young families get into home ownership.

However, we must be able to keep a part of our real estate market outside the regular market. This would reflect the principles of public service, co-operation and mutual aid, and it would include housing co-operatives, for example, which are common in Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. These are great places to live, where people learn about co-operation, living together, sharing and local democracy. We have to continue to push in that direction.

We need to recognize that housing is a fundamental right and part of human dignity. For years now, the NDP has been introducing bills and fighting to have housing recognized as a right. That would make all the difference.

Speaking of making a difference, the federal government could still make a difference with investments and funding. I talked about 500,000 affordable social housing units, but there are also a lot of other things, such as working with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the CMHC, to make it easier for young families to access home ownership and to encourage the creation and maintenance of the co-op housing I was talking about.

We must also use federal land. There is federal land that is not being used and could be sold to private developers to build various projects. Why not set aside and use these federal lands to ensure that social housing is built, for example in the riding of Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs, in Montreal, where there are some very interesting sites? They should be set aside for social housing.

Locally, in Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, there is the issue of “renovictions”, when people are forced to leave their dwelling because of renovations. This does not fall under federal jurisdiction, but we must work with the provinces to come up with solutions.

As for housing safety and environmental health, I joined a protest near my office started by people who were unable to move out of their dwelling even though it contained mould and was dangerous for the occupants.

The La Petite Patrie housing committee is working extremely hard with regard to the construction of social housing close to the Bellechasse sector. The Rosemont housing committee is also working to have other properties designated entirely as community housing when new projects are built, which is interesting.

With regard to the former Centre de services scolaire de Montréal or CSDM building on Sherbrooke Street, the Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain, or FRAPRU, is asking that it be reserved for social housing.

I think that is an excellent idea and something we should consider.

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member keeps referring to social housing. I have a concern with social housing, at least as I understand the member to represent it. Social housing, to me, means building as many units as possible in one tight area to house as many people as possible. Although that might be beneficial in terms of having the best bang for our buck, it certainly has been proven, time and again, that it does not help with the mental health of individuals living there and it does not help with the social stigmatization that comes from ghettoized social housing. It is very well regarded that, in order to bring people through the affordable housing process, they should be well integrated. Indeed, the co-op model does that, because the co-op model requires people who pay market rent as well as people who pay non-market rent for it to be viable.

Can the member comment? When he talks about social housing, does he not mean something that is more along the lines of integrated housing? There, people who are living with rent geared to income are living with people who are paying market rent, so that there is an integration of demographics in a particular complex.

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question, which deals with a major concern.

I would like him to come visit my riding of Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie one day. He would see that the idea of a socially mixed environment and diversity is extremely important in the projects that we put forward, when we are able to get funding. The Liberal government has been dragging its feet for three years.

The idea is not to create chicken coops or ant hills where we try to shove as many people as possible into the smallest space possible and leave them there. On the contrary, we want to be able to create projects in which social housing and real affordable housing are a significant component. We want a mix of renters and prices that are in line with the true market value.

This type of project is worthwhile because everyone lives in the same living environment. That is one of the things we are trying to do with the development of the Bellechasse sector, which I talked about earlier.

Diversity and a socially mixed environment are extremely important to us.

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to respond to everyone's remarks by saying that I completely agree with my colleague from Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, among others.

Before becoming an MP, I worked in community action in Laurentides—Labelle. People have been talking about affordable and social housing for ages. We all knew there was a huge crisis, and I know first-hand there is still a crisis, because people come see me at my office. They recognize me and ask me for help because they have no place to live, and by July 1 it will be too late. It is never too late though.

Under previous governments, once consultations were done in the ridings, it was easy to see where things were going even though nobody saw the pandemic coming. Where were they?

Here is my question for my colleague. How is it that this is being brought up now, and by a Conservative government to boot, just before the end of the parliamentary session and at the end of the pandemic?

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her extremely pertinent question.

There is a whole history behind the cuts to funding for social and affordable housing that were carried out by both a Liberal and a Conservative government.

The Liberals abolished the program in 1993. As I just mentioned, investments are barely half of what they should be, half of what is required. Additionally, Quebec is only three years behind everyone else. That makes the crisis even worse.

The Liberals promised in 2015 that they would waive the GST on all new social and truly affordable housing. They have been in power for six years and have not waived it yet. This is a small measure that could boost the initiative to build new affordable housing for families.

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Vis Conservative Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie a direct question.

Does he support the position of the Conservative Party that the federal government should make building affordable rental units, market units, easier for developers to help those people he is talking about as well? I ask this because a lot of people want a safe and secure place to live, but the reality is that not everyone is going to want to live in social housing, as I feel the member is suggesting in some of his remarks.

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, we need a diverse supply of housing in Canada. I agree with my Conservative colleague that there is a shortage of rental housing in all sectors.

I obviously emphasized social housing because the NDP believes it is the best way to lift people out of poverty, but there is also a shortage of rental housing in the private sector. My colleague is quite right.

However, I want to stress that having more social housing also helps middle-class Canadians who are looking to buy a house, because it cools the overheated real estate market in general.

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, since the federal Liberal government walked away from the national housing program in 1993, Canada's housing crisis has escalated to a feverish pitch. In 2017, the federal Liberal government announced a national housing strategy. It even declared that adequate housing is a basic human right.

Two years after the announcement of the national housing strategy, in 2019, the Parliamentary Budget Officer noted that $11.6 billion of that is cost matched by the provinces. The PBO further said that the national housing strategy basically just maintains the funding at current levels, and in fact, the funding for those with core housing needs actually reduced slightly by 14%. The report said, “CMHC’s assumptions regarding the impact of [National Housing Strategy] outputs on housing need do not reflect the likely impact of those programs on the prevalence of housing need.”

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development (Housing) admitted on the public record that the Liberals double counted to inflate their numbers for rhetorical advantage. Even after this admission, the government shamelessly continued to use the inflated numbers in the throne speech.

We also saw that the vast majority of the funding to add new affordable housing stock was back-end loaded and in the form of loans. When eventually the trickle of money began to flow for new construction, the process was onerous, complicated and time-consuming. All the housing providers that tried to access the co-investment fund will know exactly what I am talking about. Canada is now losing more affordable housing and social housing than is being built.

Housing is a basic human right and eradicating poverty starts with ensuring that everyone has a roof over their head. Housing should not be treated like a stock market, and the current situation, where an estimated 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness every year and 1.7 million households are in core housing need, is a disgrace for a country as wealthy as ours. The Liberals' national housing strategy's goal to create between 150,000 to 160,000 units does not ensure housing is a basic human right.

The NDP shares FCM's view that the funding announced in budget 2021 does not yet meet our shared goal of ending chronic homelessness. Constantly falling short of what community housing providers are calling for is not how to treat a crisis. Resorting to double counting for rhetorical advantage might make the Liberals feel better about themselves, but it does not help the people on the ground.

Furthermore, the Parliamentary Budget Officer and housing policy expert Steve Pomeroy have repeatedly criticized the low affordability criteria of the RCFI, the largest national housing strategy program. For instance, the government announced a project in Ottawa “providing 65 units at only 21% of median income”. The government is making it sound affordable, but in reality, that was $1,907 per month, which was 48% higher than the average one- and two-bedroom apartments in the area.

Not only is this not affordable. Steve Pomeroy argues that the project in the RCFI would have been built anyway, but of course, the housing providers will not say no to financing at lower interest rates if that is offered.

We also learned that CMHC does not even track what is the rent for this program. It does not matter if the rent is well over average market rent. The Liberals then use this RCFI to pad their claims of how many Canadians they have helped find affordable housing, but we will never know this by just listening to the Liberals' talking points. We have to dig deep to expose the Liberals' doublespeak. Without the necessary resources, the Liberals' claim that they will end chronic homelessness by 2030 will be yet another broken promise.

As pointed out by many housing advocates to end chronic homelessness, we need to build at least 370,000 units of community housing. In fact, over 40 housing organizations and advocates from across Canada jointly signed a letter to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development to call for this. They are also calling for the creation of a housing acquisition fund that would provide non-profits quick access to capital for acquiring existing rental properties at risk of being swept up by these funds. This was also supported by the recovery for all campaign and the FCM.

There is a great need to limit the ability of REITs and large capital funds in fuelling the rising costs of housing and rent, but to date no action has been taken to address this urgent issue. I know the Liberals will say they announced the rapid housing initiative and its astounding success, and that they just announced phase two of the rapid housing initiative. Let me say that it still falls short of what was called for by the FCM and many other housing advocates.

A significant expansion of the RHI is needed, and the NDP will continue to push for a $7-billion investment for no less than 24,000 units over the next two to three years. The NDP is also renewing its call for 500,000 units of new affordable social housing units to be built. The federal government must also step up to partner with all levels of government and non-profit housing providers to ensure operating costs and supportive wraparound services are provided. This is an essential component to a federal-provincial-territorial partnership.

Turning to the issue of home ownership, many young professionals and couples, especially those from big cities, often find themselves in a situation where home ownership is a remote dream. The 1% tax on vacant homes owned by people who are both non-residents and non-citizens is largely symbolic, when the average cost of housing has increased 31% in 2020 alone, a rate that is simply unsustainable. In B.C., vacancy in foreign ownerships stack independently up to 2.5% combined with a 20% foreign buyers tax in metro Vancouver. The federal government should at least match B.C.'s initiative for affected housing markets to curb foreign market speculators.

The parliamentary secretary for housing also admitted that Canada is a very safe market for foreign investment, but it is not a great market for Canadians looking for choices around housing. The NDP will continue to push the government to strengthen these measures, as well as for more stringent housing ownership reporting requirements to ensure more transparency on ownership, and to make it more difficult to launder money and evade capital gains taxes on secondary residents.

Let me turn to another glaring omission in this motion and in budget 2021. Both fail to address the critical and urgent need of a “for indigenous, by indigenous” urban, rural and northern housing strategy. Despite the Liberals saying that they are committed to a “for indigenous, by indigenous” urban indigenous housing strategy, we have yet to see one materialize. In budget after budget, the Liberals fail to deliver.

To quote Robert Byers, former chair of the CHRA indigenous caucus:

For years, government officials have told us that an urban, rural and northern Indigenous housing strategy was a priority. The absence of such a strategy in today’s Budget will mean that urban and rural Indigenous peoples will continue to face inequality and lack of access to safe and affordable housing, and that is a disgrace.

Indigenous peoples are 11 times more likely to use a homeless shelter. Who here has not heard the excuses, over and over again, that the government is working on it, it is doing a study, and it has targets for indigenous housing? If the study was a priority, why did the Prime Minister prorogue the House last year, shutting down Parliament, including the work of committees?

If the government wanted an indigenous-led consultation process, why did it not establish a “for indigenous, by indigenous” national housing centre? The Liberals could have done that as part of the 2019 budget, the fall economic update in 2020 or in budget 2021, yet they did not. The reality is that the core housing need for indigenous households is the highest in Canada.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer most recently reported that 124,000 indigenous households are in core need, including 37,500 being homeless in a given year. The annual affordability gap is at $636 million. Winnipeg has the highest number of indigenous households in housing need, estimated at 9,000. Vancouver is second at 6,000.

Indigenous, Métis and Inuit people should not have to be told, time and again, that their housing needs can wait. The time has come for the government to act. I am therefore proposing the following amendment, and I hope that the member for Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon will accept it.

I move that the motion be amended by adding the following at the end of paragraph (e): “by renewing efforts to build affordable and social housing not seen since post-World War II, including a commitment to 500,000 new units in a “for indigenous, by indigenous” urban, rural and northern housing strategy.”

It is absolutely critical that this action be taken. I hope that the member will support this amendment so we can send a clear message about what needs to be done, clearly defining the action that is required.

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Vis Conservative Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, I cannot support her amendment to the motion. I do not have enough context for the first part regarding after World War II and the figure of 500,000.

Of course, as the member knows, I have been very clear at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, and in this chamber, that the Conservative Party and I stand behind the “for indigenous by indigenous” principle she mentions in the second part of her motion, but for—

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

There is no consent. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 85, the amendment cannot be moved at this time.

We will continue with questions and comments. The hon. member for Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon.

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Vis Conservative Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, earlier, in the member for Vancouver East's remarks, she mentioned the rental construction financing initiative and how it accounts for approximately $25 billion of the national housing strategy, which is approximately one-third.

In my speech earlier today, I talked about the MURB program, which led to the creation, according to the Library of Parliament, of 125,000 units at a revenue loss of $1.8 billion.

To her earlier point about “for indigenous by indigenous” strategy, would the member agree that maybe some of the money allocated to the rental construction financing initiative could be used to support urban indigenous people? We could then let the private sector take care of some of that financing through tax incentives and programs similar to what we had before, such as the MURB.

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the RCFI program, as has been indicated, is not a program that really targets affordable housing. Some of the announcements the government made clearly indicate it is not affordable, and in fact, it is above market rent. What the government is doing is providing low-interest loans primarily to developers to get these projects done.

There is a real question about what the government's goal is in making sure affordable housing is being provided to the communities in need, so I absolutely agree that we need to rethink it. The government can do this program, but the reality of course is that it needs to step up to ensure affordable housing is actually there for people in greatest need and that funding is in place, not years down the road, as the government has promised with the indigenous housing strategy and has yet to deliver on.

Finally, I just want to highlight the issue around the RCFI. It is a loan program. Ultimately, while it sounds like the government is committing a lot of money to the program, in reality it is only a fraction of those dollars. At the end of the day, a—

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

We will continue with questions and comments.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, it is always interesting to watch NDP members talk about housing. For the numbers they project, the 500,000, when one goes into their campaign document to take a look at how it would be financed, two-thirds of the money would come from municipalities and provinces. It is always easy to spend somebody else's money, rather than actually generate the federal investments required to make a difference.

On that point, when they quote the number of 500,000 and put that out as an aspiration, what is the dollar amount the NDP is proposing to assign in federal dollars on that program? How much money is the member proposing to spend to realize 500,000 units of housing?

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, what is interesting is that the Liberals, and particularly the parliamentary secretary, would actually double count the numbers for rhetorical advantage. If the member wants to talk about numbers, I ask that he actually check himself what he has been putting out, and frankly, the rhetoric he has been promising to the community.

I heard him promise over and over again the delivery of a “for indigenous by indigenous” urban, rural and northern housing strategy. To this day, we still do not have it. This just has to end. We have had enough of the rhetoric and enough of the double-talk.

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Mr. Speaker, I attended the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' conference in Quebec City in 2019. At that conference, Selina Robinson, who at the time was the minister for housing for British Columbia, said that the government had come to the table with a national strategy but had actually not invested. I know the parliamentary secretary was there, and he seemed to take great umbrage at the time to that. I still have a copy of the talk because it was an interesting discussion.

Does the member believe the government truly has invested at this point? Selina Robinson is now minister of finance. I would just like to hear the member for Vancouver East's thoughts on the national housing program and whether it has worked in British Columbia.

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, in 2019, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, in fact, noted that $11.6 billion of the national housing strategy is just matching dollars from the province, and it is not meeting the needs. Minister Selina Robinson is absolutely correct and British Columbia had actually been shortchanged with respect to the funding. Through my work in getting Order Paper questions and answers, we discovered that British Columbia, on one of the biggest programs under the national housing strategy, was only getting 0.5% of the funding at that time for the co-investment fund. The numbers have increased and improved somewhat now, but are still nowhere near what we need to address the housing crisis that the Liberals caused back in 1993.

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2021 / 1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Kenny Chiu Conservative Steveston—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Calgary Shepard.

I am the father of two young adult daughters who, in the not-so-distant future, with their effort and determination, like countless other young Canadians, will be entering the home-buying market. Similar to countless other young Canadians, my daughters are living at home, watching the never-ending stream of media reports saying housing in Canada is entirely unaffordable. Young Canadians looking to enter the market cannot do so on their own, nor should they bear the expectation that they should at this time, especially in my home city of Richmond. Even with hard work and saving up for a down payment, the reality is that many will still require parental support, something I will likely be blessed to be able to give my daughters, but something that is not available to everyone.

We see Canadians faced with a sudden expectation adjustment, one reminiscent of our Prime Minister's comment that this generation could be the first generation in many decades to be worse off than their parents. I, for one, would like to point out that the rampant, reckless spending and deficit spending prior to or after the pandemic and the types of policies being implemented by his government will pretty much guarantee that outcome.

The reality is that much-anticipated tax expansion and government programs will not address the affordable housing shortage or the underlying causes of our housing crisis. To the contrary, the tax burden imposed by reckless spending over the past six years, even excluding pandemic relief, will tie the hands of future governments and prevent them from tackling other housing priorities such as homelessness and poverty.

Home prices have skyrocketed over this past COVID year and the dream of home ownership is becoming more distant for Canadians to attain. The national average home price was a record $678,000 in February 2021, up 25% from the same month last year. In my home city of Richmond, single detached home prices are up 20% in the past year, averaging at $1.5 million, far above the rest of the country. I find it ridiculous and ironic that Canada, with the world's second-largest land mass and sparse population, has to suffer such a housing crisis. The difficulties Canadians face are certainly exacerbated by the government's mismanagement of supply in our housing markets. Its incompetence is not limited to only home ownership.

The Liberal government has done nothing to address the rental market as an affordable option for Canadians either. Increasing supply within the rental market would be a boon for renters trying to make ends meet in increasingly unaffordable conditions. The government's ideas so far do nothing to address the real issues affecting affordability in our real estate market, namely through the lack of housing supply. To top it off, the two-years-too-late Liberal budget failed to rule out the introduction of capital gains taxes on the principal residences of Canadians. Punishing those who have a home as a way to pay for the government’s current or future excessive and poorly managed spending does not help solve the housing crisis.

The Liberals' national housing strategy has been defined by funding delays and cumbersome, difficult-to-navigate programs. It has consistently failed to get funding out of the door in a timely fashion for the projects that need it most. The national housing co-investment fund is one of the worst-offending programs, as we have heard from the member for Vancouver East.

However, members do not have to listen to me on this. Housing providers across the country have called it “cumbersome” and “complicated”, which is slightly higher praise than what the Liberals received on their first-time homebuyer initiative, a program that has proven to be a fatally flawed, dismal failure. It was intended to help 20,000 Canadians in the first six months, but has only reached 10,000 in over 18 months. It did not accomplish its primary objective of improving affordability in high-cost regions. These changes will not help prospective buyers in Victoria, Vancouver or Toronto.

When the Liberals' only solution to affordable home ownership is to take on a share of a Canadian's mortgage, and when their solution is actively discouraged by brokers, the government should realize that it is time to change direction, not double-down on poor policy. The Liberals should be helping Canadians by giving them the tools to save, lowering their taxes and creating jobs. For example, by incentivizing the use of RRSPs, Canadians could leverage their own savings to purchase a home.

Once again, the bureaucratic, Ottawa-knows-best approach is hurting our communities. It goes to prove that the Liberal government consistently misses the concerns of Canadians, such as concerns over legislative and enforcement gaps that have allowed the drug trade to launder illicit money through our real estate markets; concerns over supply, funding and support program criteria for long-term care homes; and the concern to fix the shortfalls of the national housing co-investment fund, a program that housing providers across the country have voiced their criticism of, stating that the application process is too cumbersome and the eligibility criteria too complicated.

Canadians cannot afford more inaction. Only Conservatives are focused on ensuring Canadians are not left paying the price for Liberal mismanagement. Conservatives recognize the severity of the nationwide housing affordability crisis faced by Canadians.

I believe in a bold vision for my home of Richmond, one where every family who works hard and saves responsibly can achieve home ownership. I believe that the future of housing in Canada will be built on proper management of our nation's supply. Following consultation with my colleagues, I was pleased to learn that Conservatives share a belief in a nationwide plan to get homes built as part of Canada's economic recovery.

We believe in real action, not lip service, to address the consequences of money laundering and the negative impacts it has in our society. Our plan to secure the future will prioritize the needs of Canadians before foreign investors, provide meaningful housing solutions and put families in the housing market. Conservatives have advocated and will continue to advocate for improvements to mortgage policies, to the taxation system, to combat money laundering, to increase housing supply across the continuum, and to address rampant speculation and unfair profiteering.

Canada needs a plan to get our economy back on track, but over a year into the pandemic the Liberal government, like a ship that has lost its anchor, is still operating lost at sea. In response, we Conservatives have developed Canada's recovery plan that sets a course to secure Canada's future, including the modest dream of owning a home.

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, the issue of British Columbia has been raised a couple of times now. Just to be clear, we have partnered with the provincial government to invest $517 million to assist over 25,000 households through the provincial-federal housing accords. We have invested, since 2015, not the paltry 2% quoted by the member for Vancouver East, but $5.8 billion in housing in British Columbia. These investments have supported 112,000 families throughout the province to find a place to call home. We are, right now, investing $205 million to support the creation of 700 permanent, affordable units for individuals in British Columbia through the rapid housing initiative. The dollars are real, and it is close to 30% of the total national housing strategy investment.

However, I do not think that the member who just spoke has even read the motion that his colleague passed, because the motion talks about a shared equity agreement program. Well, that is what the first-time homebuyers program is. The motion also requests action on money laundering. Well, that is in the 2021 budget, but the Conservatives voted against every single measure. They voted against the tax on vacant homes. They voted against the beneficial ownership disclosure rules and requirements. They voted against the additional investments in rapid housing and—

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Let us get on to the response and then we will get on to the next question.

The hon. member for Steveston—Richmond East.

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Kenny Chiu Conservative Steveston—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for the intervention. It was as if he was giving a speech instead of asking a question. The only short answer I could provide is that it shows how out of touch the Liberals are. The drop in the bucket solutions and the reannouncing of the announcement that they had before will not help the housing crisis we are facing in Greater Vancouver or across the country.

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I happen to be one who believes that the responsibility to provide affordable housing transcends all levels of government. We need the municipalities, the provincial governments and the federal government working together.

I trace one of the problems to the current crisis that my hon. colleague talked about: this terrible situation in which our young children, for the first generation in history, cannot purchase their own homes in a country as big as Canada. I trace that back to 1992, when the Conservatives removed the housing mandate from Canada Mortgage and Housing. The Liberals promised in 1993 to bring it in and never did. We have had the federal government effectively absent as a senior level of government from the housing file for almost 30 years. It is no wonder we are in a crisis today.

Does my hon. colleague see any results from the Liberal government's actions on housing? He is in Richmond and I am in Vancouver. Does he see any housing that is being built for people that is even making a dent in the housing crisis facing so many Canadians today?

Opposition Motion—Housing PolicyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Kenny Chiu Conservative Steveston—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have lived in Richmond for multiple decades, and can assure the House that people here do not feel the presence of the federal government's help. Many housing projects were actually from decades ago. It is time for the federal government to use its legislative power and also its fiscal responsibility to reintroduce a change in the region. The housing crisis in Canada cannot be solved with just one single level of government, be it federal, municipal or provincial, so I agree with the hon. member in his view.