Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam.
It is my privilege to rise in the House to speak today. Housing is an issue that was important to me before becoming an MP, because in my previous job I owned a small home-building business and we built about 60 homes in the space of 10 years. Today I want to share some of the knowledge I gained over the years of building houses.
The question I want to address is how the federal government impacts the cost of housing. First of all, I want to talk about regulations. Many regulations are provincial and local, but the federal government does have significant impact when it comes to the Canadian building codes. They are set by the National Research Council every few years and then adopted by the provinces.
We always speak about the positive changes that come out of the building code changes. For example, most recently there was lots of talk about insulation, insulated basements and insulated concrete floors, etc. We must remember that everything costs more when we add new features and new things to buildings. There are more materials, more labour and sometimes more costs for testing, such as when we have to test for radon, for example.
We have to be careful when we introduce new rules, new legislation and new building codes because we have to balance the cost of these improvements with the cost that will end up in the cost of the home. If we introduce too much bureaucracy and too much cost, then that affects the consumers and the affordability of houses.
We need simple programs, not complicated bureaucratic ones. A good example of that is in Saskatchewan, with the Saskatchewan home renovation tax credit. Essentially, if people have a project that fits the category, they get the work done, get the receipt, put it on their tax return and get the money back as a tax refund. It is quite simple.
We can contrast that to the Canada greener homes grant recently introduced by the Liberals, which is quite a bit more bureaucratic. For that, people have to actually get an audit done, first of all, to measure the baseline efficiency of their house. Then they get the work done, and then they have a second audit to see if there is an improvement. It is a program with excessive bureaucracy.
I want to contrast that with the CERB program. Of course, that was a program that gave $2,000 a month to people at the beginning of the pandemic. This was a program with almost no rules, no audits and very few checks. It was just money for everyone. Now, it was a pandemic, I understand, but in hindsight I think nearly everybody would agree that it was a little too easy to get money out of that program. If we compare that to the greener homes grant, where there is all this bureaucracy, essentially the government is assuming that people are trying to cheat and trying to get money they do not deserve.
We need to find a balance here, where there are appropriate checks and care given, but it is not too bureaucratic and does not create too many onerous problems. It needs to be simple.
The second thing I want to talk about is monetary policy. This is perhaps the most important. When my wife and I bought our first house in 1989, we paid an interest rate of 13%. To put that in perspective, if a 2% interest rate today is a $1,000 payment, if the interest rate were to change to 13%, that $1,000 payment becomes $2,700. Even if the interest rate only went up to 5%, that $1,000 payment still becomes $1,500 a month.
The government has made a trillion-dollar bet that interest rates are going to stay low forever, but history tells us otherwise. From 1965 to now, the average five-year mortgage rate was approximately 9%. There was a 20-year period in there from 1975 to 1995 when the average rate was about 12%. It is only in the last decade that the average mortgage rate has been below 5%.
Where are interest rates going in the future? Nobody knows for sure. However, the failed policies of the Liberal government are causing significant deficit spending. Deficit spending eventually causes inflation, and inflation will drive house affordability further out of reach for Canadians.
High prices also cause people to opt into high-ratio mortgages. I had an example of a customer who planned to build a house with me with a 5% down payment. I explained to them what the bank did not want to explain, which is that the CMHC charges them a fee for a 5% down payment mortgage, and that fee is 4%. Essentially, it wipes out their down payment completely. Once the customer understood that, they chose to wait and try to save for a larger down payment.
This is where the government can lead. Instead of the government's failed first-time home buyer program, people need a real program. We could increase amortization periods, improve mortgage terms and possibly create a tax incentive to allow people to save for their down payment.
The third area that I want to talk about is rental housing. There has been very little new rental housing built in Saskatoon recently, and in fact in Canada. The simple reason is that developers can make more money by building condos. The government may need to introduce some measures to gently prod the market toward more rental products.
This was done before, around 1980, through the program called the MURB program. This incentivized investors to build rental properties, and it worked great. There were 195,000 units built at a cost of about $2 billion in today's dollars. Let us compare that to the Liberals' national housing strategy. It proposes to build 71,000 units for $26 billion. It would be $26 billion to get 71,000 units, as opposed to $2 billion to get 195,000 units. It seems to me that the program from 40 years ago has a much better ROI, and perhaps the Liberal government should look at that program as it designs its program.
In February we hosted a town hall to discuss housing. What I heard was that affordable housing is key, not just for the obvious things, but for physical and mental health. In Saskatoon at any given time, there are approximately 475 homeless adults. I have received over 210 emails and letters on this issue since becoming an MP. The rapid housing initiative was supposed to address Saskatoon's housing needs, but there was no money in the big city stream for Saskatoon, and in the project stream, applications from Saskatoon were all denied by the government.
I supported three projects in Saskatoon West. I wrote letters and spoke to the parliamentary secretary. The Lighthouse application consisted of an acquisition and upgrading of a motel facility to add residential transitional housing. What was the result? There was no funding. The Saskatoon Tribal Council currently runs the White Buffalo Youth Lodge in my riding, and it has many housing options for indigenous people. It also proposed to buy a hotel and convert it to housing. What did the Liberals do? They denied it. The Salvation Army project in my city was the same story. The Liberal rapid housing initiative failed Saskatoon.
I want to remind the House of the homelessness partnering strategy of the former Conservative government. The HPS of the Harper government earmarked funds for certain regions and then let those regions decide for themselves what specific projects to fund. In Saskatoon, a board of local experts was created to make these investment decisions. They took the decision power away from the politicians and gave it to local people on the ground. They knew exactly where the money needed to be spent. With the rapid housing initiative, those decisions remained in Ottawa, with the politicians. Is it any surprise that Saskatoon, with no hope of a Liberal politician, failed to get any money?
Right now in Saskatoon, rental rates are high, availability is low and the quality is poor. This disproportionately affects single mothers, indigenous people, low-income people and new immigrants. It is especially hard for those living on social assistance, as the allowance for rent is not enough to cover the actual cost of rent.
Conservatives have solutions to Canada's housing crisis, and they are in the text of the motion today. If we put that together with our plan for mental health, we really have something good. I hope the Liberals heed the call. If not, Conservatives will secure our housing when we are elected.
As I close, I could not help but think of immigrants and newcomers as I was putting together these thoughts today. I could not stop thinking about the Muslim family killed in London, Ontario, on Sunday. It takes great bravery to leave one's home, country and family to make a new life in Canada. It takes strong courage to begin living in a country where one has few friends or family, and often one does not speak the language. It is difficult to find a good home to live in, as we have been talking about today. However, someone should not have to worry about their basic safety. That is one of the reasons they chose Canada.
To my good friends Hasan, Ilyas, Afzal, Mohammad, Sadiq, Assad, Sayad, and to all Muslims in Saskatoon and Canada, I am so sorry that one hate-filled man has caused so many to live in fear. He does not represent Canada. I am sorry that they feel afraid on the streets; they should not. To all Canadians, let us work hard to make our streets safe for all ages, all genders, all nationalities and all religions.