Madam Speaker, housing affordability is one of the top issues I hear about from constituents in my riding, along with climate change.
The high cost of housing is making it increasingly hard for students, families and seniors to make ends meet. I have also heard from small businesses that the lack of affordable housing impacts their ability to recruit and retain employees.
I had an interesting experience in that regard. I held sessions in three of my communities and invited the MLA, the mayors and small businesses to talk about their concerns. In every community, the top concern was the lack of affordable housing. The second concern was the lack of affordable day care. This was for small businesses.
The Liberals' national housing strategy is not providing the help people need now and over the long term. It may not make it any easier for Canadians to find affordable housing.
The rental construction financing initiative is one part of this strategy, providing low-cost financing to developers to build affordable rental units. However, how the affordability of projects is calculated under this program is problematic. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development advised that one way “affordable” was defined was “rents lower than 30% of the median family income” in a specified area. It is not appropriate to base affordability on median household income if we want to create housing that is affordable for low and modest-income people.
In my riding of Kootenay—Columbia, no projects have been approved under the rental construction financing initiative. However, it is questionable whether the program would create housing that would be affordable for many of my constituents, such as those living in single-income households or on a pension. These constituents have incomes well below the median.
There is clearly a need for more affordable housing in communities across the country. I know that is the case in parts of my riding, such as in the city of Nelson, which has the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the province. This is despite a lot of effort by community groups, such as the Nelson Cares Society and others, to provide homes for the needy.
If the government is providing assistance to private developers, we need to ensure the goal of increasing housing affordability will be met and maintained over the long term.
The NDP has a plan to address housing affordability for renters and put the dream of home ownership back in reach. Our plan would create 500,000 new units of affordable housing over the next 10 years, would provide rental subsidies to low-income Canadians spending more than 30% of their income on housing and would allow first-time homebuyers to choose a 30-year insured mortgage.
The NDP also has a plan to save Canadians an average of $900 per year on energy costs by retrofitting all housing stock by 2050, with half completed by 2030. Our ambitious home retrofit program would also create jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which is critical in the fight against climate change, and supports the transition to a low-carbon economy.
What is the government doing to ensure that projects supported by the national housing strategy will deliver long-term, affordable housing, including for low and modest-income Canadians, today in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia?