2019 FEDERAL ELECTION: North Island-Powell River candidates housing affordability

What is your party’s plan to address affordable housing in the North Island-Powell River?

In an effort to inform the North Island-Powell River riding constituents, we have supplied all candidates with a series of questions.

Each week, we will publish their answers to questions pertinent to this riding.

In this article, the five North Island-Powell River candidates have been asked the following question:

Housing prices on Vancouver Island continue to rise, pricing some people out of the market and creating challenges in tourism areas that are in need worker housing. What is your party’s plan to address affordable housing in the North Island-Powell River?

(Order of placement was done at random. Order will be rotated in each subsequent article.)

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MARK de BRUIJN

Green Party of Canada

Mark de Bruijn is the Green Party of Canada candidate for the North Island-Powell River riding. Photo supplied

There are no ‘silver bullets’ for an issue as complex as housing: each of our communities has its own economy and demographics with particular needs; each level of government has different jurisdictions; there are numerous organizations/agencies involved; and there are many types of housing, each with its own market.

In fact, when considering affordable worker housing in tourism areas, we frequently see a housing market that is ‘broken’. Federal incentives for purpose-built rental housing were eliminated in the 1970s. During decades of encouraging homeownership, federal support for co-ops, rental housing, social housing, and supportive housing has languished. We now face a national shortage of affordable housing. Incoming workers and most local residents have little hope to own or even rent a home in their community. The situation in Whistler comes to mind.

The Whistler Housing Authority’s (WHA) success in developing housing for workers demonstrates how teamwork between volunteers, agencies, professionals, developers and local government paid off. WHA basically created a separate housing market that restricted prices, tied them to the consumer price index and controlled re-sales. The municipality passed bylaws requiring commercial developers to provide on-site or off-site employee housing in new developments, or pay into a dedicated municipal housing fund. Specific housing types were identified as being essential by WHA and those housing stocks were built.

The federal government also has a role to play. Greens are committed to providing federal financing to non-profit housing organizations and co-operatives to build and restore quality, energy-efficient housing; and to restoring tax incentives for building purpose-built rental housing through tax credits for gifts of lands, or of land and buildings, to community land trusts to provide affordable housing. Greens would remove the “deemed” GST whenever a developer with empty condo units places them on the market as rentals.

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PETER SCHWARZHOFF

Liberal Party of Canada

Peter Schwarzhoff is the Liberal Party of Canada candidate for the North Island-Powell River riding. Photo supplied.

Housing affordability has become a problem almost everywhere, including in our communities on the North Island and in Powell River. That’s why the Liberals have established the First-Time Home Buyer incentive to make homeownership more affordable for first-time buyers by allowing them to lower their monthly mortgage payments without increasing their down payment.

And that’s why we launched Canada’s first-ever National Housing Strategy, a 10-year plan that will help more than 600,000 Canadians find safe and affordable places to live. We funded the construction of nearly 140,000 more housing units to be built by 2028. We will fund the repair of affordable housing that hasn’t been maintained for years. We created the new Canada Housing Benefit to help 300,000 Canadians with the high costs of rent. We intend to reduce chronic homelessness by 50 per cent.

Some of that money is already flowing to our communities. For example, Linda’s Place, a 27-unit affordable housing project, is jointly funded with the Province and the Campbell River Head Injury Support Society. More projects are in the works.

We will address the impact of foreign speculation, which drives up housing costs, by putting in place a consistent national speculation and vacancy tax for non-resident, non-Canadians.

While the Harper government cut funding and ignored affordable housing for years, our government has made the most investments in housing in Canadian history.

By investing in affordable housing, we’re giving everyone a strong foundation so they can build a better future.

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SHELLEY DOWNEY

Conservative Party of Canada

Shelley Downey is the Conservative Party of Canada candidate for the North Island-Powell River riding. Photo supplied.

The cost of living has risen under the Trudeau Liberals. Our Conservative platform to leave more money in the hands of the Canadians who earn it will help them to pay either rent or a mortgage.

Conservatives have committed to reviewing the mortgage stress test to help Islanders access and renew mortgages. A revision of the mortgage stress test may allow some Canadians to take out a mortgage, which is often less per month than renting. Helping Canadians to own their home gives them stability while building equity. It also frees up stock in the rental market.

We will increase mortgage amortizations to 30 years to help lower monthly payments.

We will also review surplus federal lands for the purposes of developing housing to increase the supply of housing.

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RACHEL BLANEY

New Democratic Party

Rachel Blaney is seeking re-election in the North Island-Powell River riding. Photo supplied.

Lack of housing, as well as the cost of housing, is a huge problem in communities all across our riding. I have sat with housing advocates and seen their lists of people who are waiting for a home, and talked with families living in tents in the back yard of friends or family. I’ve sat with seniors living in hotels, unsure of how they are going to find a home; and heard from businesses trying to hire people and failing because there is simply no place nearby for them to move to.

This is a crisis and needs to be treated as such with resources now. Promises of more funding four-or-more years down the road or loosening CMHC rules a bit as the Liberals and Conservatives are offering just won’t cut it. Our communities need more units across the housing spectrum, and our most vulnerable renters need help so that they don’t lose the housing they have. Our plan would work with communities to build housing that meets local needs with 500,000 units in 10 years; half of them being built within the first five years. In the meantime, we’d offer a subsidy right away to renters who need the support to keep a roof over their heads.

Since I have been elected we have worked to help ensure local organizations get as much federal funding for housing as possible. I’m pleased to report that $13 million has come to our riding in that time to fund critical projects, but there’s so much more that needs to be done. There needs to be more urgency and ambition from the federal government. That is what I will continue to fight for no matter who forms the next government.

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GLEN STAPLES

Independent

Glen Staples is running as an independent candidate for North Island-Powell River. Photo supplied

What is my party’s plan to address affordable housing? Well, I don’t have a party so that is an advantage over the other candidates. I can support any good ideas that come from any other party. I am a journeyman carpenter; I built, bought and sold several houses, therefore, understand the market forces.

There are many factors that have increased housing prices.

• Airb&b has taken some housing off the local market while bringing in more tourists that require tourism services that need workers that are short of the very same housing.

• Many larger houses are under-occupied.

• Speculation, foreign investment, money laundering and citizenship demands have driven up prices in larger centres driving locals further out.

• Shortage of skilled labour makes building more expensive.

• Consumers have higher expectations.

• Excessive regulation. There have been so many regulatory changes in construction all of which increase the cost of housing; safety, building code, environmental engineering etc. (On some issues such as GHG emissions and finance we need more regulation, in construction we need less.)

• Land prices and zoning. BC has limited suitable land compared to most other parts of Canada, therefore, limiting its availability. The price of land is often a large part of the total price.

From long houses to log houses people always supplied their own housing. Generally, I am in favour of trying to move back to having people be more self-reliant, with less nanny-state government trying to do too many things directly for people. Market forces will correct prices in time. However, the government does have a role in regulation. This is a complicated issue; I would appreciate input from constituents: vote4glen@gmail.com . In the end, my conscience and my constituents will help me make the right decisions.

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CARLA NEAL

Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada

Carla Neal is the North Island-Powell River candidate for the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada. Photo supplied

The housing crisis affects the North Island-Powell River riding in different ways because it is such a diverse district. The vacancy rate is too low, while prices continue to outpace wages. The poor, disabled and mentally ill continue to be blamed for their condition and are forced to bear the brunt of the decisions of the monopolies over which they have no say. Indigenous peoples are particularly hard hit with some communities constantly under boil water orders. There must be Nation to Nation talks engaged in to solve this as well as other issues. Indigenous voices must be listened to.

In the midst of this crisis and the fight being waged on a day-to-day basis for solutions to the problem of lack of affordable housing, we have the phenomenon of the federal election, where, instead of a broad discussion on an agenda set by the people which would focus on finding solutions to such problems, we are expected to be bystanders to the circus of personal attacks, diversions and promises without content to get our votes.

The solution to the housing crisis requires the renewal of the political process so as to empower the people. Those in the community who have been leading the fight to affirm the right to housing know what the solutions are and have to be the ones who make the decisions.

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BRIAN RUNDLE

People’s Party of Canada

People’s Party of Canada North Island-Powell River candidate Brian Rundle. Photo supplied.

Most of the federal and provincial housing programs in place over the last few years are Band-aid solutions to regional West Coast housing prices driven by several market factors specific to our area. Factors include many retiring Canadians selling out across Canada and moving to the coast, also many immigrants to Canada are locating in Vancouver and spilling out onto Vancouver Island creating a high demand for housing in this riding. Much of the foreign investment in housing in Canada is being concentrated on the West Coast.

There are fewer and fewer jobs in our communities that pay enough for a worker to afford a home here. Money from other parts of the country and the world is brought here and invested in housing, making locals unable to buy into the market and or afford the rents and rental property is getting scarce. The present Liberal government has not addressed the housing affordability problem on the West Coast and in this riding. The main thing that needs to be done here is to create a vibrant growing economy that creates good-paying jobs and programs to allow young people and families to get into the housing market. This would be done with more resource development and open trade between the provinces. We would drop the tariffs on US goods and negotiate open free trade with the US that would drop the tariffs on our lumber that is creating a crisis in the local logging industry, where many of the higher-paying jobs exist. Our Income tax reduction plan would free up an estimated $35 billion per year that taxpayers would be able to put towards housing and living expenses.

I would also like to encourage programs for tiny house communities and granny flat housing in our riding to create more affordable housing.

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