In her speech introducing the federal budget last week, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said it would be a “modern supply-side” budget, particularly when it comes to housing, however North Island-Powell River NDP MP Rachel Blaney said that that approach did not go far enough for people who are struggling to afford a home.
“What I’m hoping to see more of is non-market supply. We need to make sure that there’s housing that’s there for people to be able to afford,” Blaney said. “The province is faster at getting stuff done. Even if (the federal government) give(s) them some money and get them going… we are in a housing crisis, people are spending a lot of energy stressing out about losing their housing and having to find housing when there’s nothing. It’s not like we have stuff sitting there empty. We don’t.
“The government is not as responsive to regions like ours that are being heavily impacted.”
The term ‘Modern Supply-Side’ was coined by American Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, who used it to describe the Biden administration’s economic policy. According to Reuters, it refers specifically to investing in the labour supply, meaning people.
To Freeland, “increasing supply is fundamental to growth, but takes a people-centred approach.”
Freeland continued, saying that there was “too much demand chasing too little supply.”
Freeland’s supply-side housing budget measures included stopping foreign investments in the housing supply, creating a non-taxable savings account for prospective home buyers, where people can invest up to $40,000 for their down payments.
The savings account as outlined in the budget would be a good step for some, Blaney said, but it also leaves many people who are struggling to even afford rent out of options.
“The cost of housing is now so high that it’s very hard to get to that place. It’ll work for some people, but not everyone, and it deosn’t address the key issue of making sure that people have somewhere affordable to live,” she said. “Building that up, the resources to have that, takes time. If you have to live in a place where you’re paying all of your pennies into housing it’s hard to get there.”
The budget also involved ensuring there was more money for construction projects, which would increase the supply to meet the demand. However, Blaney said that speeding construction might not be enough to meet the critical nature of the issue.
“One of the things I’ve seen and heard form others is there’s a lot of people moving to our riding to live,” she said. “Rental units are getting sold because you can sell at such a high return on your investment, which means a very negative trickle down. They have their rapid program on housing, but they’re still not getting that rural and remote communities are hurting.
“If you cannot live there and find a place to live, you can’t move there for the jobs that are waiting. it is frustrating, it is slow,” she said.
One of Blaney’s solutions would be to enshrine the right to housing in the Canadian Bill of Rights, “so that people can make a human rights complaint.
“Governments pay attention to what they get in trouble for,” she said.”For the past 30 years, nobody has been paying attention. None of the funding has gone to any kind of supportive housing, co-op housing, non-market housing. When that happens, the neglect just builds and builds until we hit a crisis point like this and now we’re so far behind it means Canadians are struggling because they can’t catch up.”