Affordable, appropriate and accessible housing is one of the things top-of-mind for many Canadians these days.
With Campbell River seeing record low vacancy rates and home prices continuing to rise out of reach for more and more people in our community, the candidates vying for votes in the upcoming federal election were all asked for their thoughts on the matter during last week’s all-candidates meeting at the Tidemark Theatre.
According to studies compiled by the Coalition to End Homelessness, Campbell River has a 0.5 per cent vacancy rate for market rental housing, almost half of renters spend more than 35 per cent of their income on their housing alone – 30 per cent is considered affordable – and almost a quarter of all households fall below the threshold to be able to afford to own a home.
In the order the question was answered, the candidates thoughts on the matter – including whether they would encourage the government to enshrine housing as a human right were they to be elected – were as follows:
Peter Schwarzhoff (Liberal) says the Liberal housing strategy will provide $40 billion over 10 years to reduce chronic homelessness by 50 per cent through the creation of 100,000 new affordable housing units and repairing 300,000 existing units. By creating more housing units, combined with increasing benefits like the Canada Child Benefit and Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors, will go a long way to making housing more affordable, Schwarzhoff says.
“I’m not prepared to try to bind my party to something,” he says in regards to housing being declared a human right, “but I can say myself that it’s essential for people to have a home before we can start to deal with all the other challenges people face.”
Rachel Blaney (NDP) says the answer is more housing construction. She actually put a private members bill before the House of Commons that would enshrine housing as a human right, “unfortunately, both the Liberals and Conservatives voted against it,” she says.
“There is simply nowhere to live,” Blaney says. “Not only do we get calls from people who are struggling with homelessness, but also from businesses that are saying, ‘we’re trying to attract people but there’s nowhere for them to live,’” saying the NDP’s plan is to construct 500,000 homes in the next 10 years to alleviate the issue.
Shelley Downey (Conservative) says the Conservatives want to make it easier for people to borrow money to purchase a home by reviewing the Mortgage Stress Test and extend the amortization period for mortgages to 30 years, which she feels would “free up our rental supply.”
She says the Conservatives also plan to take inventory of available federal land to consider opening some of that up for housing construction. They would not consider enshrining housing as a human right.
Brian Rundle (PPC) says while housing programs are great, “it’s really that our economy won’t support jobs that enable people to afford a home,” so that’s his party’s main priority, adding that housing is actually a provincial jurisdiction, and he respects that provincial autonomy.
In regards to housing being enshrined as a human right, he says, “Our party believes in personal responsibility and freedom. A house isn’t a right. It’s something you have to earn. We can do things to encourage people to have enough money and the jobs to actually get a house, but to say it’s a right that people have a house just because they exist isn’t something we’d support.”
Glen Staples (Independent) says “it’s not the government’s responsibility to look after everything for everyone,” adding that he grew up in a home without running water, but managed to save up enough to buy a home and pay it off when he was in his 20s through hard work.
“You start getting the government doing all this stuff, while it seems good in the short term, sometimes it actually has the opposite effect,” Staples says.
Mark de Bruijn (Green) says his party wants to legislate housing as a fundamental human right and implement a guaranteed livable income for all Canadians that would cover their basic needs, “which would do more than any social program we have right now to lift people out of poverty.”
“Anyone who has ever work with psychology in any way is familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the three fundamentals of which are water, food and shelter,” de Bruijn says. “We live in one of the wealthiest nations in the world and it is unconscionable that we have so many people who are finding it extremely difficult to fulfill these needs.”
He also says his party would restore incentives that used to exist for purpose built rental housing, appoint a Minister of Housing who would oversee the construction of 25,000 new and 15,000 rehabilitated units each year for the next 10 years.
Carla Neal (Marxist-Lininist) was not in attendance.
The Mirror live-streamed Thursday night’s forum to its Facebook page, so if you’d like to know more about how the candidates feel about this or any other matter discussed, head to Facebook.com/CampbellRiverMirror to find the event in its entirety.