For the second time since in five years, North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney is hoping to make the right to affordable and appropriate housing a part of Canada’s Bill of Rights.
What the bill does is creates an amendment to the bill of rights that ensures all Canadians has the right to affordable and appropriate housing. Blaney hopes to hold the government to account with their election promise to tackle the housing crisis.
“Right now, when we look at the things that the Liberals are doing with all of their different types of programming, they’re so far behind,” Blaney said. “This bill won’t fix it immediately, but it will definitely give the government a lot more pressure to make sure they’re watching the housing costs, they’re watching the rental costs and that there’s a level of accountability.”
Blaney first proposed a version of this bill back in 2016 when it was defeated by Liberal and Conservative MPs. Since then, she said her team has seen housing prices rise dramatically across the riding, including 120 per cent for Campbell River since 2016, and most dramatically 109 per cent in the North Island since November, 2019.
“For the last 30 years we’ve seen a decrease from all levels of government investing in different types of affordable housing. That includes co-op housing, social housing, low-income housing, there’s just less investment across Canada,” she said. That, combined with blind bidding — the practice of homes being bought without knowing who else is in the running — has led to the crisis.
“What I’m hearing from municipalities across the riding is that they have ideas, they have projects and they’re trying to work and the federal funding isn’t coming in,” she said. “We’ve seen significant dollars coming in to the area from the provincial government, but if they don’t have a meaningful federal component, and they don’t at this point, it’s really hard to see a long-term impact that’s making life easier for everyone.”
The housing crisis has affected more than just people at the lower end of the income spectrum: from professionals who are working full-time jobs and are unable to afford their rent to private landlords who cannot keep up with rising property taxes.
“When people look at the disruption of having folks in their community who are homeless, it doesn’t make anybody feel good to see someone walking around with a cart that has sleeping bags in it,” Blaney said. “Home is where you feel safe, where you go to rest, where you recuperate from your life. If you have nowhere to go, that’s stressful and that stress impacts the larger community.
“Most people want a solution for people… who don’t have a home,” she said. “We don’t want people stressed out because they can’t afford a home, or might be evicted. All these things build societal pressure. This really gives teeth to that and says that wherever we are we have to make sure there’s housing people can actually live in.”
Enshrining the right to affordable and appropriate housing for all Canadians won’t fix the crisis overnight, Blaney said.
“Well it certainly won’t fix it tomorrow, but what it will do is make the federal government more accountable. They will have to watch these things and they will have to work with our municipal and provincial governments to create meaningful solutions,” she said. “If nobody’s watching, then there is no solution, just a reaction to the crisis.”