Red Tent pushes for networked local change
The Canadian movement for a national housing strategy has had a tough couple months. After more than two years of work inside and outside of the legislature, Bill C-304 is dead and the new federal budget does nothing to address Canada’s housing crisis. Even worse, the surplus accumulated by the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation that many housing advocates and opposition party members wanted to see invested in new affordable housing is instead being dumped into general revenue. The Harper Government has consistently communicated an ideological objection to a federal housing strategy while they held a minority and there is no sign that that position is going to shift now that they have a majority.
All of this has left the Red Tent Campaign at a bit of a crossroads. Our goal of a funded national housing strategy feels further away than it did even a few months ago and the types of lobbying efforts the campaign used to draw attention to Canada’s housing crisis and press for political action at the federal level no longer feel like effective strategies. Here at Pivot we are looking at ways to fight at the local and regional level, at least in the short term.
But despite these setbacks the network of individuals and groups that the campaign has built across the country is more important than ever. So many of the issues we are working on here in Vancouver are being faced by similar communities around the country. New figures on rents and vacancy rates across the country released by the CHMC show that vacancy rates are dropping in Canada's 35 largest metropolitan areas at the same time that rents continue to rise.
Vacancy rates have been low for some time in Vancouver, but it is surprising to see that Winnipeg and Regina, two cities that have been very active in the Red Tent Campaign’s call for a national housing strategy, are now tied for the lowest vacancy rate in the country. Vancouver remains the most expensive rental market in the country, with a standard two bedroom apartment going for $1,181 a month, on average. But similar apartments in Toronto, Ottawa and Calgary are also costing an average of over $1000 per month.
As the political struggle for federal action on this Canada-wide crisis takes a backseat to other, more localized demands and tactics, the movement that has grown in support of a national housing strategy and the network that the red tent campaign mobilized cannot dissipate. Our local struggles and demands aren’t that different, and we must remain committed to keeping alive the goal of ensuring secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for everyone living in Canada.