If you're like me you've probably been wondering why four weeks into the federal election campaign nobody seems to be saying anything about housing. Housing issues were invisible during last week’s leaders’ debate, and the party platforms only glance over what we consider to be a growing crisis across Canada. So we decided to send a set of questions to the federal candidates responsible for the housing portfolio for each party to get some answers for Canadians. Here’s what they had to say.
Question One: Do you support the adoption of a fully-funded national housing strategy which respects provincial jurisdiction?
Bloc Québécois: supports a national housing strategy, as long as Quebec can have jurisdiction over investments on its own territory, and is accountable only to its own population. *all Bloc responses have been translated.
The Conservative Party: No response
The Green Party: believes it is the right of every Canadian to have affordable, safe and secure housing. It enhances people's health, dignity and life opportunities. It is an essential prerequisite to an equitable society. The Green Party will advocate the inclusion of a clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that specifically states that everyone living in Canada is entitled to safe shelter or affordable housing. We will urge the government to appoint a Minister for Housing to oversee development and implementation of a National Affordable Housing Plan and we will require the plan to set an annual rate of building affordable housing so that lack of access to affordable housing is no longer a factor in homelessness by 2019. Universal housing will alleviate poverty. Universal housing provides a basis for employment, schooling, community services and contacts. The development and delivery of adequate universal housing and emergency accommodation must be a high priority.
The Liberal Party: Yes, our platform has committed $275 million in new funding per year for affordable housing. As government, we would meet with provinces, municipalities and other stakeholders to determine priorities, which would likely vary across the country. Hence the program would be flexible to reflect regionally diverse needs.
The NDP:Jack Layton and New Democratic Party of Canada has been a leader in efforts to ensure Canadians have adequate, affordable and suitable housing. Libby Davies, candidate for Vancouver East, introduced the historic Bill C-304, an Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians. Bill C-304 calls on the federal government to work with provincial, territorial, municipal and aboriginal counterparts to establish a housing strategy to address Canada’s housing crisis through the provision of not-for-profit housing and ensure the cost of housing does not interfere with the ability to meet other basic needs like food and access to education. The NDP plans to re-introduce this legislation when Parliament resumes.
Question Two: Do you support maintaining the existing federal subsidies for social housing units in order to ensure that these units remain accessible to low-income households?
Bloc Québécois: supports continued federal funding for social housing, after existing agreements expire.
The Conservative Party:No response
The Green Party: Yes, the Green Party supports the delivery of social housing dollars to provincial, territorial and municipal governments through the traditional vehicle of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). We will change the mandate of the CMHC to include responsibility, as it once had, for affordable, non-market and co-operative housing and dramatically increase its funding. CMHC programs must be directed to the communities most in need, and fast-tracked to provide homes for people at risk.
The Liberal Party:In addition to the new annual commitment of $275 million, we would honour existing funding of $358 million per year.
The NDP:commits to maintaining existing federal supports for affordable housing.
Question Three: Do you support the continued and long term investment by the federal government in social housing? If so how much do you believe the federal government should be spending annually on creating new social housing, in light of the Red Tent Campaign recommendation to invest 2 billion annually?
Bloc Quebecois: demands a progressive reinvestment in social and affordable housing, with the goal of reaching an additional $2 billion per year of funding by the federal government. It must also commit to eventually spend 1% of revenues on social housing, ($2.6 billion for 2011-2012), while maintaining existing programs.A mechanism must be established to manage the surplus of the CMHC, which will reach $10 billion in 2011. This surplus can partially fund the progressive reinvestment proposed by the Bloc. The federal government must accelerate negotiations, with the goal of transferring all responsibility on housing matters to Quebec. All funding for the renovation and maintenance of existing social housing (agreements) should be transferred to Quebec.*
The Conservative Party: No response
The Green Party:The Green Party platform commits to 2.5 billion dollars in funding over the next three years to establish, in conjunction with the provinces, an affordable housing program. Our National Affordable Housing Program will provide sufficient funds annually through the CMHC to community-based agencies across Canada to:
- Ensure that an adequate supply of new subsidized affordable homes is built: 20,000 new and 10,000 rehabilitated affordable units per year for the next ten years using capital grants and changes in tax and mortgage insurance regulations.
- Provide rent supplements or shelter assistance for an additional 40,000 low-income households per year, for ten years.
- Provide credit and loan guarantees to non-profit housing organizations and cooperatives for the building and restoration of quality, energy-efficient housing for seniors, people with special needs, and low-income families.
- Support inclusionary housing by subsidizing private developers to include a percentage of affordable housing in their housing projects.
- Dedicate funding to the co-operative housing sector to enable more new affordable housing projects to proceed.
The Liberal Party:In the short term, our commitment is as described above, and we would of course try to lever this money as much as possible. Over time, as the deficit comes down, we would hope to increase funding.
The NDP:Our 2011 platform commits to enact this legislation for a national housing strategy if we form government, and within that framework we have committed to restoring funding for the homeowners Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP) and the Affordable Housing Initiative to increase the supply of affordable housing, in partnership with the provinces and territories; and providing an additional $2.6 billion over four years in new funding for affordable housing initiatives. We believe that co-op and social housing is a key component in an affordable housing strategy. Canada has a strong history of co-op and social housing programs through the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). We have worked in recent years to secure a sustained investment in local housing co-ops and social housing, and called on the government to utilize further CMHC surpluses for primary investment in these housing initiatives.
So there, you have it. If you believe Canada’s housing crisis has gone on long enough, join us and vote for housing this election.