The “What We Heard” report states “A National Housing Strategy will align the efforts and resources of all players – governments, stakeholders in the private and non-profit sectors and others – toward improving housing outcomes for all Canadians.” “Stakeholders” seems to refer to the government, the private sector and the not for profit sector. Are the people who need housing lumped with “others”? If so, then the Government has muted an important voice in a National Strategy – the people who need affordable housing.
The focus on rental solutions is concerning because renting tends to keep people reliant on subsidies and does not help them build up equity they can then leverage. (Ironically, CMHC got its start by building small single family houses for WW2 vets.) We, in our submission to the Government’s consultation insisted that home ownership be part of the mix of solutions.
There are some encouraging statements implying that the government heard some good ideas …
- “Adequate housing is the cornerstone of a successful society. Poor housing places great stress on families and individuals and inflates costs in healthcare, social services and policing.”
- “Include the people you are trying to help. We are the experts”
- “The strategy requires affordable housing targets for specific populations including low income families and others with high levels of core housing need. It should be paired with a long-term funding commitment to create and retain existing affordable housing and to support capital repairs so that governments, non-profits and the private sector can plan with certainty.”
- “Canada needs to work hard to decrease the gap between the rich and the poor, and increase the socio-economic diversity in all neighbourhoods.”
There were other good ideas too, such as building more environmentally sustainable housing; changing building codes and zoning bylaws to allow increased densification; and allow for mixed use zoning and modifications to existing homes.
Some of what the government heard implies that the public is unaware of the push of some provinces, like Ontario, to build homes that are much more energy efficient. Ontario is committed to increasing the energy efficiency of new homes by 15% every 6 years with the goal of requiring net zero houses by 2030.
Affordable housing is an essential, but not isolated, social good. The need remains for legislation to equate the minimum wage to a living wage. It’s unfortunate the federal Government has decided against doing that for workers (such as bank employees) in sectors that fall under its jurisdiction.
The tendency of governments today to privatize utilities (eg, Hydro One in Ontario) drastically increases shelter expenses for all citizens. The people who pay the most as a result of privatization policies (especially the Hydro One decision) are those in rural communities such as Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound.