It is time to face the housing affordability and homelessness crises head on, and to guarantee affordable housing for all, say Greens

OTTAWA – The Green Party of Canada is urging Parliament to recognise housing affordability and homelessness as twin national crises. Almost two million Canadian households spend more than 30 per cent of their income on rent, with 800,000 of those spending more than 50 per cent. An estimated 2.4 million households experienced core housing need in 2020. 

In the House of Commons on Thursday, Green MP Paul Manly (Nanaimo-Ladysmith) sought Unanimous Consent for a motion calling on the government to declare housing unaffordability a national crisis and to clamp down on the activities that are distorting Canada’s housing market. Mr. Manly called for an emergency debate on this issue earlier this month. 

  • Among other steps, the Green Party is calling on the government to immediately: 
  • Recognize housing unaffordability and homelessness as twin national crises; 
  • Redefine affordable housing using a better, updated formula;  
  • Enhance the Canada Housing Benefit; 
  • Strengthen regulation of foreign investment in residential real estate;   
  • Create an “empty home” tax for foreign and corporate residential property owners who leave buildings and units vacant; and 
  • Prioritize funding for non-profit and cooperative housing.

“It’s time we acknowledge that the definition of affordable housing is out of date and out of touch with the economic realities faced by millions of people,” said Green Party Leader Annamie Paul. “In many Canadian cities and towns basic housing is becoming a luxury. In my riding of Toronto Centre, there are neighbourhoods where one quarter of residents pay more than 50 per cent of their income on rent and utilities, and where more than half live in unaffordable housing.” 

A recent report commissioned by Employment and Social Development Canada says that the full impact of the pandemic on homelessness is still to come.  “The pandemic has only made matters worse, with job losses and high unemployment affecting people’s ability to afford rental rates," said Ms. Paul. "Women, youth, and Indigenous and racialized people, who often work in some of the hardest-hit sectors, have disproportionately borne the brunt.” 

Earlier this week, Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem expressed concerns that the Canadian housing market is rising at an unsustainable pace and that there is significant speculation at play. 

“The rise of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and speculative foreign investment has deepened the crisis. Vancouver and Toronto are among the top five least affordable cities in the world," said Mr. Manly. "We're seeing the spillover effect in smaller cities and rural communities from coast to coast to coast. In my riding, rents have gone up 59% in five years. Five years ago it was already a struggle for people with low and fixed incomes to find affordable housing here, now solid middle income earners are struggling to afford rent and will never be able to purchase homes."

“Housing is a basic human right. We need to face the housing affordability and homelessness crises head on, and as an urgent order of business, to bring them under control and to guarantee that every person in Canada has access to affordable housing,” said Ms. Paul. 

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