Who will fix the housing crisis? Toronto developers, for example, are working to find ways to double their pace of production in the rental housing sector in order to meet the need and demand. With a federal election looming, Canadians struggling with housing options are now eyeing the various party platforms (let’s exclude the People’s Party, which is noticeably lacking in its housing policies).
Where does Jagmeet Singh stand? The NDP federal leader has spent his third consecutive day in British Columbia trying to win over Green Party voters on Vancouver Island. Singh’s own struggles with poverty provide him with a unique insight and compassion for voters’ wants and needs when it comes to housing.
Singh’s new plan will grant annual subsidies of up to $5,000 to provide relief for families struggling to pay rent. This is in addition to building over half-a-million new affordable homes across the country within the decade. The rent subsidy is a temporary and quick way to offer people immediate assistance as the housing crisis reaches new levels of urgency.
“This will make the difference for families that are unable to pay their bills, for families that are making a tough choice between do they pay for their groceries or do they pay rent,” Singh told reporters at a construction site in Campbell River, a small Vancouver Island community on its Eastern coast.
“These are difficult choices that families are making — far too difficult for far too many families — and we’ll put an end to that.”
On Vancouver Island, lack of affordable housing has forced some families to sleep in a tent and a van. Betty Nicolaye attended his campaign event to tell him just that. She and her three children live in a run-down motor home in a family member’s back yard as she has been unable to find affordable housing in Campbell River, B.C.. Her landlord had put her previous rental home up for sale because “houses are selling like hot cakes right now.”
While she has applied for dozens of homes, there are wait lists in place – some have up to 80 people ahead of her. “It’s hard. It’s harder being the mom because you’re trying to be the tough person,” she said.
“I don’t know how anyone could hear that story and not be heartbroken,” Singh told CBC News afterwards. “What struck me is what she said — if it was just me I’d be OK — but she had kids. That’s what hit me. That’s why we need to tackle housing.”
With the $5,000 per household (of families in need), the program could be worth up to $1.8 billion and would provide housing aid for up to 500,000 Canadians. The provinces would individually decide on who would be eligible and on the processes of distribution.
In addition, Singh promised to introduce a 15 per cent national foreign buyer’s tax to properties purchased by non-Canadians residents. This would be an additional charge to the already-existing 20 per cent foreign buyers tax that is applied in parts of B.C.
Singh told the crowds: “There’s people that need housing right now, there’s people that need help right now. So to help those families out right now, we’re going to put in place a rental subsidy. This is going to help families that are struggling with housing today. Families that are in a situation where they might lose their housing because they can’t afford to pay the rent.”
Rental housing, obviously, remains a key issue for Singh and the NDP leading up to the Oct. 21 election.