Will Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s campaign hit home for renters?
Well, if you were hoping for a reprieve to your end-of-the-month money problems after the next election — were Justin Trudeau and the Liberals to win — your hopes might very well be dashed.
Justin Trudeau’s housing strategy “Place to Call Home” released last year is more relevant than ever, now that he is officially running for re-election. While its title sounds promising, it offers no promise of short-term relief for renters and only tangential benefits in the long term.
The strategy admittedly focusses on what the Liberals’ website calls “the most vulnerable Canadians and those struggling to make ends meet” (“vulnerable” meaning the impoverished and homeless).
Nonetheless, it makes no mention of the employed Canadians who struggle to find affordable housing in Toronto.
We’ve accomplished a lot since 2015, but there’s still more work to do, together. So today, I’m excited to accept the nomination as the 2019 @liberal_party candidate for Papineau. pic.twitter.com/jNZ5zjWtwj
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) August 20, 2018
According to a 2018 report by the Tenant Issues Committee, 47 per cent of Toronto dwellers rent their residences.
Is Trudeau taking their support for granted?
The plan details how the strategy will measure success.
It intends to build 100,000 units and repair 300,000 low-income housing units across Canada. But this is reliant upon the provinces putting up the funds to match the $10 billion the federal government plans to spend on this project nationwide.
It is unclear if newly-elected Premier Doug Ford and his provincial Conservatives will want to cooperate with Trudeau — especially if it means spending public money on urban housing for Toronto.
On top of this, nobody knows how many of the 400,000 new or refinished units will be located in Toronto.
So even if the two politicians can figure out a way to work together, it’s anyone’s guess if it will be enough to combat rising rent prices. Rent prices that have reached an average of $1426 a month for purpose-built rental residences and $2401 a month for condos, according to the Tenant Issues Committee report.
Of course, the introduction of thousands of new homes to the market could drive down rent. Still, that will certainly be years in the future and may not affect many Toronto renters, since that housing will be targetted at addressing homelessness and those who can barely afford the lowest rent.
It is not out of character for Trudeau to put a priority on those who do not have much in the way of social or political power. For instance, he championed Syrian refugees in the 2015 election. And Canadians, in general, and Torontonians, in particular, rewarded him with their votes.
It will be interesting to see if events work out the same way this time if the prime minister focusses policies on the marginalized: the homeless and low-income families.
With the election over a year away, Trudeau could make any number of announcements on a tax or a ban on foreign real estate deals — or even some sort of federal rent control.
These options seem extreme however for a prime minister who has backed down from bold statements in the past. (Think back to when he dropped electoral reform in 2017.)
The federal NDP has not stopped reminding him of that broken campaign promise. So perhaps Trudeau would avoid making the same mistake twice.
It is more than likely, therefore, that Trudeau will not take any action on this front — unless public pressure forces his hand.
So for the time being, it does not seem that there will be any significant legislation or money allocated to get Toronto rent under control.