Jenny Kwan, MP

Member of Parliament, Vancouver East

Affordable Housing and Homelessness

One of my deepest-held convictions is that housing is not simply a privilege, but a human right.

The reality is that families, including single parents and seniors, are unable to obtain safe, secure, and affordable housing. This is a very real struggle for so many in our Vancouver East community and across the country. This national problem is of crisis proportions and is steadily worsening. For example, recent statistics for the City of Vancouver show a 6% year-over-year increase in the homeless population—the highest since 2005, when the count began.

I am sad to report that ensuring universal access to safe, secure, affordable housing is a priority for this Liberal government—in words only.

Consider Budget 2017.

At this very moment 1.5 million households are in core housing need (spending more than 30% of their total income on housing), wait lists for social housing are growing while social housing stock continues to deteriorate. Yet the Liberals’ latest budget includes nothing to address these urgent issues this year, and allocating a measly $10 million next year is peanuts compared to the $840 million-a-year tax break the Liberals are keeping for Canada’s ultrarich CEOs. To be clear: 90% of the $11 billion that the Liberals promised to spend on affordable housing is postponed to the fiscal years following the next election—a truly cynical shell game playing politics with people’s real struggles.

And while the government’s new $5-billion National Housing Fund announced in the Budget may get us closer to something like a National Affordable Housing program, so far, no amount is explicitly allocated to support the existing social housing units or to building new housing units.

Much of the same can be said about Budget 2016. The City of Vancouver has identified 20 sites for the development of social housing; to date, the city is still waiting for federal monies to flow from 2016.

Ultimately more and more Canadians are speaking up about the affordable housing crisis this country is faced with. This is illustrated by the Liberal government’s findings from its consultation on Canada’s National Housing Strategy and was echoed at a town hall I hosted in 2017, where attendees agreed on:

  • the urgent need for a national affordable housing program;
  • the demand for renewed and ongoing federal housing subsidies;
  • the commitment for long-term solutions (not two-year transitional measures) for co-op housing,
  • the call for the Liberals to honour their election promise to eliminate all GST on new capital investments in affordable rental housing;
  • the need for dedicated funding for aboriginal housing; and
  • the demand for strategies to address the housing affordability crisis in homeownership.

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There is no question that Canadians across the entire spectrum of housing needs, from emergency housing to home ownership, are calling for immediate action from the government.

I will be closely scrutinizing the government’s actions—if it acts—to address this housing crisis. I am sincerely hoping that the Prime Minister and Minister responsible for housing improve upon the Liberals’ tarnished track record. This track record includes the Chretien administration cancelling the national affordable housing program in 1993, which resulted in a loss of 100,000 new units of affordable housing that would have otherwise been built in our community and a half a million throughout the country. It is high time for the Liberal government to deliver what so many across the country are calling for.