Across this country, we have an affordable housing crisis.

People are living in tents. People are “couch-surfing”. Home ownership is all but a dream for many.

Imagine what our communities would look like if an additional half a million units of affordable housing were built across this country.

The reality is that families, individuals, single parents and seniors alike are unable to obtain safe, secure, and affordable housing. This is a very real struggle for so many in Vancouver East and across the country. This national problem is of crisis proportions and is steadily worsening. For example, 2018 statistics for the City of Vancouver showed the highest number of people living homeless since the first regional homeless count in 2005. Indigenous peoples face even larger barriers to securing safe affordable housing, and accounted for 40% of the homeless people living in the region, despite being only 2.2% of the overall population. These numbers are unacceptable, because each number represents people in our community who are in crisis.

Our current housing crisis started in 1993, when the Federal Liberals cancelled the National Affordable Housing Program.

As a result, this country lost out on half a million units of affordable housing that would otherwise have been built.

The impact is real and significant.  I have met school children who tell me that they are worry about their housing situation.  Women who were fleeing domestic violence are left with no choice but to return to the abuser because she cannot secure housing.  Families had their children apprehended for no other reason other than the fact that they could not meet their housing needs.  The homeless population are becoming more desperate.  In one instance, I learned that a fight broke out because people were fighting for awning space in an attempt to stay dry as heavy rain poured down. It is high time for government to deliver what so many across the country have called for – a National Affordable Housing program.

Housing is a human right
Speech delivered on January 31, 2019 in favour of the NDP Motion to take immediate action on Canada’s Housing Crisis.

MEDIA RELEASE - Liberals are not helping people find a home they can afford

“Just 3 months ago, Justin Trudeau looked Canadians in the eyes and promised to tackle a housing crisis that has unfolded under his government,” said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. “This week’s Fiscal Update confirmed one thing — these were just more empty words. The ultra-rich are Justin Trudeau’s priority, not you and your family. New Democrats will continue to fight to make sure every Canadian can afford a place to call home.”

IN THE NEWS: Hill Times - New House set to return as Liberal government faces unfinished legislative business with potential NDP ally

Ms. Kwan, who insisted that the NDP will press the Liberal government hard to move on a myriad of issues starting with seniors who received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit during the pandemic and who have now either seen their Guaranteed Income Supplement payments reduced or lost leaving some of them unable to pay rent.

“Housing affordability is a paramount issue—whether it’s someone who is homeless or those trying to get into the market for the first time,” said Ms. Kwan, the NDP’s housing critic.
She explained that the affordability issue touches health care too, where one of her constituents recently told her of being unable to cover the cost of cancer medication—a shining example, in Ms. Kwan’s view, of why her party will continue to press the Liberal government on universal pharmacare.

The Liberals will have an eager and unrelenting ally in the New Democrats to pursue action in addressing “the climate crisis before us,” said Ms. Kwan, a former NDP cabinet minister in British Columbia. “Canada has yet to meet a COP target since Paris in 2015.”

In her opinion, she said Mr. Trudeau also missed an opportunity to advance reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples this year by both vacationing in Tofino, B.C. on the country’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (Sept. 30), and later by his government filing an appeal of a Federal Court decision upholding a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling on Indigenous child-welfare compensation, while continuing to negotiate an out-of-court settlement.

In her role as federal NDP critic for immigration, refugees and citizenship, Ms. Kwan has another issue she will hammer home when the House resumes sitting.   “Immigration is in complete chaos right now. The backlog for every stream is mind boggling,” she explained.

“There was already a backlog before the pandemic, and with the pandemic, immigration processing was severely debilitated. Amidst all of that, the Liberals decided to call an election on the day [Aug. 15] when there was a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.”

IN THE NEWS: Globe & Mail - Federal funding helps salvage Downtown Eastside Vancouver social housing project

The project had to be put on pause in June when the CMHC financing did not come through at the last minute. Anhart co-founder Keith Wiebe and MP Jenny Kwan said the pause was the result of the CMHC treating non-profits like commercial builders when they are granting low-cost financing.

The site has been sitting with a hole in the ground and some early signs of construction since.

IN THE NEWS: Globe & Mail: CMHC funding model questioned after halt of non-profit Vancouver housing project

In Mr. Pomeroy’s analysis, rents for projects supported by CMHC in the Vancouver area could have gone as high as $2,150, in 2017 dollars, even though average local rents at that time were only $1,650.
NDP MP Jenny Kwan, who represents the East Vancouver riding in which the Anhart project is located, has been raising concerns about the Rental Construction Financing Initiative for months. This latest development, she said, has confirmed her worst fears.
“This was a non-profit trying to deliver affordable units. But non-profits are not really able to get access to this money for the community,” she said. She added that Anhart is in an unusual position because it received conditional approval for a loan and then had it rescinded. She has heard from other housing groups that simply haven’t applied, or were rejected because they didn’t meet the program requirements.

IN THE NEWS: Globe & Mail - CMHC funding model questioned after half of non-profit Vancouver housing project

NDP MP Jenny Kwan, who represents the East Vancouver riding in which the Anhart project is located, has been raising concerns about the Rental Construction Financing Initiative for months. This latest development, she said, has confirmed her worst fears.

“This was a non-profit trying to deliver affordable units. But non-profits are not really able to get access to this money for the community,” she said. She added that Anhart is in an unusual position because it received conditional approval for a loan and then had it rescinded. She has heard from other housing groups that simply haven’t applied, or were rejected because they didn’t meet the program requirements.

IN THE NEWS: Georgia Straight - Jenny Kwan: Clearly, the Liberals’ current approach to housing is failing Canadians

“As Canadians struggle with the affordability of the housing market, a developer in Toronto is set to buy $1 billion worth of single-family houses for rentals. This will inevitably drive up the rental costs and the prospective of homeownership will only become more remote—especially for first time buyers.
“The right to housing must be more than just words. The government must take immediate and aggressive action to ensure housing remains affordable for Canadians. This should include the creation of 500,000 social housing units, putting in place a housing acquisition fund for non-profits and controls on real estate investment trusts who acquire existing affordable units and erode the rental market with renovictions.
“The government also needs to crack down on foreign speculators and money laundering. The parliamentary secretary for housing admitted that we have 'a very safe market for foreign investment' but ‘not a great market for Canadians looking for choices around housing’. The government’s solution is an ineffective one percent tax on foreign investors which is far too weak to have any meaningful impact.

IN THE NEWS: Rabble - Corporate landlords favoured by government are making housing unaffordable

NDP MP Jenny Kwan drew Tremblay’s attention to the spike, starting about six years ago, in REITs acquiring properties with moderate rent. “What safeguards are there in place,” she asked, “to prevent REITs from jacking up the prices in the properties that they have acquired?”
Tremblay then added: “The private sector is the largest provider of rental housing, including housing that is affordable, in this country.”
When Kwan gave Leilani Farha a chance to respond, she reiterated that “the business model of REITs requires an escalation of rents.”
Farha explained her concern in more detail: “Real estate investment trusts rely on investors. They’re often institutional investors like pension funds, insurance companies and that kind of thing. If you’re an investor, you want to know that you’re going to get a good return on your investment. The way the REIT guarantees a good return on your investment is they show how they’re going to generate income through rent.”
REIT managers need to show investors how they are going to make those rents go up and up.  Since many provinces set guidelines for rent increases on existing tenants, one strategy for REITs is to push tenants out and bring in new ones.

IN THE NEWS: National Observer - Canada needs energy advisers to bolster its home retrofit plans

The program is retroactive to Dec. 1, 2020, so homeowners who complete an evaluation before starting renovations can qualify for the grant.
The Liberal government's latest announcement was met with mixed reactions. NDP MP Jenny Kwan said the energy adviser program was too little, too late. “They of course, are… way behind on action that's necessary to address the climate emergency,” she said.
Recruiting more energy advisers and federal loans and grants for homeowners are a good start, said Brendan Haley, policy director of Efficiency Canada, but retrofit programs will need to ramp up in coming years to have the desired impact.

JOINT OPEN LETTER - MP Kwan, MLA Mark and Mayor Kennedy joint letter to the federal housing minister addressing Vancuver homelessness crisis

We have been facing a homelessness crisis in Vancouver for many years. The number of people experiencing homelessness in Vancouver more than tripled from 2002 to 2017. Since then, substantial investments in housing from the Province and the City have managed to stop those runaway increases, but the situation remains a crisis, especially with the added pressures of COVID-19. According to the preliminary data report from the 2020 homeless count in Metro Vancouver, 2,095 individuals were identified as homeless in the City of Vancouver, with 547 individuals completely unsheltered, and 105 people residing in emergency response shelters who would otherwise be unsheltered.
As your government has recognized in your Reaching Home strategy, homelessness has devastating impacts on the individuals experiencing homelessness, as well as the economic and social well-being of communities. And, like your government, we are committed to helping those who are homeless and share your belief that one homeless Canadian is one too many. However, it must be recognized the existing timeline and resources under the National Housing Strategy are deficient in meeting the urgent housing and homelessness crisis in our community.
Furthermore, in the midst of a global pandemic, the first public health directive issued by all levels of governments – and by governments worldwide – was for people to stay home, stay distanced, and practice aggressive hygiene measures. This is impossible for people who are homeless.

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