HANSARD: Responding to Poilievre’s Housing Bill

House of Commons Hansard #242 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session
Building Homes Not Bureaucracy Act
Private Members' Business
October 30th, 2023 / 11:45 a.m.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canada is faced with a housing crisis. The crisis did not happen overnight. In fact, it began 30 years ago. People cannot afford to buy or rent a home. Canadians are living in cars, and homeless encampments are popping up in communities big and small throughout the country. In Vancouver East, we have a permanent encampment. Earlier this month, the metro Vancouver homelessness count showed a 32% increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness since 2020, with 33% of those people being indigenous. Rent has skyrocketed. Young people have no hope of ever owning their home.

Predictably, the Conservatives are suggesting that helping wealthy investors and developers would solve the housing crisis for Canadians who cannot afford to buy or rent the very homes that these wealthy investors are putting on the market. It is no joke: The Leader of the Opposition talks about the elite and the gatekeepers; he should look in the mirror and at those around him. Half of those on the Conservatives' national council are lobbyists for big pharma, big tech, oil, anti-union corporations and, we can guess what else, real estate companies. The Conservative leader is the ultimate lackey for wealthy CEOs, whose main job is to help perpetuate corporate greed.

The Conservative leader is not who he says he is. He wants people to believe that he cares about the housing crisis, people and their families and what they are faced with. If that is the case, why is he completely silent about the wealthy investors who are displacing renters by renovicting them so that they can jack up rent? The Conservative leader's housing bill does not even mention the very people who are in desperate need of a home that they can afford. The bill offers no solutions to those who are being renovicted so that wealthy investors can jack up rent and increase their profits.

As part of the Harper government, the Conservative leader had an influential role in the administration. He sat at the cabinet table. He was even the minister of housing. What happened during that time? Not only did the Conservatives gut housing programs, but they also cancelled the national co-op housing program; in addition, right under his nose, Canada lost 800,000 units of rental apartments that cost $750 a month. While tenants were displaced, wealthy investors and corporate landlords stuffed their pockets.

What did the Conservative leader do? He cheered on the private sector: the people who are benefiting from Canada's housing crisis. He celebrated the fact that the Liberals gave special tax treatments to real estate investment trusts, whose business model is just to maximize profit. Even now, there is mounting evidence that wealthy investors are displacing tenants and jacking up rent. The Conservatives are still on the side of wealthy investors. We can talk about gatekeepers; it is gatekeeping for wealthy investors.

As Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” This is just another Conservative plan to line the pockets of their friends and insiders. While they do it, they also plan to kick municipalities in the shins by slashing funding that communities need. This is just what the Conservatives did before: They cut funding to housing programs, downloaded housing to local governments and then blamed them for not delivering the homes that people need. We should make no mistake: It was the Conservatives who cancelled the national co-op housing program and cut funding for social housing in 1993.

The Liberals, of course, are no better. After promising during the election that they would restore the cut funding, they then went and cancelled the national affordable housing program. Much to the glee of the wealthy investors and corporate landlords, both Liberal and Conservative governments let the private sector run the show for 30 years. Both parties relied on the private market to deliver the housing Canadians need, and we can see where it got us. Rents are up to $2,600 a month in Toronto and to almost $3,000 in Vancouver. Hundreds and thousands of people experience homelessness annually. Shelters are underfunded and over capacity.

I have met schoolchildren who are worried about their housing situation and women fleeing domestic violence who have to return to abusers because they are locked out of the market and the housing supports are not there for them. I have worked with families whose children were apprehended, just because they could not meet their housing needs; they could not afford the rent.

The wealthy investors and developers that the Conservatives want to give a blank cheque to are the same people who created a housing market that not even the middle class can afford to compete in. When the Leader of the Opposition said people were living in a shack, it was actually regular housing that people live in. Across the country, financialized landlords are pursuing aggressive rent increases and displacing long-time tenants, including seniors on fixed incomes, as a business tactic.

Enough is enough. More for-profit solutions are not going to change the course. There is a glaring absence of any measures to ensure that homes built are actually affordable to everyday people in the Conservative leader's bill. There is zero mention of the need to build up Canada's social and co-op housing stock in the Conservative leader's blueprint to fix Canada's housing crisis. He wants us to believe that the wealthy investors will suddenly wake up and decide that they are not driven by profit anymore.

It is a delusional fantasy. It will not happen in a million years. There is zero common sense in that belief.

We have seen the results of the trickle-down theory of boosting for-profit housing over the last 30 years. The 30 years of underinvestment from Liberal and Conservative governments has resulted in the loss of over 500,000 units of affordable housing that would otherwise have been built today.

Conservatives and Liberals slashed programs that built and protected affordable housing in 1993, and the next Conservative government lost 800,000 units of low-cost rental apartments priced at $750 a month. They allowed wealthy investors to buy up the low-cost rental apartments and jack up the rent to maximize profit.

The result is that Canadians are locked out of neighbourhoods they love, where their family, friends and jobs are. To be clear, housing prices also went up, not down, under the Conservative government. There is no question: The Liberals are no better. Canadians have lost another 250,000 homes under the Liberals. That is over one million homes lost while both the Liberals and Conservatives were at the helm. Neither party will even acknowledge the need to stop the loss of existing low-cost rental apartments to wealthy investors and corporate landlords.

Steve Pomeroy found that, on average, we have been losing 15 affordable homes to rent erosion for every one unit built. Hamilton is losing 26 affordable homes for every new one created. The NDP takes a different view. We believe in investing in people. We believe in putting people before profits. We are saying that we should keep the private sector's hands off public lands.

Doug Ford promised to deliver housing. He made backroom deals to carve up the Greenbelt, to make his developer friends even richer. He bulldozed local planning, only to backtrack months later. What does he have to show for it? He has three cabinet resignations, a criminal investigation by the RCMP and no affordable housing.

Unused federal buildings should be leased to non-profits to provide housing for people in perpetuity. It needs to stay in public hands. Instead of privatizing Canada's federal lands for wealthy investors and corporate landlords, they should be returned to the first nations, Inuit and Métis people that they were taken from. The legacy of colonialism has led to drastic overrepresentation of first nations, Inuit and Métis people experiencing chronic homelessness and living in tent encampments.

This has to stop. Lands should either be returned to indigenous peoples, the first peoples, or they should be kept in public hands through non-profits so that we can get that housing built for people. In terms of suggesting that we could rely on the market to address the housing crisis, we have already seen that play before. This is what the Conservative leader is advocating. Just now, he suggested that, oh my goodness, building social housing and co-op housing is a Soviet-style model. He should give his head a shake. He should actually go into the communities and check out the social housing and the co-op housing. They are models that are to be envied. That is what we have to do address the housing crisis, not just strictly rely on the market.

It is time for action, not more of the same.

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