Parliament Video: Jenny in the House: The Liberals' Housing Strategy is just not good enough

On October  27th, 2020, Jenny rose to speak about the Liberals' Housing Strategy:

Jenny Kwan (NDP) Vancouver East, BC

"Madam Speaker, Canada's housing crisis is rooted in the Liberals' cancellation of the national affordable housing program in 1993. Despite declaring housing a human right in 2017, the Prime Minister failed to back up his words with meaningful action. The commitment from the national housing strategy of building 150,000 new housing units over 10 years does not come close to addressing Canada's housing crisis.

One out of eight households in Canada lives in unsuitable, overcrowded, mouldy, cold or unaffordable housing. Over 235,000 people experience homelessness each year. Veterans, who served our country, increasingly find themselves without a roof over their heads. In Vancouver East, right now, we have the largest homeless encampment in the country. People in the community are in crisis, and we have been calling for urgent action.

For indigenous peoples, the housing crisis should shake any government. More than 80% of indigenous peoples live in urban, rural and northern communities, and indigenous peoples are 11 times more likely to use a homeless shelter.

The Liberals' national housing strategy has been falling well short of major targets. As a substantial part of this strategy, the national housing co-investment fund was to invest in the construction of 6,500 new housing units by the end of March 2020, but we have learned that only 736 new units have been finalized, with finalized agreements, as of February, while being subjected to a complicated and lengthy process. The rapid housing initiative of 3,000 units is a drop in the bucket, when in Vancouver alone we have 2,000 people who are homeless.

With such a dismal record, the Liberal government has resorted to counting partially processed applications. Worse still, the national affordable housing strategy has completely ignored the needs of urban, rural and northern indigenous peoples. The throne speech offers no path forward for an indigenous-led initiative, even though the need for an urban, rural and northern indigenous housing strategy is in the minister's mandate letter.

As stated by the former UN housing rapporteur, Leilani Farha, Canada is experiencing an increase in homelessness encampments. Renters are left out of the equation. There is no federal leadership for people who cannot afford rent, while big financial actors, who are already stationed in Canada, are poised to sweep up distressed assets.

Jeff Morrison, the executive director of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association, said that the pandemic has changed everything, but has also changed nothing in terms of housing. Urgent action is needed now.

We need supportive housing. We need federal subsidies. We need aggressive measures to ensure additional assets to create new affordable housing stock. We need national leadership to stop the financialization of housing, and we need to maintain the existing affordable housing stock. It is estimated that 322,000 units of affordable housing were lost between 2011 and 2016, and the national housing strategy is only providing 150,000 units over 10 years.

These are empty words without the resources. The plan is not good enough."

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