Media Release: Liberals must invest in long-term housing solutions

Liberals must invest in long-term housing solutions

In response to the federal government’s announcement on shelters for refugees in Toronto, NDP critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Jenny Kwan issued the following statement:

July 21st, 2023

“Like many Canadians, I am deeply saddened and frustrated by the crises unfolding in Toronto’s shelter system. After fleeing conflict, violence, or persecution, people are relegated to the streets. The Liberal government has neglected its humanitarian obligation to ensure these individuals and families are treated with dignity, respect, and get the support they need. Every night where families are turned away from shelter is a damning indictment of this government’s failures.

While the NDP is relieved that the federal government has finally committed to providing $97 million for the Interim Housing Assistance Program (IHAP), the Liberals must recognize that this one-time injection of funds is only a stop-gap measure. It does not fix structural issues. Ongoing efforts must be made to work in collaboration with all levels of government and the community.

The newly elected Mayor of Toronto has offered solutions including increased federal funding, leveraging hotel spaces, partnerships with non-profits, faith groups, and community agencies. We have seen the federal government deploy similar measures before, as with the Syrian refugee initiative. It is my hope that the federal government can draw lessons from the past to inform an urgent, humane, and effective response today.

The federal government must consider all immediate options to put a roof over these individuals’ heads – but understand that cities like Toronto will require permanent and comprehensive long-term support.

The NDP also calls for enhanced investments to support long-term solutions. The current system is underfunded and underdeveloped. The standard set to support Ukrainians fleeing Putin’s illegal war should be adopted for other groups seeking refuge in Canada. The government must ensure equitable treatment for all.

The Liberals should also follow experts' advice and work in partnership with NGOs to build and add to the shelter stock so that newly arrived refugees or asylum seekers can have access to temporary housing until resettlement supports are made available.

This situation is not only a reflection of the government’s failures in the immigration and refugee system, but also a consequence of the housing crisis perpetuated by decades of Liberal and Conservative governments. This problem stems from the federal government abandoning responsibility for co-op and social housing since 1993. Liberals must make substantial investments in social housing to meet people’s needs nationwide. Moreover, they must take action to stop profiteering and protect our existing affordable homes.

The NDP calls for the government to adopt a rights-based approach. This means challenging corporate interests driving up home costs. We urge the government to place a moratorium on the acquisition of affordable homes by corporate landlords, and to end preferential taxation on real-estate investment trusts. We are further calling on the government to create and protect affordable homes through the creation of an acquisition fund to purchase at-risk units, and by tightening conditions for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) funding for private landlords. To increase transparency for tenants and allow for cooling in the housing market, this should be accompanied by a requirement for landlords to disclose property ownership, creation of a national rental registry, and progressively larger down payments for buyers purchasing multiple properties.

New Democrats will always defend people's right to find safe and affordable shelter, regardless of their class or background.”

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