Many constituents have written to me with very urgent concerns and requests about keeping safely and stably housed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people in Canada are facing a debilitating loss of income during COVID-19, and those who already were facing financial stability or who were already at risk of becoming homeless even prior to the emergence of this pandemic are experiencing heightened fear and anxiety. I have even heard from constituents who have received a notice of rent increase who are extremely distressed.
Given these factors, and the existing crisis in homelessness in our community and across the country: We need to immediately house homeless persons. We must prevent any increase in people becoming homeless. I am calling on all levels of government as they must work together for a national approach to protect Canadians.
To protect renters, we need a nation wide moratorium on all evictions, and a temporary rent freeze period to protect renters during this precarious time.
For landlords who face trouble paying their mortgage or who aren’t able to collect rents, Canada’s big banks and VanCity Credit Union have offered mortgage deferral payments for up to six months. The federal government needs to ensure that the banks make good on this commitment.
Below is the text of the open letter that I sent on March 21 to bring these urgent issues and calls to the federal government, and to urge that they work with all levels of government for a national approach to making sure that – especially in this time of COVID-19 pandemic - everyone has a safe place to call home.
Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Chair
Cabinet Committee on the federal response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Hon. Ahmed Hussen
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
March 21, 2020
Open Letter – RE: National Response Needed to Protect Canadians from Losing Housing during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Dear Deputy Prime Minister Freeland and Minister Hussen,
I am writing to request urgent, coordinated actions from all levels of government to protect Canadians from losing their housing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We live in unprecedented times, and the COVID-19 pandemic is having far reaching repercussions for Canadians across the country. Federal and provincial health authorities have ordered social distancing to “flatten the curve” of the spread of the virus, and many have been requested to self-quarantine or self-isolate to support the recommendations from health authorities for social distancing.
As you know, many Canadians are facing a debilitating loss of income during this pandemic. Workers who are ill or have to be in quarantine cannot go to work. Working families who now need to provide care for their children and elderly parents as schools and community facilities close are not able to work. Even for workers who are able to work, the toll that the pandemic is having across industries, including transportation, tourism, hospitality, entertainment, education, and many others, mean that workers are being laid off or employers are not able to provide shifts. Business owners are losing business as their businesses are ordered to close or are not patronized. Artists, gig workers and freelance workers are also finding themselves without work and income.
This is a situation that no way could have predicted and prepared for, and I’m sure you will agree with me that no one should lose their housing, a basic human right, during these times. From a public health perspective, if Canadians are to follow directives from the health authorities to practice social distancing and self-isolation, they must have a home to quarantine in. Workers who are sick cannot feel pressured to continue working and risking infecting others for free of losing their income and housing.
Given the homeless crisis that already exist in Canada, not only do we need to have measures to properly house those without a place call home, we must also do everything we can to prevent an increase in the homeless population. To ensure that no one is left behind in these dire times, all levels of government must work together to ensure a national approach is in place to protect Canadians.
I know that recent announcements from the Federal government have been made so that workers and families will be be provided some financial support during this time. However, the money may not come in time to save renters and home owners from evictions or mortgage defaults. With the housing crisis in Canada, many Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque, and even one missed paycheque could mean someone will lose their home.
To protect renters, it is essential a nation wide moratorium on all evictions is in place during the pandemic. As well, a temporary rent freeze period also needs to be imposed to protect renters from price-gauging during these precarious times. Already, I have constituents who have just received a rent increase notice and are extremely distressed by prospect of having to find alternate housing at this time.
Aside from putting in place a national moratorium on evictions and rent increases, some housing advocates are also calling for residential tenancy branch hearing be delayed at this time. In addition, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation should also immediately provide a pool of capital to existing or new rent banks across the country so that those who can’t make the rent because of falling incomes or illness don’t lose their housing.
For landlords who may not be able to make mortgage payments if they are unable to collect rent from their tenants, or for homeowners who have suffered other loses of income, I note that Canada's six big banks and Vancity City Credit Union have offered mortgage deferral payments for up to 6 months. It's essential that the federal government step in to ensure that the banks make good on this commitment and that measures are in place to allow everyone, (renters, homeowners and landlords) to have a chance to recover economically once the pandemic is over.
While some cities and provinces have already taken some of these measures to protect and help their populations during these unprecedented times while others have not, in the face of this pandemic, I believe it is essential that there is a national approach to this critical issue. We cannot wait until Canadians are losing their homes to take action, nor is this the time to try to pass the responsibility of protecting renters and homeowners from one jurisdiction to another. All level of government has a part to play to ensure that no one loses their housing during the pandemic. Urgent federal leadership to coordinate these efforts with our provincial and territorial leaders is necessary to ensure a comprehensive and national approach is in place to protect all Canadians. I urge you to act now.
Member of Parliament for Vancouver East
NDP Critic for Housing
The Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos
The Hon. Navdeep Singh Bains
The Hon. William Sterling Blair
The Hon. Patricia Hajdu
The Hon. Mélanie Joly
The Hon. William Francis Morneau
The Hon. Carla Qualtrough
The Hon. Kirsty Duncan