Parliament Video: Jenny debates with the minister on housing policies

 

Debates of May 15th, 2023
House of Commons Hansard #197 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session.
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation—Main Estimates, 2023-24
Business of Supply
Government Orders

8:15 p.m.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Mr. Chair, the national housing advocate pointed out that the financialization of housing is a widespread issue that has negatively shaped Canada's housing system. She noted that large institutional investors and financial firms focus on making maximum returns for their shareholders. This is causing real harm to people, contributing to housing unaffordability, worsening housing conditions, and leading to evictions and displacement. Many tenants do not even know who their landlord is, because landlords hide behind numbered companies.

Will the minister do as the housing advocate recommends and track the ownership of financialized housing stock?


Ahmed Hussen Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion
Liberal

Mr. Chair, I agree with the hon. member that speculative investments in real estate are contributing to pushing housing prices higher. That is why we have legislated a number of measures that can deal with this, including an annual 1% tax on the value of vacant residential real estate that is not owned by Canadians or Canadian residents, as well as a two-year ban on foreign investment in Canadian residential properties. We have also committed to reviewing the tax treatment of real estate investment trusts and, through budget 2022, we announced the launch of a federal review of housing as an asset class.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Mr. Chair, a serious way to address this issue is to stop the profiteering in housing, stop corporate financialized landlords from sweeping up undervalued affordable housing stock and create an acquisition fund for non-profits so that they can acquire and hold that affordable housing stock for the community in perpetuity.

Will the minister place a moratorium on the acquisition of affordable homes by financialized landlords, including REITs and corporate firms, and create an acquisition fund for the non-profit sector?


Ahmed Hussen York South—Weston, ON
Liberal

Mr. Chair, I agree with the hon. member that the financialization of housing is an issue that we have to deal with. We are committed, as a government, to making sure that housing is more affordable. We are continuing to do our part in addressing and tackling the financialization of housing.

When it comes to rent control and what landlords do at the local level, of course, the provinces have a major role to play. However, on this side of the House, we believe that we also have a role to play. We know that a number of factors are making housing more expensive, but the biggest issue is supply. As highlighted by the recent data released by the CMHC, Canada is facing a supply shortage. We are doing what we can to tackle financialization, but we are also doing everything we can to tackle supply.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Mr. Chair, the minister should know that what he needs to do is put a moratorium in place and create an acquisition fund for non-profits so that they can get into the market to purchase housing units. This is like what British Columbia is doing, by the way. The federal government has not done that.

The Federal Housing Advocate said that the government has a really important role to play in creating an acquisition fund so that no-market actors, such as housing co-ops, non-profits and social housing, can purchase properties for sale before they are financialized. This means that non-profits would be able to guarantee affordability in perpetuity. The Federal Housing Advocate called for this creation of community wealth instead of individual wealth.

Does the minister agree with that, and will he act on her sound advice?


Ahmed Hussen York South—Weston, ON
Liberal

Mr. Chair, I actually agree with the hon. member that co-op housing is a very good model for housing, because it is community owned and community managed. We know that co-op housing is a good model for affordable, community-owned and community-managed housing.

That is why we are investing $1.5 billion to build the first new co-op units in 30 years; we understand that we need a healthy mix of housing. We need community-owned housing and affordable housing units. Moreover, $1.5 billion to build new co-ops in partnership with such organizations as the Co-operative Housing Federation is the right way to go. That is why we put that significant amount of money in place to make sure that we continue to supply more affordable housing units through the co-op model.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Mr. Chair, the minister says he agrees with me. When is he going to announce that they will put a moratorium in place?


Ahmed Hussen York South—Weston, ON
Liberal

Mr. Chair, as I said, a number of factors lead to making housing more expensive and contribute to the challenges facing Canadians. One of them is financialization, but a second one is supply, and we are taking measures to deal with both.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Mr. Chair, the minister did not answer the question, so the answer is no. He cannot pretend to agree with me and then do nothing.

When is the minister going to announce an acquisition fund?


Ahmed Hussen York South—Weston, ON
Liberal

Mr. Chair, our whole national housing strategy is geared towards helping non-profits and those who are dedicated to increasing affordable housing, as the member has spoken about. They can get help from the federal government so they can build more affordable housing units for Canadians.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Mr. Chair, I am sorry, but that is wrong. The national housing strategy is missing the mark, and the Auditor General has pointed that out. In fact, the Liberals do not even know what they are doing. They are developing housing that is not helping those most in need. The minister should read the Auditor General's report.

Real estate investment trusts enjoy preferential tax treatment in that they do not pay the corporate tax rate. The seven largest real estate investment trusts alone have saved a combined $1.5 billion through federal tax loopholes. The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates that the federal government will lose another $300 million in taxes over the next four years.

Will the federal government stop rewarding real estate investment trusts for pushing out long-term tenants and jacking up housing prices? Will it end their special tax treatment and make them pay their fair share?


Ahmed Hussen York South—Weston, ON
Liberal

Mr. Chair, I am really perplexed by the logic of the hon. member. She says that our national housing strategy is not really doing anything on the ground. Contrary to that, I can report back to the hon. member that we have invested in either repairing or building 500,000 units; this has supported almost two million Canadian households. That is the impact the national housing strategy has had on this country since we came into office.

In terms of the real estate investment trusts, we are taking the matter seriously. That is why we launched a federal review of the tax treatment of real estate investment trusts.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Mr. Chair, actually, it was the Auditor General who did the report. The minister should read that, by the way.

When he says they have launched a review, the clock is ticking. The units are being lost. For every one unit the government builds, we lose 15. That is the reality of the crisis, the magnitude of the crisis that we are faced with today and the government says it is doing a review. Get on with it. Implement what is needed. The housing advocates have tabled reports for the minister. All he has to do is act.

Now I want to turn to a different issue. The mayor of Edmonton met with the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance regarding their $277-million indigenous housing plan. The Prime Minister and Minister of Finance promised that they would have the federal government's support and CMHC is aware of that. Now the Liberals are reneging on their promise. Worse still, they are blaming the NDP because they say the NDP wanted to see meaningful action on a for indigenous, by indigenous urban and rural northern housing strategy. To be clear, the NDP absolutely want that, but we also called for new allocations for other streams, including non-indigenous housing programs and for the funding of those programs to be proportional to the need for indigenous peoples.

Will the minister stop pointing fingers and honour the promise to the city of Edmonton and fund the indigenous housing plan?


Ahmed Hussen York South—Weston, ON
Liberal

Mr. Chair, I just want to correct a few things that have been asserted by the hon. member.

The Auditor General looked at the Reaching Home strategy and she looked at the performance of the Reaching Home strategy mainly during the pandemic. The Auditor General did not look at the entire national housing strategy program. I just want to clear that misconception.

Secondly, the hon. member seems to downplay the impact of the national housing strategy. Just one program of the national housing strategy, the national housing co-investment fund, delivers an average affordable rent of $700. We are committed to building 30,000 additional units. The rapid housing initiative is committed to building almost 15,000 units. We are in the process of delivering 10,000 affordable units and are committed to a further 4,500 units of deeply affordable housing for the most vulnerable members of our community.

In terms of what we are doing with the urban, rural and northern indigenous housing strategy, we are co-developing that with indigenous peoples across the north, across rural Canada and across urban Canada. In budget 2023, we are building on the investment of $300 million to add another $4 billion to the URN housing strategy.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Mr. Chair, that comment from the minister really just goes to show he has not even read the report from the Auditor General.

For years now, in the midst of this unprecedented housing crisis, unhoused people seeking relative safety in encampments have been displaced in my riding in the Downtown Eastside from Oppenheimer Park to CRAB Park to Strathcona Park, and now from the sidewalks of the streets. Encampments took place without any plans in place to ensure people can be properly housed.

I have written four letters to the minister, calling on him to provide leadership with a multipartite initiative, similar to the previous Vancouver Agreement to address the crisis in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, yet no action has been taken.

Will the minister show leadership and recreate a Vancouver Agreement with the city, province and community to address the housing and drug poisoning crisis in the Downtown Eastside?


Ahmed Hussen York South—Weston, ON
Liberal

Mr. Chair, we have. We have shown leadership and here is the proof. We have invested over half a billion dollars to continue doubling the annual funding for Reaching Home, which is Canada's homelessness strategy. We have gone from just over $2 billion to almost $4 billion in response to the urgent need on the ground. Our investments are paying off. We have prevented over 62,000 people from experiencing homelessness and placed a further 33,000 people experiencing homelessness into permanent housing.

I spoke earlier about the rapid housing initiative which is on track to build 15,000 deeply affordable, permanent housing units for the most vulnerable.

We will continue to work with all levels of government to make sure that we end chronic homelessness across Canada once and for all.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Mr. Chair, Romy Bowers said that CMHC had to ration the funding to non-profits for the co-investment fund by limiting the per unit funding to $25,000 at a time when construction costs are going up. Is this what the minister means by leadership? Was that his decision?


Ahmed Hussen York South—Weston, ON
Liberal

Mr. Chair, I am proud to stand behind the national housing co-investment fund. It is a great program that supports non-profits, as well as municipalities, to invest in deeply affordable housing.

We are committed to this program for years to come.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Mr. Chair, who made the decision to limit the funding for the co-investment fund to $25,000 per unit?


Ahmed Hussen York South—Weston, ON
Liberal

Mr. Chair, this is a program that delivers deeply affordable housing every day, right across the country. We are committed to continuing to invest in this program.

In fact, we have brought $2.9 billion forward, from future years to this year.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Mr. Chair, if it is such a good program, why is the minister working to kill the projects within it, with that $25,000 limit per unit? Why did the government not actually put in new allocation to the co-investment fund in budget 2023, instead of robbing Peter to pay Paul with a reallocation from the repair component of that stream?

Why will the government not invest the real money that is necessary to make that program a success?


Ahmed Hussen York South—Weston, ON
Liberal

Mr. Chair, doubling Reaching Home from $2 billion to $4 billion is real money. Putting $1.5 billion in new money in co-ops is real housing money. Putting $4 billion on top of the $300 million for the dedicated urban, rural and northern indigenous housing strategy is real money.

Bringing forward $2.9 billion in the national housing co-investment fund, so that we can deliver more deeply affordable housing, is real money.

That is our track record and I am proud of our government's work in this space.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Mr. Chair, he can be proud of the fact that the housing crisis is getting worse and worse under their watch. From coast to coast to coast, it does not matter what city one is in, in cities big or small, there is a major housing crisis, and what the government is doing is not working.

That is the reality. Listen to the people on the ground. Walk the streets. Open one's eyes. Come to my community in the Downtown Eastside and I will show us how desperate the situation is. People are dying.

Stop with the message box and get on with the program to do what is needed.

On the housing benefit, why did the government, in the middle of the delivery of the program, in February of this year, put in a new requirement, which is not in legislation, that prevented people who are on income assistance, who had their rent directly paid from the government to their landlord, from being eligible for the housing benefit?


Ahmed Hussen York South—Weston, ON
Liberal

Mr. Chair, the hon. member thinks that we are the only order of government that is responsible for encampments, that is responsible for addressing municipal issues and provincial issues. We are doing our part, as I said, from doubling from $2 billion to $4 billion in addressing homelessness.

We are committed to doing our part. While encampments fall under the jurisdictions of provinces, territories and municipalities, we are committed to working with our partners to do everything we can to save lives.

Latest posts

VIDEO: CPAC Scrum on June 19, 2024

SCRUMS
Canada's Population, Caribou Protection – June 19, 2024


Immigration Minister Marc Miller is asked about Statistics Canada's new numbers about Canada's population, which has now surpassed 41 million people in the first quarter of 2024.

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and NDP deputy leader Alexandre Boulerice respond to questions about the federal government's plan to protect boreal caribou in Quebec.

NDP MP Jenny Kwan discusses the government's response to foreign interference concerns. (no interpretation)

Are you ready to take action?

Constituent Resources
Mobile Offices
Contact Jenny

Sign up for updates