MP Column: The vanishing affordable house

Murray Rankin is MP for Victoria

A simple search on Statistics Canada reveals that the median total income for a family living in Victoria increased by about 64 per cent between 2000 and 2016. Meanwhile, statistics from the Victoria Real Estate Board show that a single family home in Victoria increased by 380 per cent over the last 20 years. Over the last year, Victoria real estate prices increased by nearly 9 per cent, the highest in Canada. The dream of owning a home has simply become out of reach for many.

Renting isn’t any easier. Vacancy levels remain below 1% for rentals in the Greater Victoria region. Housing is typically defined as “affordable” when rent and utilities costs do not exceed 30% of a household’s income. In the Capital Regional District, that means housing is unaffordable for 44% of renters in the Capital Regional District, according to statistics from the Canadian Rental Housing Index. Renters spending more than 50% of their before-tax income rent and utilities face critical affordability issues and may be doing without other necessities. In the CRD, that describes over one in five residents (21 per cent).

How did we get here?

Although major cuts to government funding for social housing began in 1984 under Brian Mulroney’s Conservative government, the big turning point was in 1993 when Paul Martin’s Liberal government canceled the national affordable housing program. Had that program not been canceled, we would have half a million more units of affordable housing across Canada today. In British Columbia, we would have an additional 100,000 units. British Columbia was one of the few provinces to continue funding affordable housing in spite of federal cuts, supporting the construction of at least 600 units per year. Yet that came to a halt in 2002, when Gordon Campbell’s newly-elected Liberal government canceled the Homes BC program that had been responsible for those units.

Today’s Liberal government in Ottawa continues to gloat about its National Housing Strategy released to much fanfare earlier this year. But it’s truly shameful that they are refusing to spend fully 90 per cent of that promised funding until after that next election, should they win. The Liberals are using the housing crisis as a bargaining tool. It’s completely unacceptable. The tenacity of homelessness and unaffordable housing in Canada stands in blatant contradiction to the notion that adequate, affordable housing is a basic fundamental right.

On Saturday, Nov. 10 I’ll be hosting a community town hall on the affordable housing crisis. It will take place at 2:00pm at Quadra Village Community Centre. I’ll be joined by Mayor Lisa Helps, MLA and Minister Rob Fleming, BC Non-Profit Housing Association Policy Director, Marika Albert, and CRD Senior Manager for Regional Housing, Christine Culham. Everyone is welcome. Hope to see you there.

Murray Rankin is MP for Victoria.

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