Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh kicked off a cross-country tour on Thursday, July 8 with a stop in the Cowichan Valley alongside Cowichan-Langford-Malahat MP Alistair MacGregor where he spoke to the media about his party’s commitment to affordable housing.
“The housing crisis across Canada is hurting people and their ability to find a good home,” Singh said. “From evictions to the lack of affordable homes, people are having to leave the communities they live and work in to find a place to live. And the pandemic has made things worse. Justin Trudeau has been in power for six years and since then, housing prices have only gone up. He’s focused on protecting the profits of the ultra-rich, while Canadian families are struggling to find homes they can afford.”
Among developed nations, Singh said, housing prices have increased more in Canada than anywhere else during Trudeau’s time as prime minister. The NDP, he countered, has responses to that problem, including a 20 per cent federal tax on foreign investors who compete with Canadians to buy homes, and a curb on house-flipping.
“We’ve got to stop those pressures that are driving up the cost of housing,” he said. “But we also have to build more houses that people can afford; homes that are in people’s budgets. Whether it’s to rent or to own, we need more homes. And that’s why we are committed to building 500,000 new homes that people can afford. This will make a difference here in the Cowichan Valley, on the Island, and across Canada.”
Canada invested heavily in building new homes after the Second World War, Singh noted, but there hasn’t been significant federal involvement in housing since the 1990s.
“I’ve spoken with so many people, and they tell me heartbreaking stories about how they want to stay in their community, they want to stay in the communities where they have friends and families and connections and their work, but they simply can’t afford it,” Singh commented.
MacGregor spoke about housing issues in the Cowichan Valley, where nearly 5,000 affordable housing units will be required by 2025, while the federal Liberals have announced funding for 4,500 across the country.
“Before I became an elected official, I worked as a case worker, and many of the issues I was dealing with with families across the table really did centre on housing,” the MP said. “I’ve had too many conversations with people who had to make those difficult choices each and every month between finding the money for rent, utilities, and putting good quality food on the table. And sadly that situation has persisted even during the last six years that I’ve been fortunate enough to be the Member of Parliament for this area.
“Housing is really one of those key issues that really is a nucleus around which everything depends. If you don’t have access to safe, secure and affordable housing, really if affects everything else.”
Businesses in the Cowichan Valley are struggling to keep workers, MacGregor noted, because workers can’t afford to live in the area. And skyrocketing housing prices affect not only the housing-insecure but also people trying to get into the market for the first time
“Despite some of the efforts that we’ve seen at increasing the supply, the affordability is such a huge factor because people have not seen their wages rise commensurate with the housing crisis.”
In addition to the other commitments the NDP has announced, the party is also urging the federal government to put measures into place to tackle money laundering that increases real estate speculation, stimulate construction of co-op and non-profit social housing, waive the federal portion of the GST/HST on construction of new affordable rental housing, reintroduce 30-year CMHC-insured mortgages for first-time homebuyers, and double the homebuyer’s tax credit to $1,500.