LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Conservatives ignore housing need

Community Opinion & Analysis Feb 8, 2013 at 11:58 am

Dear Editor,

While cities and provinces are working hard on the pressing lack of affordable housing for Canadians, MP Roxanne James and the Conservatives are quietly getting the federal government out of it.

An estimated 150,000 to 300,000 Canadians are homeless and thirteen percent don’t have access to affordable housing with enough bedrooms for their family. Some families of nine live in apartments for two because that’s all they can afford.

Our housing needs are not being met and the instability this causes in people’s lives has a tremendous economic cost—you can’t prepare your resume on a street corner. Nor is it cheap for taxpayers: the costs of medical care, shelters and day programs for the homeless are more expensive than providing them a place to live.

Yet instead of putting resources in to fix the problem, the federal government is actually pulling back support. Over the next ten years, federally-funded mortgages are coming due for housing co-operatives that provide affordable housing.  Tied to those mortgages are operating agreements that provide vital funding for the co-ops and there are no plans to renew these subsidies. Without them, over 200,000 of the most vulnerable Canadians could lose their homes.

The Conservatives are quietly booking $1.6 billion in annual “savings” from this cut to affordable housing and have no plans to reinvest the money.

And that’s not the end of it: the federal Investment in Affordable Housing Program expires in 2014, but the Conservatives have still not begun negotiation for its renewal. It could get rolled into a general infrastructure fund, moving this money out of housing.

Why is this happening? Because Ms. James and the Conservatives believe housing is a provincial responsibility and want to get out of it—they even said so in the 2006 Budget.

That’s just wrong. The Liberal Party believes that the opportunity to succeed begins with a roof over your head. By investing in affordable housing, the federal government could help put some of the most at-risk Canadians back on their feet, living healthy lives and contributing to the economy.

It’s time the federal government to do more for affordable housing, not less.

Yours sincerely,
John McCallum, MP
Liberal Party Housing Critic