The Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness sent a survey to all federal candidates running in Capital Region ridings.
The survey was prepared by the Downtown Service Providers, Faith in Action, Committee to End Homelessness in Victoria, Together Against Poverty Society, Downtown Churches Association, The Church of St. John the Divine and the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness.
We asked four questions about poverty reduction, homelessness, affordable housing and federal funding. We received only a smattering of responses. We encourage readers to review them before casting their ballots on Monday.
Question 1 – Affordable Housing Targets
What concrete targets and timelines would you and your party put in place to ensure that a sufficient stock of safe, secure and permanent affordable housing is available for the more than 1.5 million Canadians paying greater than 30% of their income on housing?
Christopher Causton, Liberal candidate, Victoria:
Over the past fifteen years both as a councilor and a mayor I have worked towards improving the lot of the homeless in our community. If I’m elected to represent our community in Ottawa I will continue my fight. The Liberal Party is committed to an Affordable Housing Framework that includes reducing homelessness and we will reduce homelessness, but I believe it would be unrealistic and irresponsible to commit to a timeline to solving this extremely complex problem, however much we wish it could happen.
Jared Giesbrecht, Justice Critic, Green Party of Canada and candidate, Victoria:
Affordable housing is a central priority of mine as the Green Party candidate for Victoria. It is also a major priority of the Green Party across Canada.
I am working hard, therefore, to bring about a National Affordable Housing Plan that would include an approx. $4 billion investment in housing over three years. With this kind of investment, metropolitan Victoria would be provided with stable federal investments of approx. $13 million per year. Canada needs this kind of leadership in order to not only achieve a more equitable society, but also a more prosperous economy.
Our National Affordable Housing Plan will ensure:
- more shelters and transition housing for the homeless in our community
- rental assistance for low-income Canadians
- improved housing for First Nations peoples
- greater HST rebates for first-time home buyers
- enhancements to the CMHC’s Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program for low-income homeowners to make home improvements
- improved tax incentives for developers to construct purpose-built rental housing
- capital gains rollovers for multi-unit residential properties
- support for both new and improved co-operative housing.
Elizabeth May, Leader, Green Party of Canada and candidate, Saanich-Gulf Islands:
The Green Party would implement a National Affordable Housing plan to set an annual rate of building affordable housing so that the supply of housing is no longer an issue by 2019.
Under the plan the government would build 20,000 new and 10,000 rehabilitated, subsidized affordable units per year for the next 10 years using capital grants and changes in tax and mortgage insurance regulations.
The party supports the delivery of dramatically increased social housing dollars to provincial and municipal governments through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The housing provided must be designed with energy conservation in mind.
The Green Party would also change the Income Tax Act to offer tax cuts for affordable housing including incentives to stimulate construction and investment in the building of and maintenance of an ongoing supply of affordable, healthy, energy-efficient, multi-unit rental housing and to include tax credits for gifts of lands, or of land and buildings, to community land trusts to provide affordable housing.
Christopher Porter, Canadian Action Party candidate, Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca:
Our solutions on these issues are simple and the primary platform of our Party. USE THE BANK OF CANADA. Investment to the efficiency of increasing the life and welfare of people is an investment to our entire society. The complete lack of thought on investment into human capital is a loss to our Great country. We still own the Bank of Canada as citizens and our Party would ensure that it is used for the issues you have outlined. This is how we made it through the depression and the second world war. Certainly we can solve this problem!
A re-empowered Bank of Canada is critical for the survival of Canada as an independent and sovereign nation.
The Bank of Canada, unlike the Federal Reserve in the U.S., is wholly owned by the people of Canada. It was nationalized August 15th, 1938 and was used very successfully to fund infrastructure, social programs, education, etc, for the benefit of all Canadians. It was used to bring us out of the depression, funded WWII, to build highways such as the McDonald-Cartier freeway, public transportation systems, subway lines, airports, the St. Lawrence Seaway, our universal healthcare system and our Canada Pension Plan.
We must return to the Bank of Canada for a minimum of 50% of Government-created money (GCM). It is essential to maintaining our sovereignty (our monetary system must not be in the complete control of the private bankers and corporate elites.
Lillian Szpak, Liberal Candidate, Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca:
I’ve worked hard on affordable housing strategies in Langford, and I know that it requires commitment from around the community and all levels of government in order to be successful. A Liberal government will work with provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal partners to put in place a renewed Affordable Housing Framework, and will invest $550 million in new funding into the program in the next two years. More information can be found athttp://www.liberal.ca/platform/bringing-canadians-together/stronger-safer-communities/#affordable-housing.
Question 2 – Poverty Reduction
The Senate of Canada’s In from the Margins report and the Commons HUMA Committee’s Poverty Reduction Plan both include detailed and useful recommendations. How do you plan to work with the provincial government to ensure that long-term solutions coupled with long-term funding commitments are developed to address the growing and interrelated problems of poverty and homelessness across Canada?
Jared Giesbrecht (G):
In the early 90s, the federal government disengaged from the delivery of housing. Responsibility shifted to the provinces. Although cooperation is now needed between all levels of government, the Green Party believes it is time for the federal government to once again take leadership in this area.
It is essential that the federal government commit to stable, long-term funding so provinces, municipalities, developers, community organizations, etc. can move forward with clear plans and priorities.
I believe a housing plan must possess three key features if it is to be effective:
- It should be a national plan because provinces and municipalities simply do not have the tax-bases needed to make all the necessary investments in housing;
- It should be a multi-year plan because provinces, municipalities, developers, community organizations, etc. need to move forward with clear plans and priorities; and
- It should be a robust, multi-faceted plan because we need action in many areas – e.g. homelessness, rental housing, co-operative housing, indigenous housing, new housing, etc.
Further, the National Council of Welfare has estimated that over 15% of Canadians are living in poverty. This is simply unacceptable. We need leadership to ensure Canada remains a society built around a progressive, fair, and effective social safety network. As first steps, we believe it is time to:
- Eliminate personal income taxes for those earning $20,000 or less.
- Encourage people to get back into the job market by allowing income assistance recipients to keep 100% of the wages they earn up to the Low Income Cut-Off.
- Increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors by 25%.
- Restore the $5 billion commitment of the Kelowna Accord to improve the education, employment, and the living conditions of indigenous peoples.
- Bring in the Basic Income Program proposed by the Caledon Institute that would provide income support for persons with disabilities much like the GIS for seniors.
Elizabeth May (G):
The Green Party of Canada is supportive of the In from the Margins report. Green Party MPs will advocate the inclusion of a clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that specifically states that everyone living in Canada is entitled to safe shelter or affordable housing.
Universal housing will alleviate poverty. Universal housing provides a basis for employment, schooling, community services and contacts. The development and delivery of adequate universal housing and emergency accommodation must be a high priority. We see the need for long-term solutions that are developed in consultation with stakeholders to work on a local scale in a way that can be sustained and replicated.
Lillian Szpak (L):
Both documents [In from the Margins report and the Poverty Reduction Plan] provide a strong base from which to move forward, and I think the Affordable Housing Framework incorporates many of their recommendations. What is needed now is strong commitment and leadership to make it happen.
A national housing and homelessness strategy would be an excellent first step, allowing the province, municipalities and other stakeholders to determine local priorities and develop appropriate plans. The Homelessness Partnering Strategy could play a greater role, especially in regards to coordination. I think there is a real opportunity to build on the cooperation seen in the Canada-British Columbia Affordable Housing Agreement and the Provincial Homelessness Initiative.
The Liberal Affordable Housing Framework features a long-term commitment by the federal government, replacing the collection of temporary programs that currently exist. In its first two years, a Liberal government will increase federal investment in affordable housing by $550 million. The new Affordable Housing Framework will emphasize flexibility and openness to innovative approaches such as tax incentives and loan guarantees. It will offer a platform for more effective collaboration among all levels of government, the private and non-profit sectors.
In terms of poverty reduction, a Liberal government will build on the efforts of provinces, and work with partners at all levels to develop a Poverty Reduction Plan for Canada. It will set goals, identify practical measures for achieving them and set out who can do what among all the partners. The outlook will be long-term.
Several major commitments of Liberal platform will be the foundation of a Poverty Reduction Plan for Canada: the Canadian Learning Strategy, particularly Early Childhood Learning and Care, the Learning Passport for post-secondary education access, and Aboriginal learning; Family Care; a renewed focus on volunteerism through the Canada Service Corps; the National Food Policy’s nutrition measures; and of course the Affordable Housing Framework. These practical measures to support Canadian families, worth more than $5 billion over two years, will help reduce poverty and inequality. For more information, see http://www.liberal.ca/platform/bringing-canadians-together/stronger-safer-communities/#poverty-reduction.
Question 3 – Affordable Housing Initiative and Residential Rehabilitation Assistance
What steps would you and your party take to ensure that the Affordable Housing Initiative (AHI) and CMHC’s Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP) are renewed and increased to meet the current needs across Canada? Note that neither program has been renewed for 2011-2014.
Jared Giesbrecht (G):
I will work tirelessly for a National Affordable Housing Program, providing $2.5 billion over the next three years, through the CMHC, enabling community-based agencies across Canada to:
- build 20,000 new and 10,000 rehabilitated units of affordable subsidized housing each year, and
- provide rent supplements or shelter assistance for an additional 40,000 low-income households each year.
It is also important a national housing plan enhance the CMHC’s Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (currently a maximum of $16,000 in CRD). Low-income homeowners should be assisted with necessary repairs to ensure they can preserve the quality of affordable housing.
Elizabeth May (G):
The Green Party believes it is the right of every Canadian to have affordable, safe and secure housing. It enhances people’s health, dignity and life opportunities. It is an essential prerequisite to an equitable society. The Green Party supports the delivery of social housing dollars to provincial, territorial and municipal governments through the traditional vehicle of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).
Greens would change the mandate of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to include responsibility, as it once had, for affordable, non-market and co-operative housing. As well, the funding for social housing needs to be dramatically increased. CMHC programs must be directed to the communities most in need, and fast-tracked to provide homes for people at risk. The housing provided must be designed with energy conservation in mind.
Lillian Szpak (L):
The Liberal party’s policy focuses on a renewed Affordable Housing Strategy to reduce homelessness, maintain and renew existing affordable housing stock and stimulate new construction of affordable housing. I think keeping existing affordable housing in good repair – as with the Homeowner Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program – is just good sense. Demonstrating the value of such programs – both financially, socially and as part of the solution – is key, as is continuing to work with partners like the CMHC.
Question 4 – Federal Funding for Housing
The federal Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) has been extended from April 1, 2011 to March 31, 2014. The Capital Region will be eligible for only $1.8 million over 3 years from this fund.
- a. How would you ensure that the HPS Program is extended to at least 2017?
- b. What would you do to facilitate an increase in the funding allocation for the Capital Regional District?
Jared Giesbrecht (G):
Every Canadian has the right to safe and affordable housing. A stable home enhances people’s health, dignity, and life opportunities. A home is essential to both an equitable society and a productive economy.
There are around 1,000 people who are homeless in Victoria. There are approx. 50 deaths every year in Victoria that are associated with living on the streets. We don’t need studies and further investigations. We need clear priorities and inspired leadership.
It’s time to reduce the number of homeless people and support their transition to independent living. $600,000 a year under the Homelessness Partnering Strategy is not enough.
It’s time for a substantial, multi-year budget line to ensure stable and predictable funding for shelter and transition housing. The Green Party’s National Affordable Housing Plan would accomplish this.
Our plan includes:
- Funding for rental assistance to be provided to tens of thousands of low-income households each year.
- Tax incentives for developers to construct “purpose-built” rental units.
- $300 million a year for building and improving co-operative housing, and more…
With this investment of approx. $4 billion over the first three years, the Green Party’s plan would provide metropolitan Victoria with stable federal investments of approx. $13 million per year in housing.
Elizabeth May (G):
Elizabeth May, as the Leader of the Green Party, would work with other parties in a cooperative and non-partisan manner to ensure that more federal money is allocated to the federal Homelessness Partnering Strategy, and would also advocate for the appointment of a Minister for Housing to oversee development and implementation of a National Affordable Housing Plan.
It is vital that funding cycles reach beyond the five year term into a more sustainable term of at least ten years. A community process that is expanded and also engages all agencies of the government in an integrated fashion will be beneficial. Elizabeth May as Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands would repeatedly and persistently advocate on behalf of the much too large population of homeless in the Capital Regional District.
Within the region, increasing the densities of urban cores would increase the supply and affordability of housing units, while at the same time minimizing suburban sprawl in farmlands and green spaces in surrounding areas. The Green Party would implement federal programs for municipalities, “Municipal Superfunds” that would provide hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for infrastructure development that would act as incentives for municipalities to regulate new developments to conform to higher densities in their urban cores.
Lillian Szpak (L):
Stable, long-term funding is crucial to addressing homelessness in a meaningful way – this is not an issue that is going to disappear in three years. As noted by a number of groups and reports, the lack of long-term commitment is a major barrier. Liberal MPs have called on the Conservative government to commit to long-term funding for the HPS Program and increase its funding to better match need.
Though arguably most visible in Victoria, homelessness is an issue that touches all communities in the CRD. I think it’s important to get input from community groups and municipalities involved and effectively communicate the need for more funding. By presenting a cohesive group with a concrete plan and specific goals, I think the chances of success are increased. I would work hard to build relationships and lobby on behalf of this. (That said, the real issue is the limited amount of money available in the first place.)