In order to give voters a chance to get to know their candidates in the 2021 federal election, Black Press reached out to each candidate with a list of questions concerning voter priorities.
The questions were taken from an Aug. 5 Angus Reid poll listing British Columbians’ top three priorities. Those priorities are: Environment / Climate Change: 45 per cent, Housing Affordability: 36 per cent and Coronavirus / COVID-19: 29 per cent.
The candidates have been sorted by alphabetical order, based on last name. They will rotate with each question.
This week’s question is: “How will you ensure people have access to safe and affordable places to live?”
Some of the answers have been edited for brevity.
Green Party of Canada – Jessica Wegg
I have also been affected by this housing crisis. To find a place for my family… we’re renting and it has been so hard. I’ve seen the desperation on the Facebook pages for people looking for houses. We’ve got moms with kids in tents because they can’t find affordable housing to live in.
We’ve got people living in motels and who are being kicked out because the motels want holiday goers to pay more for their rooms. I get it. I agree with this. We have to stop allowing hedge funds and speculation from buying homes, and we need to ensure that homes are not sitting vacant and that we have houses available to people who need to fill them.
We also have to be mindful — at the municipal level — about the kinds of houses that are going up. We need to make sure that we’re creating safe spaces for families to live and lay their heads at night. We’re not doing a good enough job on that right now, obviously. We need to change that.
New Democratic Party of Canada – Rachel Blaney
Housing is a big issue in our riding across the board. It’s really hard to find anything affordable to rent in our communities, and rentals are getting harder and harder to find. We have people doing bidding wars for rentals, which is putting those amounts out of the market for everyday folks. I’ve talked a couple who are making decent incomes and are still having a challenging time finding housing. That’s terrifying when you think about what that means for our community.
The other factor is the fact of the housing costs. The housing costs in our communities specifically have just gone up astronomically. I’m hearing from realtors that there’s often bidding wars. House prices are just getting really high and uncontrolled. A lot of young people have said to me that they don’t even think about buying a house.
The NDP is proposing a couple of things. The first thing is over the next ten years to invest in 500,000 units of affordable housing across Canada, making sure that all communities are represented. I’ve really made it clear that rural Canadians are really struggling for affordable housing and need to see increased investment in those communities.
We’re really thinking that for affordable housing (that) makes sense in the community, it’s going to be a regional approach. Some people are going to want one type of housing, and other people are going to want another type. We want to make sure it’s flexible, because different regions need different things across Canada.
The other part is that we want to see a 20 per cent foreign investment tax on the purchasing of housing. People are fighting foreign investment companies that are buying housing in our country. They’re having bidding wars with a corporation. That’s not how it should be when you’re buying a house in Canada. We want to make sure that there’s a significant tax on it, so it deters some of those foreign people from coming in and using this method to create income for themselves.
This has a big impact on our rural and remote communities. What we’re seeing is a lot of new people coming to our communities — and we’re happy to have them — but since they’re getting a higher amount where they’re coming from, they’re driving up the cost of housing in our area. Hopefully by deterring it in the larger centres, we can slow down a little bit in our own communities.
People who live and work in our communities cannot afford to buy a house in our communities. We need to do something to slow that down.
Conservative Party of Canada – Shelley Downey
As you well know, we aren’t building enough homes to keep up Canada’s growing population. We have a plan that would increase the housing supply by building 1 million homes over the next three years. We’ve also said that we would ban foreign ownership for two years. And then we would reevaluate at that time.
We also plan to review and release 15 per cent of the federal government’s real estate portfolio. We’re sitting on a fair amount of real estate that could be used for housing. That is a review that we will undertake.
Those are some things, in the short term. Another area that we’d be looking at would be extending mortgage terms for seven to 10 years, which would enable people to secure a mortgage.
Increasing the supply is going to be key, and helping people to be able to afford to get into them, through the use of extended terms and mortgages.
We also have issues around the stress test. It’s a real barrier for some people: if they need to change homes or move. That’s a barrier for people, and I don’t know if it’s fair. The one thing we would do is remove the requirement for the stress test when a homeowner renews their mortgage with another lender, instead of staying with their current lender. That’s the case today.
It makes it difficult for an existing home owner to seek out better terms for renewal of their mortgage.
The other one would be around increasing the limit on eligibility for mortgage insurance, and index it to home price inflation.
Liberal Party of Canada – Jennifer Grenz
It’s important to point out that since taking office in 2015, the Liberal government launched Canada’s first national housing strategy, making $55 billion in investments that helped more than 1 million Canadians find a home. There are new commitments to create new affordable homes, many that are close to amenities and work for all different types of families that are close to transit, accessible. There’s a commitment to repairing and renewing housing, and opportunities to create a path for renters for home ownership. That’s incredibly important.
Something that is important to our small communities, where in trying to build thriving communities, we need solutions for all of our constituents of all ages. We need to provide opportunities for multi-generational families living in the same home. That helps us address caring for our elders in our families.
Those are really important commitments that I see this government making. I want to be able to bring that coastal, smaller town perspective in creating those solutions. Without having reliable quality jobs that can also exacerbate the housing crisis. We want to create thriving communities that provide jobs so that people are not worrying about their housing. We also need to make sure that residents have access to housing over and above recreational uses of properties as well.
Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada – Carla Neal
One of the major things that I have a problem with in that area is the idea that society needs someone to blame for the problem, and it tends to blame poor people for being poor. That means because people are to blame for being poor, society has no duty to alleviate that poverty in any way. I disagree with that completely. One of the things about housing is that there has to be more supply. Right now, the only kind of supply that’s being built is for profit and also market rentals, which implies they’ll rent them for whatever they can get.
If you’re poor, you have no option!
We have to increase the rental stocks, but we also have to increase the checks on the prices of rental housing. The only way you can really do that is with government owned housing or with government controlled housing. For example, there’s a place here in the (Comox) valley called the Junction. It’s for hard-to-house people. it’s an excellent place, and it’s run by AVI. They pay $375, which is what you get on welfare for rent, and they get breakfast and dinner as well.
That kind of thing needs to be increased. There’s a huge waiting list for things like that… Nobody will rent to the people who live in those places, because they can pick and choose who they want as their tenants.
Black Press has contacted the Maverick Party and the People’s Party of Canada and is awaiting response. Because of the short campaign period, we have published the answers received by candidates so far, and will add any responses to this story as they come in.