• Catharine Rhodes

Can’t find a home? Here’s why!

Updated: Sep 6, 2021

Canadians are finding it more difficult than ever to purchase or even rent a home, especially in large urban centers.

One of many homeless “tent cities”

The Green Party has asked our government to declare homelessness a national emergency. More Canadians than ever before are underhoused or homeless, and hard working people can’t afford to become homeowners.

The housing minister, Adam Vaughn, was critized for seeming not to understand the gravity of the situation, and repeatedly said that Governments can’t force people to sell their homes at a lower price than they are worth.

Vaughan worked closely with CMHA, the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Authority, during his term. And he’s right, creating affordable housing isn’t as easy as just “asking homeowners to drop the price of their homes by a nice easy round number like 10%”

In fact, Real Estate Agents are calling the housing bubble and influx of foreign buyers a good thing. They consider housing a “luxury marketplace”. The Green Party disagrees. Housing is a fundamental human right.

There are a number of strategies governments can take (and which this government has taken in the past) to ensure that safe, affordable housing is available to Canadians.

Ultimately, creating an affordable housing market isn’t about being popular with the super-rich. It is about providing homes for people, and giving them a place to live, work, and prosper in Canada.

Here are the policies and organizations that turned “can’t” build affordable housing into “yes, we absolutely can”

  1. Restrict unused and abandoned spaces. Require property owners to properly maintain, live in, lease, or otherwise use the 1-3% of spaces that stand abandoned/unused. Create a vacant home tax.

  2. Reclaim and convert condemned spaces. condemned and reclaimed, offer incentives for provinces and munipalities to repair and convert the space into low cost housing.

  3. Convert government funded buildings. A number of government funded buildings are over-housed and moving into smaller spaces. Why not use the space? In Hamilton, Ontario the Good Shepherd successfully converted an old Children’s Aid office into a family shelter. Many other charities and non profits would be happy to follow this model. Here in St Catharines, the out of the cold program is hoping to set up a shelter space. Currently, the program is housed in local churches donating any space they have.

  4. Cap rental rates and home prices. The provinces previously had rent control programs in place that incentivized home owners to maintain their properties while ensuring rental rates stayed within the affordable price range. Cap sale prices within a certain percentage of the appraised value, based on the home‘s age, condition, and quality. Not based on an inflated pricing market.

  5. A punishing tax on house flippers. Owners who do not or have never lived in a home, or buy a home and quickly offload it at a much higher price, artificially drive up prices which can lead to a housing crash. Implement a significant tax on houses sold within 1-2 years of the last time they changed hands.

  6. Set limits on access to low income housing. Currently, low income housing units allow residents to stay at market rent, regardless of income. Low income housing is an emergency service meant to provide homes for the lowest income Canadians. When a resident’s income exceeds the low income cutoff, the space is no longer needed.

  7. Create a property tax surcharge for foreign buyers. Sydney, Australia has had some success with their strategy of raising taxes for home buyers 4% above the rate paid by domestic purchasers. This creates a separate housing market for the world’s super-rich and restores saner prices to the domestic marketplace.

  8. Fix what’s already there. Academics and Housing Authorities seem interested in what the Huffington post calls “unreasonable limits on where you can build”. Some Academics are suggesting that, due to a rising population, housing needs to push into our protected green spaces. The average Canadian would question this logic; we‘ve all seen the numerous zabandoned homes and buildings even in some of the smallest towns. As my mother and grandmother always said: “you don’t get a new one if you can fix the old one”. Destroying our homes and environments and then lifting off like migratory birds to find new ones cannot be an option. Our green spaces must be preserved.

  9. End unnecessary restrictions against homelessness, and fund programs that find spaces for them. Homelessness is not usually a condition that can be helped. The use of hostile design prevents the homeless from being seen near businesses, but does not alleviate homelessness. Hundreds of people die from homelessness each year. It is an emergency, a crisis, and should be treated as one. Rather than hostile design, we need design that allows people to survive long enough to get back on their feet.

  10. Re-examine the credit rating system and how it impacts home ownership. Effect an audit of credit reporting agencies, and investigate all claims of fraud. Examine gender and racial bias in credit reporting agencies. If multiple cases of fraud and/or discrimination are found, end the private credit reporting system in Canada and fine those at fault.

In short, there are a number of ways governments can, and have, effected a swing in housing markets that protects the country from a crash. It can be done, and there is absolutely no reason to ignore it.

Some housing may be a luxury marketplace. But not every home is a mansion. And ordinary, single family homes shouldn’t be priced that way.

Canadians are leaving the housing market: some by force, and others in protest. Our economy is paying the ultimate price. And building new housing for the newly homeless is not a solution. We need housing that keeps people in their OWN homes.

In St Catharines, you can pay over a quarter million dollars…and end up without a roof!

In contrast, you can buy this home in Mexico for less (roof included)!

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