Big City Mayors declare Canadian “housing crisis”

Naheed3Naheed Nenshi, Mayor of Calgary

The Big City Mayors’ Caucus (or BCMC – a group connected to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities which meets twice a year to discuss shared issues), met this past Thursday in Vancouver, ahead of the annual meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and have called for greater provincial and federal involvement and support in coordinating solutions to the “growing housing crisis across the country.”

The BCMC drew on a number of recent reports on the status of Canadian housing in stating the following:

  • the average price of a new home more than doubled from 2001 to 2010;
  • just 10% of new residential construction in the past 15 years has been dedicated rental housing, yet 32 per cent of Canadians live in rental units;
  • Saskatchewan needs 6,500 to 7,000 new housing starts a year to meet demand and attract workers, and Metro Vancouver needs an estimated 6,000;
  • 42% of Canadians under age 29 still lived with their parents in 2011, compared to 26 per cent in 1981;
  • 1.5 million families are in need of housing and an estimated 300,000 in shelters and on the streets;
  • Calgary and Waterloo have more than 3,000 families on wait-lists for affordable housing, and Metro Vancouver has 4,100. In Ontario, more than 150,000 people are waiting, and in Ottawa the wait can be up to seven years on a list that has swelled to 9,000 families.

The BCMC listed “record-high household debt, new economic realities and changing demographics” as three factors which are preventing home ownership for many Canadians. “Stimulating rental housing” was raised as a policy area needing consideration by Calgary’s mayor Naheed Nenshi – a goal which has been repeatedly called for by Canadian policy groups.

Although unavailable for comment, Diane Finley, the minister responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) recently stated that the Harper government has invested $15 billion in housing and programs to address homelessness since 2006. Finley stated the federal government’s Economic Action Plan 2013 extends investment in affordable housing to 2019 with additional federal funding of $1.25 billion over five years – but the BCMC has expressed fears that $1.7 billion of federal spending on housing will disappear annually.

JimWatson2Jim Watson, Mayor of Ottawa

“That’s going to put enormous pressure on the provinces and, in Ontario’s case, the municipal sector because housing in a municipal responsibility in Ontario, whereas it’s provincially regulated in the rest of the country,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said.

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