Five urgent steps needed for affordable housing:
People don’t always want or need a handout. Sometimes they just need an even playing field and fair opportunity.
I recently had the good fortune of bumping into an acquaintance of mine I had not seen in a long while. The fellow, who has long been retired, started out as a young man doing home renovations and eventually moved up into house building. His skills and devotion to the trade seemed just to lead him almost unintentionally to become a developer.
His business success never went to his head, seeing himself as a family man blessed with good fortune. Many have said that he made it a point to do what he could for people, especially those with families who struggled. I’ve heard from several individuals his early work in renovation taught him the value in the adage an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. He all too often had to take on extensive and pricey projects that could have been averted had the homeowner acted sooner. It was not unusual for him to offer unsolicited advice to tackle a problem that would lead to major repairs in the near future if the problem was not rectified soon. He had a quiet reputation for helping families who were not in a position to take on such expenses. He was known sometimes to offer to fix the issue right them because it would be quick and easy. It would not take too much time, so he would not lose out on much business, so his income wouldn’t suffer much. Then he’d let them pay off a lesser, more affordable bill down the road.
It seems that my office is noticing an increase in the comments and enquiries we receive on issues of home affordability, homelessness and families forced to live in an endless cycle of poverty right here in Algoma-Manitoulin.
Housing prices have been rising out of control for years. There is no doubt that this is now really impacting the lives of many families. People say they feel forced to delay having babies because they can’t afford the extra bedroom. Young people are moving out of this region, from everything they know and love to find an affordable place. Couples and families have to spend such a huge portion of their income on housing they’ve got no breathing room in their budgets.
My friend told me the other day that his son had to leave this region to find a job and affordable housing for his family. The plan was to get established in their careers and then move back to the northern land he and his wife love. They’ve got jobs, but so much of their income is dedicated to housing that they can’t even put enough together to fund a move, let alone put a down payment on a home.
The sad thing about this is that it doesn’t have to be this way. There are already viable solutions out there that could begin to make life better for Ontario families. However, what is lacking is a premier who will agree to begin implementing them now when people really need help.
And to be fair, it is not just Doug Ford who is the problem. The truth is that Steven Del Duca’s Liberals had 15 years to tackle this issue. Instead of helping everyday buyers and renters, the Liberals opened massive loopholes so that speculators could get richer. At the same time, housing prices skyrocketed, and landlords were free to hand out unlimited rent hikes in between tenants. Today, renters and buyers are even worse off because Doug Ford decided to scrap rent control on more homes and drive prices even higher.
The NDP has solutions to end this vicious circle of problems. We are proposing five viable actions that Premier Ford could choose to implement now. They include:
- 1. Stabilize rents by making it illegal for landlords to raise the rent in between tenants beyond provincial guideline increases.
- Introduce a speculation and vacancy tax on those who don’t pay taxes in Ontario and who own houses they don’t live in, plus increase the Non-Resident Speculation Tax to 20 percent, and apply it province-wide.
- Change zoning rules so that developers in urban areas are forced to build more affordable housing in every major development, not just near major transit hubs, and so that multi-unit homes — like duplexes and townhouses — are allowed in all neighbourhoods.
- Allow municipalities to shift property taxes onto properties worth more than $2 million and shift the tax burden onto the most fortunate.
- Immediately commit to funding the building of at least 99,000 affordable housing and supportive housing units.
Thinking of the lack of affordable housing situation, it is also crucial to raise the issue of housing conditions on First Nations. On January 17th, the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre, Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority, Nishnawbe Aski Nation and other researchers released a study on housing in First Nations. The study results indicate that poor housing conditions are making children in such communities sick. Elders also do not have the strength required to stave off infections and disease. As a result, many have died prematurely.
Analysis of the evidence proved that poor housing conditions frequently included high levels of mould and bacteria. These conditions seriously increased the risk of respiratory illness for both children and elders.
The majority of homes studied where 98 children three and under live have no controlled ventilation, damaged windows, many have water penetration in the exterior walls, and some had immediate safety issues. Overcrowded and substandard housing conditions can also lead to fires, such as the recent tragic fire in Sandy Lake that resulted in the fatalities of three children.
NDP MPP Sol Mamakwa has appealed to Doug Ford on countless occasions that action is needed to address the issue. He has made it clear that putting off action is just allowing conditions to grow exponentially and leads to more and more deaths. Such an alarm bell sounding in Southern Ontario would set off a firestorm of action by the government. Why is it that the same alarm sounded in Northern First Nations goes unnoticed year after year after year?
To be certain, an NDP government would commit to prioritizing community-led housing solutions to end such situations in all First Nations communities.
Sometimes we have the privilege of sitting back to contemplate long roads to improvement. But other times, we just can’t afford the cost of putting off planning and action because the price people pay along the way and far down the road is too great. All people should have the right to safe and affordable housing in which families can live, grow, and prosper.
My developer friend had the right idea. Sometimes waiting lets the problems get out of control to the point of no return. People don’t always want or need a handout. Sometimes they just need an even playing field and fair opportunity.
As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at [email protected] or phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll-free at 1-800-831-1899.
Michael Mantha MPP/député