Housing affordability

Shelter - a place to call home - is one of our most basic human needs. Here in Markham-Stouffville, meeting this basic need is a struggle for many and the shortage of affordable housing affects our whole community. Thousands of people in Markham-Stouffville are on a wait-list to find a home they can afford. The demand and needs have never been greater.

Growth in the price of homes has vastly outpaced growth of personal incomes, making home ownership increasingly difficult, particularly for young and new Canadians. To compound the issue, there is insufficient affordable rental stock, which drives up the price of renting. In the past decade, rental prices in York Region have increased by 46 percent. Over half of those who rent in York Region spend over 30 percent of their income on housing. This is not affordable. Among the groups particularly hit by affordability problems are seniors, people under 30, single-parent households and recent immigrants. Seniors struggling with the costs of owning a home have particular difficulty finding affordable alternatives because there is so little rental space available in our riding. 

Most economists agree that the best way to tackle affordable housing is by addressing supply and demand. In short, we need to support the development of more rental space if we intend to address housing affordability. Housing experts across the country insist this is more effective than continued tinkering with mortgage rules.  

Unfortunately, there are very few proposals in the 2019 election to make renting more attractive and affordable. Most of the promises are centred around home ownership.  Yet one-third of Canadians rent their homes. Support for renters, including tax credits or subsidies, could have immediate positive impacts for people in Markham-Stouffville. The National Housing Strategy, introduced in 2017, does propose a new Canada Housing Benefit. The proposal is a supplement for low-income renters to be created in partnership with provinces by 2020. It is a step in the right direction, but it will need to be accompanied by appropriate controls to prevent escalating rental rates.

The best thing the next federal government could do is to promote the building of affordable housing for rent. In past generations, federal governments have been strong in this regard and we need federal leadership in affordable housing for the decades to come. If re-elected as Member of Parliament (MP), I would advocate for developing more rental space in Markham-Stouffville. Building new housing stock to be available for rent at affordable prices will take time, but it is essential if we are going to tackle housing needs in our community.

Solving the issue of housing affordability requires good relationships and cooperation among all orders of government. The National Housing Strategy will not be successful unless federal, provincial, regional, and municipal governments work together. With strong collaboration, organizations like Housing York can help get new properties built and families off the wait-list for affordable homes.

Over the past four years, I have met with numerous social service organizations, regional and municipal representatives, as well as builders to discuss how a greater number of affordable housing units should be planned when large scale developments are proposed. Some promising projects are already underway.

If re-elected as an independent MP, my staff and I would continue to support local community housing associations and other social service agencies as they work with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to access funding under the National Housing Strategy.

One of the best funding opportunities is the National Housing Co-Investment Fund. It requires collaboration of all orders of government, along with civil society organizations and developers. To access this funding, the building must have at least 30 percent of units available below median market rental rates. Twenty percent of units must meet accessibility standards including common areas that are free of barriers. The building must achieve a significant decrease in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions relative to current building codes.

Some good opportunities exist for our community but finding safe shelter requires more than good intentions. Much more must be done to get new homes built and families settled in homes they can afford. Time is of the essence. This is a challenge we must take on together.

Showing 5 reactions

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  • Taera Kwon
    commented 2019-10-08 18:49:35 -0400
    You need to consider people who purchased house recently. Me and my wife worked 10 years to save money to purchase a small semi detached house. We have mortgage, like many other neighbours do, and we do not want our house value to depreciate below what we owe. We are hoping to move to a bigger house when kids grow, but if the house value go below what we borrowed, there will be no way we could make this move happen. I am sure there are many other people who had to save for long durations and pay high prices to purchase a house, just like my family. Providing affordable housing is a great idea, but if that crashed the real estate value and the overall market, there will be many families literally paying mortgages for nothing.
  • Cindy Heisler
    commented 2019-10-04 16:16:20 -0400
    I just wanted to thank you for sharing this info. I’m a teensy bit outside your riding – I’m just outside Banff National Park. ;) I’ve been fighting for years to get affordable housing addressed; my FB page, tenants can post asking for a place/landlords can offer a rental, quickly grew from two hundred to two thousand within the first three months and, six years later, we’re nearing 20,000 members. Basically, nobody cares. Developers want to develop, the municipal government lets them and according to local government and businesses, no one is making any money from tourism, so why should they have to pay for Staff Accom or affordable housing. The vast majority of residents spend 40-60% of their monthly earnings on rent; it’s not unusual to pay $1500 for a small bedroom in a three bedroom house.

    I’ll be checking out your blog and links!! If you’re reading this and have an idea please, please tell me!!

    Thanks again for a terrific article.
  • Jan Slakov
    commented 2019-10-04 15:37:39 -0400
    Interesing to learn about the National Housing Coi-nvestment Fund. One idea Elizabeth May suggested in her most recent householder is a kind of match-making service to link people with space, especially seniors who would appreciate help & company, with young people needing homes. A cheap, fairly speedy solution that could help people age at home and build community.
    One more comment- I appreciate your consistent positive communication. And your team is wonderful. Thanks for all this work and best wishes for re-election & all good things. :) ~ Jan Slakov on Salt Spring Island, BC
  • Veronica Strong-Boag
    commented 2019-10-03 18:09:43 -0400
    I live in British Columbia but I shall be hoping for your re-election.
    Veronica Strong-Boag, CM, Ph.d., FRSC
    Historian and Historical Consultant
    Professor Emerita
    Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice/Educational Studies
    University of British Columbia
    Vancouver, Canada V6T 1Z2
    Adjunct Professor, Departments of History and Gender Studies,
    University of Victoria
    Victoria, Canada V8W 2Y2
  • Jane Philpott
    published this page in Blog 2019-10-03 16:14:20 -0400