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.