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A mock Parliamentary debate
What should the federal government be doing?
Order! Order! The House will come to order. Honorable Members, I call this session of the House of Commons to order.
Today's agenda includes a debate on the pressing issue of housing crisis and affordability in our nation. I invite Members from all parties to share their perspectives and proposed solutions on this critical matter.
Let us engage in a constructive and respectful discussion as we seek to address the challenges faced by Canadians in accessing affordable housing. I remind all Members to conduct themselves in a respectful manner and adhere to the rules and procedures of this House.
I now recognize the Honorable Member from the Liberal party to begin the debate. Please proceed, Member.
(As the Speaker, I will moderate the debate, ensure that Members follow parliamentary procedures, and maintain decorum in the House.)
A hypothetical statement from a Liberal member, summarizing the government record prior to Covid and the post-Covid challenge:
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In 2017, the major housing issue facing Canada was the lack of rental housing, especially for lower-income households. We developed the National Housing Strategy, allocating $15 billion in new federal funding to build new non-market housing and to repair and maintain existing non-market housing, working with provincial partners. A major part of the strategy was the Rental Construction Finance Initiative (RCFI), which provides low-cost, long-term loans for purpose-built rental housing (which is more secure for renters than renting a condo or secondary suite).
Interest rates were low, due to the slow recovery following the 2008 financial crisis. Recognizing the danger of a housing bubble, while not wanting higher interest rates to slow down the entire economy, we brought in a mortgage stress test to keep Canadians from overextending themselves.
In early 2020, Covid hit. With many more people working from home, this has resulted in a massive increase in demand for residential space. This has had a huge impact on both home prices and rents. While long-time homeowners have been somewhat insulated from the rise in housing costs, renters and first-time homebuyers have seen a massive deterioration in their material standard of living, especially in Ontario and BC.
This has resulted in sharp tension over who should have access to the limited supply of housing: between current residents and newcomers, renters and landlords, homebuyers and investors, younger renters and older homeowners.
While we've brought in some short-term measures - a temporary ban on foreign investment in real estate, a new tax-free savings account for first-time homebuyers - and we'll continue investing in non-market housing, the real solution is a massive ten-year buildout of residential space. CMHC estimates that to return to 2003-2004 levels of affordability, Ontario and BC need to build homes for the next 10 years at more than double their business-as-usual rate.
The challenge is that although Canadians recognize the need for more housing, it's human nature to fear the unknown. The costs and annoyances of new housing are local, while the benefits are region-wide. New housing is popular at the provincial and national level, but unpopular at the local level. It's very common for municipal governments to require discretionary site-by-site approval for practically any new housing project, along with heavy development charges, and for the approval process to amplify the voices of those who most fear and oppose new housing. This has led to an inelastic housing supply in BC and Ontario: instead of more demand resulting in more housing, housing starts have remained more or less the same, while housing prices have soared.
In response, the Eby government in BC has announced a plan to make it easier to build more infill housing by right, without having to go through a time-consuming discretionary approval process, inspired in part by New Zealand's recent housing reform. We fully support this effort.
The Ford government in Ontario has also brought in legislation aimed at building more housing. Although we feel that more focus on infill and less on sprawl would be helpful, we also support the Ford government's efforts to build more housing.
Besides the efforts at the provincial level, we recently launched a new incentive program for municipalities to allow more housing - basically carrots to supplement the provincial sticks. The $4 billion Housing Accelerator Fund will provide funding of up to $20,000 per additional home unlocked by municipal reforms, for example:
Allow housing up to 10 storeys by right within walking distance of rapid transit stations
Allow "missing middle" housing on a single residential lot, by allowing greater height and density
Reduce or eliminate minimum parking requirements
Make sure that development charges are clear, transparent, and pre-determined (not subject to negotiation)
To anticipate some commentary from other Members:
You'll sometimes hear our NDP colleagues say that what we need isn't more housing, it's affordable housing. I'd like to remind them that housing is a ladder: it's all connected. When there isn't enough market housing being built, the people who would have lived there don't just disappear: they'll move down the ladder, resulting in tremendous pressure on people towards the bottom of the ladder.
The leader of the Opposition has stated that what we should be doing is threatening to withhold funds from municipalities which fail to allow more housing. While this punitive approach would certainly raise the temperature of the housing debate, I would point out that the provinces already have full power to override municipal obstruction. In particular, the Ontario task force on housing affordability provided a full list of recommendations to his fellow Conservatives in the Ontario government, and it would be great to see him ask them to move forward with those recommendations.
A statement from Pierre Poilievre, written by ChatGPT:
Well, Mr. Speaker, I have to say, the current government's approach to housing has been an absolute disaster. They have failed to take the necessary steps to address the housing crisis that is affecting so many Canadians.
The lack of supply is a major issue, and yet the government seems content to sit on their hands and do nothing. We need to cut red tape and streamline the approval process for new housing developments, but the Liberals are more interested in pandering to their special interest groups than actually taking action.
We need to start by removing the gatekeepers that prevent the construction of new housing. The government must work with provinces and municipalities to identify and remove any barriers that prevent the building of new homes.
In addition, we need to make it easier for first-time homebuyers to enter the market. This could be accomplished by increasing the maximum withdrawal limit for the Home Buyers' Plan and introducing a tax credit for first-time homebuyers.
The government should also incentivize developers to build more housing by offering tax breaks for new construction. This will help to increase the supply of housing and make it more affordable for Canadians.
We cannot forget the impact of high housing costs on the economy. It makes it harder for businesses to attract workers, who are then forced to commute long distances or move to other cities. This drives up transportation costs and reduces productivity.
The Liberals can continue to sit on their hands and ignore this crisis, but the Conservatives will not rest until all Canadians have access to safe, affordable housing. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
A statement from Jagmeet Singh, written by ChatGPT:
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak about the urgent need for action on the housing crisis in Canada. The current state of housing affordability is a national emergency, and the government's response has been wholly inadequate.
The lack of affordable housing is a fundamental issue that affects Canadians from all walks of life, but particularly those who are most vulnerable. It is unacceptable that so many Canadians are being priced out of the housing market or are forced to live in unsafe and inadequate conditions.
The government must take bold and immediate action to address this crisis. This includes investing in social housing, increasing the supply of affordable rental units, and implementing rent control measures to protect tenants from skyrocketing rents.
We must also ensure that Canadians have access to safe and affordable housing that is appropriate to their needs. This means investing in supportive housing for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, as well as providing funding for repairs and renovations to existing housing stock.
We cannot continue to ignore the realities of the housing crisis in Canada. We need a comprehensive plan that addresses the root causes of the problem, including income inequality, rising housing costs, and a lack of affordable housing options.
The NDP is committed to working with all levels of government to find solutions to this crisis. We believe that every Canadian has the right to safe, adequate, and affordable housing, and we will continue to fight for this fundamental right. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Remote work is boosting housing demand and driving inflation. Matthew Yglesias, May 2022.
Mike Moffatt on what happened to Ontario housing prices, August 2021. “When it’s 8 per cent to 10 per cent a year, you can kind of somewhat ignore it. It’s a slow boil. Whereas, since a pandemic started, we’re up about 40 per cent, and things have just exploded, and it’s all anyone wants to talk about — and rightfully so.”