More empty promises
by liam o’connor and sara birrell, news writer & news editor
Editor’s note: This article was written while the editor was in a state of rage and disgust.
Young Canadians are looking at a bleak future for a multitude of reasons, and the housing crisis is undeniably one of them. Although there are no good outcomes in a colonial election in a fake country on stolen land, Monday’s election results, which saw hundreds of millions of dollars spent, millions of people inconvenienced, thousands of students, disabled people, Indigenous people, and people without cars disenfranchised during the fourth wave of a mismanaged pandemic, only for the balance of power to shift barely at all, were particularly hard to swallow. If there were any such thing as justice, Trudeau’s vanity election would have cost him. If there were any justice, we would have seen [REDACTED]. But there was no justice on Monday night because our government can’t bring justice, it can only withhold it, and as such, we will be stuck once more with a Liberal government, probably one that is prepared to declare COVID over and the time of “fiscal responsibility” upon us as soon as ICU capacity increases enough that they consider it possible. Whatever promises were made about housing will be forgotten. Students, renters, single parents, women, basically everyone who does not own wealth or come from wealth will continue to be immiserated, will continue to be subjected to humiliating background checks and invasions of privacy, will continue to see their housing given or withheld on the whim of capitalists, protected from unjustifiable evictions or screening processes only by negligible laws in cities that will let them freeze to death on the streets before it allows a single unit of non-market housing. Politicians are liars, and capitalists are liars, and anyone who thought that something might change was fooling themselves. According to the Economist, Canada is now the number one most expensive housing market based on rental rate, and the number three most expensive housing market based on income. In Saskatchewan alone, the average price of a home went up 13.3 per cent from 2020 to 2021, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.
Twelve per cent of Canada’s GDP is tied up in real estate, so neither the government nor the corporations that own the government will ever consent to any intervention that might lead to the real estate market shrinking, although most of the major parties were more than willing to throw a bone to the xenophobes and the racists by making a bogeyman out of “foreign real estate investors,” even though when it comes to real estate speculation, land and property ownership, and the oppression of poor people and renters in this country, the call is coming from inside the house. But let’s just review what the major parties put on offer, what feeble promises they made, and what weak and pathetic returns we have been given.
The housing crisis played a key role in the 2021 federal election, and Simon Enoch, director of the Saskatchewan office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, spoke to the Carillon about housing in Saskatchewan. When asked about what problems people face in Saskatchewan and what the possible solution could be, he said, “Saskatchewan has a lack of affordable housing stock. Provincial programs to incentivize developers to build affordable units have not been very successful. Having the federal government play a much larger part in the building and operation of social housing units offered at below-market rates in the province would be a welcome development. Unfortunately, the platforms of the federal parties are still too focused on market incentives in the hopes that private builders will solve the affordability crisis for us. Having governments own and maintain affordable housing units could provide real affordability, address discrimination in rental practices while also incorporating energy efficiency and sustainability to reduce renters’ utility bills as well.”
“Affordability” is a word that gets tossed around with great frequency by politicians both inside and outside of election season, but in practice it means very little. By definition, affordable housing is housing that is affordable to people whose household income is at or below a (somewhat arbitrary) median set out by the government. Most lenders and renter’s advocates say you should be spending no more than 30 per cent of your income on rent, but what the fuck good does “should” do you when you’re working for minimum wage and the average rent for a one bedroom in your city ranges from $900 to $1900? What does affordable mean when you can’t work? The only truly affordable housing is free housing but so many people in this country have been so inculcated in the Protestant work ethic that they have brain worms that make them think that people don’t have the right to live in a safe, secure home. The housing platforms offered by the major parties, which are listed below, show how absolutely divorced from the reality of the average Canadian the average policy maker is. All of this – everything that happened on Monday night and the carelessness that the Prime Minister showed for our lives in sending us out to do this during a pandemic, the pathetic campaigns leading up to it that seemed to come from parties unwilling or uninterested in any sort of governance at all, the summer of forest fires and murdered children and brutal state violence against homeless people – is malicious and intentional and it cannot and will never be voted out.
Key aspects of 2021 federal party housing platforms:
-Everyone deserves to be able to own a home and with housing and rent prices going up, it is becoming increasingly unclear how they will do that. However, they have a three-part plan that is supposed to address and solve this.
-A commitment to making 1.4 million new homes aimed towards making more affordable housing for the struggling middle-class.
-Directly from the Liberal’s website, “Invest $4 billion in a new Housing Accelerator Fund which will grow the annual housing supply in the country’s largest cities every year, creating a target of 100,000 new middle class homes by 2024-25.”
-Allow you to choose between share equity or a loan that is only repayable at the time of the sale. This would let the homeowner keep any of the increase of value of their home over time.
-They promise to crackdown on foreign investment by banning any foreign money from buying nonrecreational, residential property in Canada for the next two years.
-One in three Canadians is a renter and the NDP commit to making more affordable rent rental units that will be built across the entire country.
-They want to create 500,000 new, affordable, and quality units of housing in the next 10 years. In tandem with making new units of social, community, and affordable housing, there will be thousands of jobs created.
-Another priority is to double the New Home Buyers tax credit to $1500, also reintroducing 30 year-term mortgages that will allow people to pay back in smaller monthly amounts, which in theory will give the homeowner more money to spend elsewhere.
-Their plan for foreign buyers is to put a 20 per cent tax on the sale of homes to anyone who is not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.
-Plan to build 1 million new homes in the next three years.
-They want to make mortgages more affordable by allowing seven-to ten-year mortgages for first time buyers and lenders.
-They want to investigate money laundering and eliminate it because it is partially responsible for driving up home prices, especially in British Columbia, also banning foreign investors who do not live in Canada from buying homes for two years.
-In general, they want to remove unnecessary roadblocks for first time buyers to get mortgages.
-Will declare housing affordability and homelessness as a national emergency.
-Establish a national standard for rent and vacancy controls, as well as a national moratorium on evictions.
-Create an empty home tax for foreign ownership and crack down on money laundering.
-Make 300,000 non-market, extremely affordable, and non-profit housing over ten years.
-Require 30 per cent of all units in developments must be extremely affordable and accessible for disabled people in specific.