A Wealthy Person’s Housing Strategy

Canada’s housing strategy is rigged to favour those with big homes and wealth.  We unfortunately argue about the small amounts that are expended on those who really need help, missing the real point.  I applaud those who call the government to account.  Today a blog post at policynote.ca details how the most wealthy have benefited handsomely from the real estate boom in BC. 

Recently, Campaign 2000 and many others issued an open letter to the Prime Minister challenging the government to live up to its own bold language on housing.  Is housing really a human right?  If Canada views housing as a human right, how will it ensure all are housed adequately?   The letter to the PM calls on this government to ensure action on the housing challenges in urban centres and elsewhere. The letter is signed by more than 170 individuals and organizations. 

A couple of weeks ago I attended a town hall meeting with Parliamentary Secretary Adam Vaughan in West Vancouver – and he admitted the government’s new ‘strategy’ does not go far enough.  I was heartened by the admission, but Vaughan painted himself as a nice guy with little influence. 

Housing affordability, access and adequacy remain big problems.  Wealth inequality is growing. The much touted 2017 National Housing Strategy only  tinkers with that federal approach, and relies on provinces to provide added dollars.  The 2017 strategy almost exclusively deals with ‘social’ or non-market housing.  There is a small provision for rent supplements.  The strategy is too narrow.  This year’s government hype about “human rights based approach to housing” seems to be all spin.   

Only 5-10% of Canadians are living in social or non-market housing.  The ‘National Housing Strategy’ may help these households but what about the other 90%?

The defacto government housing strategy of the last three decades has plainly failed.   We see street homelessness, tent cities, shelters, and more evidence of ‘core housing need’.  But housing costs for many have been inflated.  We see middle income Canadians paying too much for housing, being squeezed out of cities, and having to few rental options.  I wrote a paper last year that critiqued the Canadian government housing strategy more comprehensively.  A Rigged Housing Strategy is still relevant.

But for credit unions the question is one of complicity, with an agenda of more inequality, or active mobilization on policy to give ordinary people secure tenure at reasonable cost.  By and large, credit unions have opted for the former, because it made ‘business sense’ to squeeze people of moderate means.  Banks (and mimicking credit unions) are simply part of the larger game, a game which indentures the many and enriches the few. 

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