Vancouver mayor calls on federal government to help municipalities fight Canada's housing crunch
The country is experiencing a “housing crunch” that is pricing a growing number of Canadians out of the market, Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson said today (October 28).
Speaking in Ottawa in his capacity as chair of the Big City Mayors Caucus for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), Robertson called on the federal government to include funding in its budget for 2014 that will allow it to play a role in the advancement of affordable housing.
“Canada’s housing challenges are too big and too complex for any single order of government to solve on its own,” Robertson said, as quoted in a media release. “We believe the government’s commitment in Budget 2013 to evidence-based solutions such as the Housing First approach for homelessness is a promising start, but they need to back it up with real results and expand that action to other areas of our affordable housing problem.”
The release from the mayor’s office suggests that a situation where fewer people can afford to buy homes is putting pressure on rental markets and pushing the country’s most vulnerable people into homelessness. It goes on to note that $1.7 billion in annual federal funding for affordable housing is scheduled to be phased out at a rate of $500 million per year ending between 2014 and 2019.
“This will put 200,000 units at risk and could lead to a crisis unless all orders of government take action,” the release states.
While Robertson was speaking in Ottawa the @VanMayorsOffice Twitter account was posting messages emphasizing the scale of the challenges faced by would-be homeowners.
“Average home price in Canada is up 63% since 2000 compared to a 13% increase in median after tax household income,” reads one tweet.
“1 in 4 Canadians paying over 30% of their income for shelter –more than they can afford according to CMHC guidelines,” reads another.
Robertson was joined at the press conference by Gatineau city councillor Luc Montreuil and Toronto city councillor Ana Bailão.
Closer to home, Robertson recently appointed Mukhtar Latif, an international property consultant from the U.K., the city’s first chief housing officer. Latif has a mandate to implement the recommendations of the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability and work with the provincial and federal governments towards that end.
Affordable housing was a primary topic of a speech Robertson made when he was sworn in for his second term in office on December 7, 2011. “This council may have its political differences, but I trust that we are united in our conviction that in a city this prosperous, nobody should ever be forced to sleep on the streets,” he said.
Despite such promises, Robertson and the Vision-dominated city council have been criticized for approving large real estate plans without adequately consulting the neighbourhoods they’ll affect. Some groups have also protested against new condo developments that they argue do not include enough provisions for affordable housing.