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Let's talk housing

Our housing crisis will not be solved with tweaks - we need a rethink and fast.


In December, new population projections were released by Statistics Canada and they highlight how acutely serious our housing crisis is. While it is good news in the long-term broadest sense that our country’s population grew by 400,000 in a quarter, for the housing crisis it highlights how bold our approach will have to be.


The current government has announced various tweaks this year – the first tradespeople immigration class in decades, consultations on pre-approved housing plans, innovation investments, GST rebates for contractors for example – these were the adjustments we needed over a decade ago.  The time for system tweak and fine-tuned management has long passed. As with many of the most important issues in Canadian federalism, the difficulty of solving complex problems with 14 governments involved meant that we just didn’t do it – until the crisis and now we have to face multiple crises at once.


Housing is never just about housing – in a complex society it is about supply, demand, labour force, community building, environmental considerations and supporting infrastructure. We know we have a supply problem, and we are not on track to fill this need at current projections. CMHC forecasts we need 5 million new units by 2030 and we are only on track to build half of those. This supply challenge is coupled with inflationary pressures, labour shortages and complex regulations that limit contractors and developers.


While many in the federal discussion will say that the role rests with provinces and territories to address the housing crisis, this is entirely untrue. The federal government had a significant role in housing from the Halifax Explosion in 1918 until the 1990s. The scope, depth and interprovincial nature of the current crisis also justifies federal action under the Peace, Order and Good Government clause of our constitution. That does not mean the federal government should just make a plan and force it on provinces and territories, it means it has a leadership role to create an innovative approach and federalism is no excuse not to live up to that responsibility.


Over the next four emails we will highlight some of the housing policies and considerations we are hearing that allow for the development of a robust approach to housing. This is not a comprehensive housing strategy but meant to start a discussion based on policy proposals we have received so far. The four topics are: direct federal influence on supply and demand as an employer, immigration’s role in the housing crisis, federal regulations and tax incentives, and innovation


Topic one: Direct building of units and remote work


The federal government used to directly build units. There is no reason it cannot do this again in specific circumstances.  Building military units and residential campuses for government employees can increase stock and take pressure off the local housing stock.  Residential campuses are a very normal practice in many countries. These units, which are rented, create opportunities for entry level employees to take positions in areas with a housing shortage.  This would be particularly beneficial in larger centres with housing shortages and large numbers of government employees such as Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver as well as smaller centres where housing stock is filled quickly such as Banff and Miramichi. Where possible government land could be used and buildings could be refitted or innovative approaches to buildings to allow very quick builds could be used. These sites could be demonstration sites for innovative housing. These government units could also be built with environmental innovations to minimize the environmental impact of the units and ensure they meet our current climate change needs. Federal responsibility for Indigenous peoples would also justify federal builds off-reserve for addressing the housing needs of Indigenous people. All of these measures would take pressure off of the municipality where they are located by increasing stock.


Direct builds in federal responsibility are completely within federal control, subject to municipal requirements. This allows the demonstration of leadership as well accelerated timelines to ensure we have the units we need.


In addition, remote work can be encouraged. Most of the housing stock shortage is concentrated in Ontario and BC. The decision of some employers to impose an ultimatum on returning to work worsens the housing crisis in urban centres. Creating a flexible workforce that does not need to concentrate entirely around certain pressures allows for a maximization of our current housing stock. Urbanization has accelerated our housing crisis. Remote work options can revitalize small communities across the countries and take demand off of larger centres.


Do you have ideas on the housing crisis and how we build a bold and innovative approach? We want to hear from you! Submit your proposals here.


Dominic Cardy

Interim leader

Canadian Future Party

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One last thing. If you haven’t yet please become a member, volunteer, or give us your policy ideas.


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