Home Regular Contributors Shane Wenzel From Home to Homelessness

From Home to Homelessness

Shane Wenzel

With house prices rising and homeownership becoming increasingly impossible for many Canadians, it’s a very convenient time for the Prime Minister to suddenly announce that “it’s not his job.”

The rising cost of housing in Canada has reached a crisis point. If you ask the general public who’s to blame, you get a variety of answers. In a recent survey, 40 per cent readily pointed to the federal government, 32 per cent point to the provincial government and 6 per cent blamed municipal governments.

The newly minted ministers at the Liberal Cabinet Summit declared housing a top priority but offered no solutions. It is safe to say nothing creative occurred. I am not saying there is a simple solution, but it is highly likely an allocation of funding will soon be announced, and the problem will be passed on to the provinces and cities to solve. Clearly, the solutions need to be a joint effort between all levels of government. Reducing barriers by changing restrictive zoning and lifting red tape to reduce costs along with other changes could incentivize more ‘affordable’ homes and affordable rental properties.

Another high-risk group are post-secondary students. High tuitions and monthly rents have become unaffordable and a need for occasional visits to the food bank and couch-surfing. Student union leaders claim they spend most of their day focused on student housing woes.

First time home buyers are worried about affordability and existing owners are concerned about being able to maintain their mortgage. Parents are co-signing mortgages, and cities are telling them they all need to stack into highrises.

The mass in-flow of new immigrants and home-grown Canadians coming to Alberta from other parts of Canada for a more affordable lifestyle continues. How is this not an issue? I’m not against immigration, but during the first two quarters of 2023, Calgary noted an increase of some 66,000 newcomers. We simply don’t have the homes to accommodate them.

Canada builds fewer homes each year than were built in the 1970s. But building a flurry of homes for thousands of migrants, students and Albertans is a formidable task.

Alberta is the fastest-growing province in the country, and now represents almost 12 per cent of Canada’s population. And yet, out of federal government’s $1.5 billion Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) fund allocation, only $38.3 million is heading to Alberta; in other words, just 2.5 per cent. Of the 5,200 total units funded through the initiative, only 200 units are in Alberta – just 3.8 per cent.

It doesn’t stop there – the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has shortchanged Alberta by $114 million on housing, “They should eliminate federal housing programs, return the tax dollars to the provinces they came from, and let us get on with the job.”

There hasn’t been much conversation about ‘subsidized housing’ even thought the concept has been around for years. And what are the plans for the growing ‘homeless’? Affordable and subsidized won’t work for them – they have no income.

While housing shortages and costs rise, the new immigration minister has no plans to lower immigration but plans to increase it each year to 500,000 by 2025.

I would like to leave you with one thought. Affordable housing could be obtained if the city lifted their taxes and levies, the provincial government forwent their taxes and the feds removed their GST; this would eliminate 30 per cent from the cost of the home.