Jagmeet Singh, NDP Burnaby South Candidate
Response to the Burnaby Task Force on Homelessness
1) What is your party’s position on addressing homelessness?
Affecting 235,000 Canadians every year, homelessness is a growing epidemic. The federal government must do its part in ensuring that all its citizen have secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing. Canada’s New Democrats believe homelessness to be a public health issue affecting individuals, families, and communities across Canada—housing accessibility and affordability constitutes a crisis with real and immediate needs. Far too many Canadians are living without a place to call home, living precariously on the streets, in emergency shelters, or moving from couch to couch. We’re seeing the struggles of families living in core need housing, with shelters that is unaffordable, unsuitable, or in need of major repairs. For many years we’ve promoted the need for a national housing strategy to help put an end to the housing crisis in Canada. Our ambitious plan calls for the creation of 500,000 units of quality, affordable housing within ten years. And, we’re fighting for the Trudeau government to commit funding in Budget 2019 to build 250,000 of those units within five years. We can’t wait until after the next federal election for the money to flow. By then, for many families in Burnaby and beyond, it will be too late! That’s why our NDP MPs took the fight for housing to the floor of the House of Commons— leading a full day of debate during their first week back in Ottawa. We challenged the Liberal government on its failure to adequately meet housing needs for Canadians. We called on the Liberals to pony up more of the money they promised to spend on housing after the 2019 election now, so we can kick-start the creation of new units as soon as possible.
I’m proud of the earlier work of NDP MPs Rachel Blaney and Sheri Benson—they fought hard to get the Liberals to take real action on housing rights and homelessness. Rachel’s legislation, Bill C-325, called for the right to housing to be incorporated in Canadian law—a protection already recognized internationally. Sheri championed M-147, calling for the development of a national plan to address the growing epidemic of homelessness in our country. Unfortunately, by voting down our recent housing plan, as well as Sheri’s M-147 and Rachel’s C-325, the Trudeau Liberals are proving they don’t understand what people are going through. Year after year, the Trudeau government keeps telling Canadians to wait for action on the housing; meanwhile, they give billions in corporate tax giveaways. As Member of Parliament for Burnaby South, I’ll continue to work with my NDP team and press the Trudeau Liberal government to adopt a comprehensive housing strategy—to tackle homelessness. It’s our duty to make sure all Canadians have access to suitable and affordable housing—and we need a government that will do just that. Our principle is based on the fact that funding for housing is good for individuals, communities, society and the overall economy and that it helps to reduce the exorbitant costs associated with homelessness in such area as health and public safety.
2) Does your party plan to establish a national housing strategy to address the growing housing crisis in Canada? If so, please describe your strategy.
Yes. The NDP has promoted the need for such a strategy for some time. Recently, I’ve announced a set of concrete proposals to build and improve on the current national housing strategy to combat Canada’s housing crisis and bring relief to Canadian families across the country.
The first part of my plan calls for the building of half a million affordable housing units over the next decade. To help kick-start this important investment, I’m calling on the Trudeau government to include important measures in its 2019 federal budget: removal of the federal portion of the GST/HST on the construction of new affordable rental units; and funding to build 250,000 of those units within five years. Making those budget commitments would save thousands of dollars on rental developments; help get new units built faster, and keep them affordable for the long term.
Shamefully, the Liberals made a similar commitment in the 2015 election but failed to deliver on their promise. What’s more, even though 1.7 million Canadian families live in inadequate, unaffordable or unsuitable homes, the Liberal’s current housing plan will only help a third of them find suitable housing—over ten years.
Canadian families deserve immediate action to help make ends meet. Low-income renters and first-time homebuyers deserve a break.
New Democrats will meet those needs by doing more. We support doubling the Home Buyer’s tax credit to $1,500 – to give people a hand when they make the transition to home ownership for the first time. And, we’re calling on the Trudeau government to start putting rental subsidies in the pockets of families now so that where you live today can be where you live tomorrow. Again, the Liberals can get the ball rolling now by finding money in this year’s budget. These comprehensive measures—combined with our long-standing proposals to ensure that investments in affordable, co-op and social housing flow immediately—will help provide struggling Canadians with a decent roof over their heads. As the next general election draws
closer, we’ll be happy to share with you additional elements what will complete our national housing strategy.
3) If elected, what resources would your party allocate to increase the supply of affordable and core need housing stock in Canada, the Lower Mainland, and Burnaby?
We believe that housing is a right and that we will make housing a constant priority because it’s not just an expenditure, it’s an investment. New Democrats believe that affordable housing is a promise we can’t compromise on—everyday Canadians are struggling and need someone on their side. That’s why we’re calling for the building of half a million new units of affordable housing over the next 10 years. The goal is to complete half of those units within five years with a ramp-up beginning immediately in Budget 2019. We can help achieve this goal by removing the federal sales tax on new buildings that include affordable units, providing direct assistance to those who spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, and doubling the existing tax credit for first-time homebuyers to $1,500. And, with a mix of measures that work in partnership with provinces and municipalities, build capacity for affordable housing providers and co-ops, and meet environmental energy efficiency goals. As the next general election draws closer, we’ll be happy to share with you additional elements including all resources our party will allocate to increase the supply of affordable housing stock which will complete our national housing strategy.
4) If elected, what resources would your party allocate to prevent the loss of existing affordable housing from conversions, demolitions, or serious deterioration?
Data from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s annual rental market report shows Burnaby lost over 700 units of rental housing between 2010 and 2017. We need to reverse this trend and significantly invest in affordable housing in Canada. Burnaby deserves a partner that believes that housing is a right, one who will make affordable housing a constant priority Loopholes in rental laws that allow landlords to wrongfully evict tenants and unfairly jack up rents have left many people in Burnaby feeling that renting is not a secure and predictable housing option. Years and years of waiting by successive Liberal and Conservative governments left some regions with
We’ll continue to push for targeted funding for the renewal of long-term social operating agreements where necessary, capital repairs, and an increase in the building of new affordable housing units. We will encourage partnership with the provinces, territories, and social housing operators to help determine where funds are needed in order to maintain rent-geared-to-income subsidies or to renovate existing social housing.
5) If elected, what strategies and resources would your party commit to the prevention of homelessness amongst those at risk, such as low-income earners?
We recognize the importance of prevention but before addressing homelessness prevention, we need to start making life more affordable, for everyone. This includes making public, universal, comprehensive pharma care happen. With the right leadership, we can make sure that everyone can afford the medication they need, too. No one should have to choose between rent and medication.
To address those at risk, New Democrats support a comprehensive plan to help women in emergency shelters, Indigenous peoples subsisting in deplorable housing, individuals living with disabilities, those fighting mental health illnesses, and the many who are too poor to afford basic
housing. By increasing the stock of affordable housing and placing emphasis within our affordable housing strategy on those vulnerable populations, we aim to reduce the number of Canadians who are homeless, and at risk of becoming homeless.
We have long supported an increase to the Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS), as well as indexing the funding to inflation. We’ll continue to support the proven approach of Housing First, while also ensuring that the full range of services dedicated to
6) What strategies and resources would your party commit to assist
I know the value of investing in Canadians and the programs that support them and help improve
It’s alarming that one in five Canadians spends over 50% of their income on rent each month. Here in Burnaby, rent increased by 5.3% last year pushing safe, affordable housing further out of the reach of too many in our community. That’s why New Democrats will continue to put forward solid proposals like $15 a day childcare, a $15 hourly federal minimum wage—investments in families and workers, not big business, will reap returns for our country and help level out the playing field. We’re committed to making sure accessibility standards for all forms of disability are met in social housing.
I believe that workers—especially women, who make up the bulk of minimum wage earners— need to be paid living wages. That’s why we ’ve always fought for pay equity. Without fair wages, workers can’t achieve economic security in their working lives or retirement. We’ll
continue to challenge the government to create good, secure, family-supporting jobs, protect pensions and invest in things that will help workers and make life better for all Canadians. It’s also time for Canada to get serious about progressive tax reform! The NDP’s has a consistent record of pushing for tax fairness—we fought to end tax loopholes on stock options for rich CEOs and to eliminate tax havens. Canadians for Tax Fairness estimates that Canada could recoup approximately $400 million in lost tax revenues each year; we would use that money to strengthen our social programs and infrastructure—doing more for affordable housing, child care, and pharma care programs.
As the MP for Burnaby South, I’ll continue to work with my NDP team to address income inequality and tax reform. We’re determined to keep those issues at the forefront in the weeks and months ahead, particularly in the lead up to the 2019 federal budget!
7) If elected, what resources would your party allocate to ensure people without homes have access to appropriate emergency shelter and supports in their home community?
We’ll work to achieve permanent supportive housing, rent-geared-to-income housing, and rent assistance paid directly to tenants in need.
We support an increase to the funding of the Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS
8) If elected, what resources will your party commit to Burnaby to address the challenges for Burnaby citizens who are dealing with homelessness?
I’m committed to doing everything I can to eliminate obstacles to housing. I’ll continue to consult with local housing activists and community groups, like the Burnaby Task Force on Homelessness, on public policy solutions. Working with the leadership of the BC NDP on affordable housing, I think we can make a real difference in people’s lives in Burnaby.
I view the eradication of homelessness as an investment rather than expenditure by
9) If elected what will your party do to ensure that short term/transitional housing is established in Burnaby specifically for people who are dealing with homelessness?
I’ve had the privilege in the past months to meet and talk to residents and community groups in
Burnaby South, listening to what matters to them. I’ve heard loud and clear that there are not enough spaces for those in need of short term/transitional housing—for those individuals and families who find themselves in need of emergency housing. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and work closely with all interested parties to address this crisis—to build support for the federal NDP’s affordable housing strategy. I will fight for the construction of more housing units and better support for the community-based services for the homeless in Burnaby South.
As Member of Parliament for Burnaby South, I will continue to work on an anti-poverty strategy with targets and timelines to reduce and eventually eliminate poverty—one that will continue to call for significant investments in affordable housing and homelessness programs.
10) Given that the current federal homeless initiatives are not based on stable or ongoing funding, what would your party, and you as an individual do, ensure stable ongoing funding to homeless initiatives that address current homelessness and prevent future homelessness?
The NDP has always pushed successive federal governments to do more to address the crisis in affordable housing and homelessness—we remain dedicated to this work. We’re building on the passionate work of former NDP Leader Jack Layton and former Vancouver area MP Libby Davies—strong advocates who championed the needs of the homeless in Canada throughout their political careers.
As Member of Parliament for Burnaby South, I’ll continue to build on that enduring legacy. l look forward to working with the provinces, territories, municipalities, indigenous governments, housing providers and civil society organizations on a national housing plan—to pushing for the creation of a multi-year strategy with adequate funding to address housing and homelessness. By law, such a strategy would need to conform to Canada’s international human rights obligations regarding housing.
I‘m committed to making the right choices to help bring relief to the needs of our community and give priority to those who are most vulnerable—to bring about real solutions for those struggling now.