2019 FEDERAL ELECTION: Courtenay-Alberni candidates address affordable housing

What is your party’s plan to address affordable housing in Courtenay-Alberni?

In an effort to inform the Courtenay-Alberni riding constituents, we have supplied all candidates with a series of questions. Each week, we will publish their answers to questions pertinent to this riding.

In this article, the five Courtenay-Alberni candidates answer the following question: “Housing prices on Vancouver Island continue to rise, pricing some people out of the market and creating challenges in tourism areas such as the west coast and Comox Valley, who need worker housing. What is your party’s plan to address affordable housing in Courtenay-Alberni?” (300-word maximum). Order of placement was done at random. Order will be rotated in each subsequent article.

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SEAN WOOD

Green Party of Canada

Sean Wood is the Green Party of Canada candidate for the Courtenay-Alberni riding. Photo supplied.

We face a national shortage of affordable housing and, as a result, a growing problem of homelessness and housing insecurity. The federal government needs to ensure that everyone has access to safe, affordable housing. The Green Party will enhance the federal government’s contribution to meeting the housing needs of Canadians through direct investments, changes to tax policies, and lending and granting programs, putting the government’s focus where it is urgently needed. We need a national housing strategy that works for all Canadians.

The challenges faced in the tourism areas of Courtenay-Alberni such as the west coast and the Comox Valley are challenges that we have solutions for. As a manager of staff housing in Whistler, I learned the importance of having housing for workers in expensive housing markets with high tourism. We need to help workers with subsidized non-market housing that gets them into the market and into a home where they can raise a family. The Green Party will re-focus the core mandate of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) on supporting the development of affordable, non-market, and cooperative housing, to ensure that local workers and their families have affordable housing.

Both renters and homeowners are facing challenges of housing affordability. The Green Party will restore tax incentives for building purpose-built rental housing, and provide tax credits for gifts of land or land and buildings to community land trusts to provide affordable housing. We will also provide financing to non-profit housing organizations and cooperatives to build and restore quality, energy-efficient housing for seniors, people with special needs, and low-income families.

As your champion in Ottawa, I will fight to legislate housing as a legally protected fundamental human right for all Canadians and permanent residents, to ensure that all people in Courtenay-Alberni have a secure place to call home.

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GORD JOHNS

New Democratic Party

NDP candidate Gord Johns is seeking re-election in the Courtenay-Alberni riding. Photo supplied.

All Courtenay-Alberni communities are seriously impacted by Canada’s national housing crisis. Housing prices in our riding have risen by 50% over four years while wages remain stagnant. Too many households spend more than 30% on shelter.

This is a reality for many people in Courtenay-Alberni. I frequently hear from local residents about having to choose between housing and other essential costs of living.

As I was growing up, our family lived in non-market co-op housing. My parents were able to save and eventually purchase their own home. In the ’80s, 10% of Canadian housing stock was non-market. Today it is only 4%. In Europe, it is 30%.

We need to get back in the business of building affordable non-market housing.

A New Democrat government will create 500,000 units of quality, affordable housing in the next 10 years with half within five years. In addition, we will:

• Work with local governments and First Nations to develop affordable housing on public lands.

• Re-introduce 30-year terms on insured mortgages on entry-level homes for first-time buyers.

• Make it easier to cover closing costs by doubling the Home Buyer’s Tax Credit to $1,500.

• Waive the federal portion of the GST/HST on the construction of new affordable rental units – a simple change that will get new units built faster and keep them affordable for the long term.

• Set up fast-start funds to help communities get projects off the ground now—not years from now.

These measures will address the housing crisis at the source, but families should not have to wait. We will provide immediate relief for families struggling to afford rent in otherwise suitable housing, while we bring forward long-term solutions to the housing affordability crisis.

We need to ensure everyone in Courtenay-Alberni can afford a place to call home.

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JONAH GOWANS

Liberal Party of Canada

Jonah Gowans is running for the Liberal Party in the Courtenay-Alberni riding. Photo supplied.

Yes, Vancouver Island and many other areas in British Columbia face unique housing challenges due to tourism. Short term accommodation for tourists pushes housing prices up and as a result, families, young people and seniors are pushed out of the affordable housing market.

Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government brought in the National Housing Strategy (NHS) in 2017. The strategy is a $55 billion dollar investment over 10 years and aims to create up to 125,000 new housing units, refurbish more than 300,000 public housing units and reduce homelessness by half. I believe that the NHS is a good start at addressing some of the affordable housing issues in BC.

The primary focus of the NHS is to assist vulnerable groups, and put a focus on the specific issues facing them.

As well, for those just trying to get into the market, the Liberal government rolled out the First-Time Home Buyers Incentive in Budget 2019. The incentive gives people a loan of up to 10 percent of the purchase price of their home.

Another goal of the NHS is to control speculation in the market. In order to limit housing speculation that can drive up home prices, we will put in place a consistent national tax on vacant residential properties owned by non-Canadians who do not live in Canada.

Finally, we will work with interested provinces, territories, and communities to establish a national approach to beneficial ownership. This will give law enforcement and tax authorities the tools necessary to crack down on financial crime in the real estate sector while respecting Canadian privacy rights.

If I am elected as your Member of Parliament on Oct. 21, I will be a strong advocate for addressing tourist-related affordable housing challenges on Vancouver Island.

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BARBARA BILEY

Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada

Barbara Biley is the Courtenay-Alberni candidate for the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada. Photo supplied

The 2018 Vital Signs report for the Comox Valley showed a rapid deepening of the housing crisis in the Comox Valley with 45.4% of renter households spending 30% or more of their income on housing and 20% spending more than 50%. The survey also established that 29% of those who were homeless in 2018 were seniors, over 55. As well, there was a 62.3% increase in sale prices for single-family homes and a 94.3% increase in prices for apartments between 2013 and 2018. Where once the housing crisis forced people out of Vancouver to the Island, now people are forced out of communities like the Comox Valley to more remote communities just to find affordable housing.

In the midst of this crisis and the fight being waged on a day-to-day basis for solutions to the problem of lack of affordable housing we have the phenomenon of the federal election where instead of a broad discussion on an agenda set by the people which would focus on finding solutions to such problems we are expected to be bystanders to the circus of personal attacks, diversions and promises without content to get our votes.

The solution to the housing crisis requires the renewal of the political process so as to empower the people. Those in the community who have been leading the fight to affirm the right to housing know what the solutions are and have to be the ones who make the decisions.

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BYRON HORNER

Conservative Party of Canada

Byron Horner is the Conservative Party of Canada candidate for the Courtenay-Alberni riding.

I have knocked on thousands of doors across our region and the affordability crisis is the top issue. The more affordable Vancouver Island of my youth has disappeared. Seniors on a fixed income, workers whose wages have stagnated, and young Islanders are struggling with the rising costs of housing, food and gas, and rising taxes.

Almost 50% of renters in our region spend an unaffordable amount of their income on housing (Vitalsigns 2018). Sadly, homelessness and people on the brink of homelessness is on the rise. Tourism operators from Tofino to Courtenay struggle to fill seasonal positions due to the expense and lack of housing.

Abacus found that 85% of millennials (ages 23-38) who don’t own a home would like to. It is wrong that our youth have to leave our communities to find cheaper housing options. One reason I entered politics is to champion skills-training and economic development on the Island so my boys and young Islanders can achieve the dream of homeownership.

The NDP and Greens make promises on housing but have no realistic chance of forming government. As an MP in a new Conservative government, we will tackle the housing affordability crisis:

1. Fix the Mortgage Stress Test – make it easier for Islanders to access and renew mortgages.

2. Increase amortization periods to 30 years – lower monthly payments for first-time buyers.

3. Use surplus federally-owned land on the Island for affordable housing.

4. Work with BC and local government to reduce regulatory barriers that discourage new home construction (more homes at lower prices).

As your MP I will fight for housing affordability and affordable housing, including re-instating historic tax rules that encouraged the construction of rental-only buildings and a pilot project to exempt from GST the construction of rental-only buildings/staff housing with dedicated affordable units.

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