Here in Canada we take many things for granted, as our vast natural resources have allowed us a reasonable high standard of living in the last 50 years at least.
But as we can all see it now very clearly, that is changing rapidly, as our resources have become too expensive for many countries to continue to pay us, what we think we deserve and they went shopping elsewhere in the world. Now we are also tied to the world economy and have to compete on a global level. We are finding out, that it is very competitive out there and other countries have high levels of knowledge. So our expectations to the inherit right for the basics needs of food, clothing, shelter, transportation, healthcare and education for reasonable cost are being challenged on many levels.
When the healthy corporate tax revenue on the federal level and provincial and municipality level drop, individuals have to make up for it at the same time as governments have to reduce service.
So all income groups are affected, but in particular the older generation on fixed income, the vulnerable on disability and the young ones who cannot even find permanent jobs and are stuck in the gig economy. It also effects the university graduates, who do not have plenty of jobs waiting anymore.
And that brings me to the subject of how it effects all of us in the housing environment. Will keep my comments and recommendation for Action mainly on the municipal and provincial level for Alberta, but also referring a few sentences on the need for Federal input.
Alberta and particularly Calgary has and still is undergoing an enormous transition after the structural change in the Resource sector.
From nearly full employment and a lower then national average tax environment the young dynamic population base was thriving and felt they can build a secure future for their families. The glittering downtown towers that were built spoke to the flamboyant business prospects for decades to come. No need to depend on municipalities, provincial or federal help to grow exponentially.
Today as shown in the articles attached , over 20 high rise buildings in downtown are actually empty, corporate tax revenues have dropped dramatically und the coffers at city hall are looking for getting funds from small business, and homeowners and apartment landlords with high tax increases.
The rainy day funds are getting lower.
And should the present Real Estate bubble in the rest of the country pop, other provinces might experience similar troubles.
As the Honourable Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole recently stated : If this would have happened in Toronto or Montreal, this would occupy the headlines in the papers for weeks……
So where does that leave all the older and vulnerable people who are getting close to being squeezed out of the market. Either downsizing if possible, or moving in with family and relatives. Many are moving away or outside the city. Many experienced loosing their rental accommodation and we are seeing it with way higher demand through the churches food hamper programs and even sometimes empty shelves at the foodbanks. .
So now the population here in Alberta has to rely more on the municipalities, the cities and the provincial and federal governments for assistance in order not to get in big trouble, as it does not take long for institutions to take on predatory attitudes when they can. Even without advocating rent controls for the long run, in todays pandemic it might be needed to prevent more people becoming homeless.
Also in order for private developers to help with more affordable housing there has to be consideration being given for incentives to make it available. City Council in Calgary with the input from Calgary Economic Development and the Chamber of Commerce has developed a 10 year plan to eliminate homelessness and now also giving incentives of converting office towers into affordable housing , after a 5 year delay, just hoping the Resource sector will just rebound.
The Province and the Federal Government are also assisting. It is that kind of co-operation that can create the environment to make necessary improvements helping with affordable housing in order to assist the Generation that helped to build this country and now needs more help from various institutions themselves.
We are bringing this to everyone’s attention, as other countries have no hesitation of becoming predatory and leaving people even more vulnerable (as shown in the articles attached from the recent experience of 350.000 renters in the city of Berlin, Germany ), where the combination of Federal law, and city regulations that was supposed to help renters now leaves them retroactively in a bind, that could ruin many: The Mietendeckel is here. What next? – EXBERLINER.com
We therefore strongly recommend the Federal Government to take a substantial role in the overview of
the Rental market in Canada with the regional adjustments to help the population maintain reasonable rents.
Further in cooperation with the provincial governments, cities and municipalities set aside sufficient funding to encourage the necessary high need to catch up on affordable housing for the elderly in the independent living and facility living, as the private sector cannot cover and should not do this alone. We have seen what the profit motive in the Long Care facilities alone has done lately to the elderly and vulnerable creating sorrow and loss for so many across the country ( see article in attachment on Calgary Seniors’ Housing Forum).
This demands a long term plan on all levels of governments in order to help our population maintain a dignified existence in the decades to come, as the demographics tell us, that the aging of our country is progressing rapidly. Otherwise the age wave will hit us unprepared and will play havoc with any late endeavors trying to catch up.
We are aware that there are overlapping jurisdictions, but where there is a will there is a way. We also know, that necessity is the mother of invention. But as the necessity is now, we cannot afford to have the time run short. Here are the main areas of recommendation from the Housing Committee of the National Pensioners Association :
1. The need for action on housing by the federal government is acute, with concerns about:
a. Establishing a national moratorium on evictions until the pandemic is over and for a reasonable time after-in cooperation with provincial governments
b. Implement a national residential arrears assistance program to protect people at risk of eviction due to accumulated rent arrears
c. Enhance the Canada Housing Benefit
d. Tackle Homelessness and displaced persons caused by social exclusion and spatial displacement
e. Develop a housing affordability and homelessness emergency plan to target those in core housing need
Housing costs are rising, with notable increases in some larger urban areas for detached homes. Condos are also affected with upward push partly due to the low mortgage rates.
Calgary markets are affected by a reduction in supply relative to sales, with uncertainty for the future. High unemployment could affect some existing homeowners needing to sell their homes. Persistent economic challenges may prevent stronger growth in the housing market, although mortgage rates are low, as reported by Manfred Merkel in Calgary.
It has been reported that less than 20% of Toronto and Vancouver families earned enough to buy an average home in their community, while more than 50% of families living in Saskatoon, Halifax and Quebec City earned enough to buy an average home at today’s market rates. www.Rbc.com/newsroom/reports
Keeping couples together is a policy recently adopted in Nova Scotia, with the Life Partners in Long-term Care Act, allowing spouses, common-law and domestic partners to be placed together at the highest care level required. https://nslegislature.ca/legc/bills/63rd_2nd/3rd_read/b240.htm
The federal government is investing $43 million to increase support for Wellness Together Canada, an online portal that provides free mental health and substance use support, website available 24/7 https://ca.portal.gs/
Action: the NPF urges the all governments to make the concerted effort to stem homelessness by addressing the rising housing costs, especially felt by seniors.
By, Manfred Merkel, National Pensioners Federation, Housing Committee Representative
& Barb Mikuelc, Chair NPF Housing Committee