“Affordable” housing is an urgent issue right now especially in our largest cities. We hear about rental accommodation scarcity in Toronto and the under-handed practice of ‘reno-viction’ by landlords attempting to circumvent rent controls.
An Affordable Housing Investment program in Ontario commits $800 million over 6 years – an average of $133 million per year. According to CMHC, the federal government invests over $238 million annually, (through March 2019), to help Canadians in housing need. The provinces and territories match the federal investments with contributions of their own. Nevertheless, these efforts take several years to register any impact while we continue to slip behind.
Across Canada the rental vacancy rate has shrunk to 2.4%. Some provinces with the highest vacancy rates also happen to have the highest average rental costs. This skewed market is another indication that our economic system is seriously broken. Conventional dogma says that the “market” will respond to fill a demand. But the ‘market’ builds to maximize profit, not necessarily maximize benefit for people in need.
“Transparency International Canada studied all residential property transactions in the GTA since 2008 and discovered more than $20 billion in anonymous money entered the real estate market without any oversight or due diligence. During this period, more than 50,000 homes were purchased by corporate entities …” (Toronto Star, March 21, 2019)
We seem to have an abundance of low-wage earners stuck in high-cost urban centres. Yet more remote areas are losing young people but still have a need for new workers. I was interested in a pilot project started by the federal department of immigration based on an earlier trial in Atlantic Canada. It attempts to match skills of immigrants with job vacancies in smaller communities.
“Immigrants will be chosen for the pilot project based on matching their skills to the local needs of their communities. Their professions could come from a variety of ones, such as truck drivers, teachers, lab technicians, etc.”
“What we’re looking for is communities that have two things; jobs to offer newcomers, and a welcoming infrastructure,” [Minister] Hussen said. “What I mean by that, is people who are willing to help in the process of settlement and integration, but also organizations that could do the work in terms of language training and employment support for newcomers.”
“Between 2001 and 2016, the number of potential workers in rural Canada has decreased by 23 per cent, while the number of potential retirees has increased by 40 per cent … Rural Canada faces particular challenges when it comes to labour market growth and labour market participation,” Hussen said. (Program to bring newcomers to Sudbury, the North, Sudbury Star, January 25, 2019)
If this program is successful, couldn’t it be expanded to all young people who are ambitious enough to make a new start in a new location? Couldn’t a small group of new, and other, Canadians move together to a smaller town with some settlement assistance, providing some social support to each other as they start out?
It seems to me that it would be a benefit to move several thousand young people per year (of all backgrounds) out of crowded, over-priced cities to smaller communities with appropriate job opportunities. “This is a common, common ask — municipal leaders are saying, ‘Please, we need more people, more workers, more families’, [the Minister] said”. A coordinated effort could help to address several urgent problems at once.
Communities chosen to participate in the immigration pilot program will be announced this spring.