North Island-Powell River MP, Rachel Blaney, calls the lack of affordable housing in her riding “a significant concern.”
“We have different groups across the whole riding that work and deal with the homeless population (and) want to see more housing, but we’re also hearing from people who are doing pretty well,” Blaney said. “They have a decent income but they simply cannot afford the housing that’s in this area.”
Blaney says a lot of young people in the region are having trouble coming up with enough money for a down payment to get into the market.
This comes as the Canadian Real Estate Association reports 25 percent jumps in house prices in both Campbell River and Powell River from just a year ago.
In fact, the entire qathet Region is experiencing a housing crisis.
In 2019 the vacancy rate was 0.5 percent. There was a slight improvement in 2020 to a vacancy rate of 1.7 percent.
According to the Powell River Real Estate Board, the average home price increased from $275,532 in 2016 to $465,226 in 2020, an increase of 68.6 percent.
This increase in housing price greatly outpaced any increase in wages. Rental rates are no longer affordable for many residents, and as a result, housing insecurity and unhoused people is on the rise.
It’s a similar story in Campbell River. According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, its housing vacancy rate was 0.9 percent last year.
With this in mind, Blaney said simply finding a place to rent is just as much of a challenge.
“One business in the Comox Valley gave me a call and said we hired someone eight months ago, and they are now moving because they have finally found somewhere to live, so we waited eight months for this person to work for us because there is simply nowhere for them to live.”
Blaney, who is an NDP MP, wants to see even more federal money put into affordable housing.
“This is definitely a gap for people,” she said.
“The federation of municipalities across Canada was very clear. They were happy with the $1.5 billion that was announced in the budget for the rapid housing initiative, but they actually asked for $7 billion to be invested over the next two or three years just to get more units on the ground for Canadians to have somewhere to live that was safe and also affordable, so that we would give that opportunity to people to become part of the (housing) market.”
She added that the federal government needs to crack down even harder on out-of-country homebuyers.
Blaney says the one per cent tax on foreign-owned vacant homes announced in this year’s budget isn’t near enough to cool down the nation’s sizzling housing market.
“These are people with a significant amount of money and a one percent tax is not going to deter them in any way, and when we get those taxes, that’s what’s helping us invest on other sides, to support different types of housing,” Blaney said.
She said B.C. is on the right track, with 20 percent foreign buyers tax for metro Vancouver.
“So let’s highlight where we are seeing these purchases happening more, have people who are buying from other countries pay a bigger purchase price, and make sure that money is going into initiatives that are going to help stabilize our housing market.”
Blaney said the federal NDP is asking that housing acquisition funds be dedicated to non-profits, to allow them to acquire assets.
“Right now that’s going largely, to these real estate investment trusts, which doesn’t mean that the housing is going to be for the local market,” she explained. “So we need to see a little bit more of the resources going to broaden this so that we have those non-profits that are building non-profit housing, building co-op housing, different models that make sense for the region that we live in.”
Blaney says people are telling her that they are paying more for rent than they do for a mortgage which puts them in a situation where they aren’t able to save for a down payment on a place.
“So we need more affordable housing, we just do,” she added. “We need it so that people can start to get into the market and the only way you can do that is if you have the capacity to save.”