Big City Mayors Push Federal Leaders to Focus on Housing (24/09/2015)
Mayors meet in Toronto, call housing affordability critical to a strong economy
Toronto - Canada's Big City Mayors say federal leaders need to put a sharper focus on the critical issue of housing affordability in the remaining weeks of the election campaign. The Mayors met this morning in Toronto and toured the YWCA Elm Centre, the largest affordable housing project to be built in the city in the last decade.
"As the Mayors of Canada's largest cities we are key partners in the effort to provide safe, affordable housing for the people who need it most, but we can't do it alone," said host Mayor John Tory. "The YWCA Elm Centre is an example of what can happen when all levels of government work together. We need all three political parties to step up, do the right thing and make a real substantive commitment to help tackle Canada's affordable housing crisis."
The Bank of Canada says high housing prices and high levels of household debt are the greatest domestic threat to the economy. Mortgages make up more than two-thirds of household debt. The Mayors highlighted how the lack of affordable rental housing is further squeezing Canadian families and weighing down the economy. Cities across the country face record low vacancy rates and yet only one in ten new housing developments consist of rental units. They applauded recent commitments from federal leaders aimed at boosting the construction of new affordable rental housing. But they sounded the alarm over expiring operating agreements for social housing.
"We are facing a growing crisis in affordable housing across this country and its holding back Canadian families and the economy," said Vancouver mayor and chair of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' Big City Mayors Caucus, Gregor Robertson. "Nearly half a million social housing units will lose federal operating subsidies in the next 20 years. Many of our most vulnerable residents will lose the housing they rely on. Homelessness already costs Canadians $7 billion a year; all federal parties need to commit to a concrete plan for affordable housing across Canada."
While there was significant and welcome focus on investments in public transit and infrastructure at last week's leaders' debate on the economy, the Mayors stressed the need for a much more serious focus on housing as well. Mayors say they will use the remaining weeks of the campaign to pressure parties to highlight their plans to partner with cities on solving the housing crunch.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is the national voice of municipal government. In leading the municipal movement, FCM works to align federal and local priorities, recognizing that strong hometowns make for a strong Canada.