CAMPBELL RIVER, B.C. — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says, if elected, he would offer annual rent subsidies of up to $5,000 to provide immediate help for families struggling to pay for housing.
The NDP says the rental benefit would cost the federal treasury $1.35 billion per year and another $450 million from the provinces beginning next year.
Speaking to reporters Thursday on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, Singh repeated that a New Democrat government would build half-a-million new affordable houses across the country over the next decade.
But he said people need help right now, so the NDP is also promising to provide a rent subsidy for nearly 500,000 families.
“This will make the difference for families that are unable to pay their bills, for families that are making a tough choice between do they pay for their groceries or do they pay rent,” Singh said at a construction site in the community of Campbell River.
“These are difficult choices that families are making — far too difficult for far too many families — and we’ll put an end to that.”
So far, political parties have been trying to win over voters by piling up promises they insist will improve affordability. Within this policy area, candidates have focused, in particular, on housing and home ownership.
Singh said there’s a “massive” housing crisis across Canada and that it’s not just a problem in big cities. He stressed that it’s also a major concern in smaller communities such as Campbell River.
Roughly one-third of households, or 4.7 million, are renters and the New Democrats say one-fifth of Canadians spend more than half of their incomes on rent and utilities.
In its platform, the NDP says it would build 500,000 quality, affordable housing units over the next 10 years — and it promises half of them will be constructed within five years. To get it done, the party intends to work with provinces and municipalities.
The plan, the NDP says, will begin with $5 billion in additional federal funding in the first 18 months. The effort will help create thousands of jobs across the country, the platform says.
Liberal housing strategy
Under the Liberals, the federal government introduced a 10-year national housing strategy. A report earlier this year from the parliamentary budget officer said the strategy would result in 150,000 new affordable units, modernize 300,000 existing units and protect 385,000 community housing units.
Included in the strategy is a rental benefit launching next year that is similar to what Singh proposed Thursday, which would be attached to a household, rather than a social housing unit, so a family could carry the benefit with them into the private housing market.
The budget officer estimated its average value at $3,000, below the average benefit the NDP are proposing. The supplement would cover 300,000 households once spending fully ramps up in eight years, and require provinces to match federal spending.
An NDP spokeswoman said the party would ask provinces that have already agreed to put money towards the new rental benefit to simply spend the $450 million next year, rather than wait until 2027. Federal spending would also hit $1.35 billion next year on the benefit, instead of the $88 million estimated by the parliamentary budget office.
Singh’s stop in Campbell River was one of several campaign events Thursday on Vancouver Island. He was also due to visit Courtenay, Parksville and Nanaimo.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2019.