Housing Crisis Deepens

Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and his Minister of Photo Ops are under fire as the country's housing crisis continues to worsen. The Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Melissa Lantsman, has shared alarming stats on the state of the crisis, particularly in Winnipeg, after eight years of Trudeau's leadership.

According to Lantsman, "Eight years after Trudeau promised to lower the price of housing, rents, and mortgages in Canada have doubled, and middle-class Canadians are forced to live in tent encampments in nearly every city across Canada."

Trudeau recently announced a billion-dollar photo op, which Lantsman argues will not result in a single additional home being built in Canada. Lantsman's statement comes after the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) confirmed that Trudeau's policies are making things worse, resulting in fewer housing starts, less affordable housing, and higher rents.

Trudeau's photo ops won't come close to building the 5.8 million homes needed to restore housing affordability for Canadians. Lantsman believes the solution is to "fire the gatekeepers and remove the bureaucracy to build the homes Canadians can afford."

The Royal Bank of Canada's Housing Affordability report revealed that it now takes 63.5% of income to buy an average-priced home in Canada, compared to 39.3% in 2015. The report further indicated that the aggregate measure last quarter rose to its worst level (32.8%) in more than 30 years, referring to the median pre-tax household income required to cover housing ownership costs.

The Canadian Real Estate Association also reported that the benchmark home price has increased from $254,100 in October 2015 to $345,100 today, an increase of 35%. This increase has added an extra $91,000 to the average home price, putting further pressure on the people of Manitoba.

Rentals.ca reported that the average asking two-bedroom rent in Thompson increased from $1,254 in January 2019 to $1,760 in February 2024. This increase represents a 40% surge in just five years. The average rent for a two-bedroom unit in Canada was $2,350 in February, while rents for all unit types increased by 10.5% year-over-year, reaching $2,193. Since 2015, the average rent on a two-bedroom unit in Canada's largest cities has increased by 97%, from $1,172 to $2,308.

The NDP's budget for 2024 in Manitoba has also come under fire. Opponents argue that property taxes are increasing by $150 million, and the NDP is borrowing $6.2 billion in new loans while adding $1.9 billion in net new debt. This budget will result in interest payments of 10 cents on every dollar. Infrastructure spending has been slashed by $163 million, and new school construction has been reduced by $100 million. This decision means that nine school projects are canceled, and over 660 daycare spaces are lost.

Policing and justice have been defunded by $9 million, including cuts to provincial police, victim services, and court systems. Lantsman expressed concern over the budget's impact on food banks, noting that "Manitoba food banks faced record demand in 2023, with November seeing a record 51,000 people served across the province. Over 40% of people accessing the food bank are employed, which is 66% more than in 2022." She further added, "In Manitoba, we're seeing as well those record numbers, with 50,000 food banks visits in that same month, including 20,000 children."

Official Opposition Leader Wayne Ewasko believes that Manitobans will pay more and get less in 2024 as the NDP's first budget raises taxes, drives up debt, cuts frontline services and infrastructure, defunds public safety, and offers no vision for Manitoba's economy or future. Ewasko has criticized the NDP for failing to meet the needs and expectations of Manitobans, who are quickly realizing that this new government is not as advertised.

Ewasko argues that "even with a billion dollars more in federal transfers, the NDP has brought in a budget that seems as though it was slapped together at the last minute. The NDP is not working for Manitobans because the NDP is not working at all. The time for deflection and distraction is over. The time for accountability is now."

The housing crisis in Canada remains a significant concern, with no clear solution on the horizon. While some politicians are pointing fingers at the current government, others are calling for the removal of bureaucracy and gatekeepers to build affordable homes. As the crisis continues to escalate, it remains to be seen if the government will take the necessary steps to address it.

~Matthias J. Johnson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Thompson Citizen. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Matthias Johnson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thompson Citizen