After more than three months of listening to the priorities of thousands of people across Kitchener Centre - be it at our neighbours’ doors, at kitchen conversations, meet and greets, or festivals - some shared priorities are becoming increasingly clear.
Towards the top of the list is the affordability of day-to-day life, punctuated most significantly by the cost of housing - whether renting or owning across the riding.
House prices have gone up 50% in just the past four years, while wages have stagnated. The result: a recent study found that for someone earning minimum wage in Kitchener, there is not a single one or two bedroom apartment that is affordable. As our community grows, many are being pushed further to the margins, one visible example being a tent city recently moved to Madison Ave from Mill Courtland.
There is lots of talk of addressing the crisis: most recently, in 2017 the federal government announced a federal housing strategy. But as of June of this year, the Parliamentary Budget Officer reported that the strategy falls well short and even slightly reduces targeted funding for households in core housing need.
The impact is cross-cutting: I’ve spoken with people across our community for whom housing consumes more than 90% of their income, leaving them little to put towards the rest of life. For some, this has led to addiction, and a further downward spiral. I’ve spoken with others who see affordable housing as a central roadblock for new Canadians moving to Kitchener. And for others, house prices remain a significant anxiety, including young people who wonder if they’ll ever be able to afford their own home, and parents who wonder whether they can help their kids get into the market at all.
Here’s where I stand: Every person in our community deserves a dignified, supportive and affordable place to call home, in neighbourhoods that bring together a diverse mix of people, commercial, and public spaces.
And we must take decisive and sustained action to bring this aspiration to life, with solutions that address our housing crisis over the long term.
Housing affordability is already in the Green Party’s vision. There are several policy options including adding supply incentives, regulation, or providing people with financial assistance, and the net new budget required can come from a mix of closing corporate tax loopholes, ending federal fossil fuel subsidies, or in the costs avoided to our health care, judicial and social service systems.
While a full policy roadmap is forthcoming, today I’d like to affirm what I’ve heard from people across our community - that affordability of day-to-day life is a key priority.
And I commit to you: Should I have the honour of representing Kitchener Centre in Parliament, housing affordability is a priority I will work hard on, respectfully, and across party lines, to make progress for people across our community, and across the country.
This kind of change addresses the root cause of so many challenges our neighbours face.
And it’s one example of change that puts people first.