Gamechangers

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Trudeau ‘mirage’ housing plan continues affordability crisis: NDP housing critic

The Trudeau Liberals’ housing plan has invested less than the previous Harper government and is driving a continued housing affordability crisis, NDP housing critic Sheri Benson told Gamechangers in an interview.

The Liberals have tossed out big numbers — at first $40 billion, later upgraded to $55 billion — for their National Housing Strategy.

But a mid-July report from the Parliamentary Budget Office not only contradicted Liberal claims of eye-popping investments, but showed housing investments falling under the Liberals, says Benson.

PBO report contradicts Liberal housing claims

PODCAST: Liberals’ big numbers disappear up close.

“The crisis is real for a lot of Canadians today,” says Benson, pointing at homeless and increasingly unaffordable rents. “We have 1.75 million people who are in housing need in this country. We can’t dribble-out funds over ten years.”

“What we see today, the crisis in housing, is directly related to those government policies.”

READ: Experts question funding levels, rollout of federal housing announcements

The PBO report showed that, compared to the Harper years, the Trudeau government is spending only slightly more. “It’s actually a reduction,” says Benson, when the impact of inflation is included. And neither the Liberals or the PBO have factored for population growth or increasing need.

“When you look further into the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s report, we find out the (Liberal) program is actually, on average per year, spending less than we were investing in affordable housing prior to 2015,” says Benson.

“And then we find out we don’t get to that amount of investment — that’s an average investment — we don’t actually get to a yearly investment of $2.8 billion until the end of a 10 year plan.”

Liberals made small numbers “look bigger and bigger”

While the Liberals’ biggest planned annual investment is only $2.8 billion, the Liberals National Housing Strategy was “trying to make this number look bigger and bigger,” says Benson.

The Liberals’ got to their $40 billion tagline number by larding in all projected provincial investment until 2029 and adding it to their federal numbers for the next 10 years. Much of the provincial contributions were committed before the Liberals’ plan. Other amounts haven’t been committed to yet.

“I have no problem with adding up other people around the table,” says Benson. “But you have to make sure those agreements are signed, sealed and delivered and in fact provinces are going to contribute.”

“The Liberals are building that over 10 years and really counting on provinces cough up a lot more — and I don’t if that’s going to happen. So, a lot or question marks there, a lot of talk, not a lot of action.”

Later, the questionable $40 billion claim was increased to $55 billion by including CMHC loans and mortgages.

NDP plan will accelerate construction, says Benson

Benson says Singh’s New Democrats will ramp-up investment and project timelines to add more supply to the housing market, helping relieve price pressures.

“The New Democrat plan is to create 500,000 units over the next ten years — starting now, and building half of those units in a first term.”