Federal advocate calls for urgent action to address housing crisis

Her calls aligned with office's recommendations

Federal advocate calls for urgent action to address housing crisis

Canada’s housing affordability crisis is exacerbated by the increasing “financialization” of the rental market, warns federal housing advocate Marie-Josée Houle.

Houle addressed the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance this week, highlighting that 20% to 30% of Canada’s rental housing stock is now in the hands of institutional investors.

“First of all, the financialization of housing and the negative effects (must be dealt with). And the government must address that situation,” said Houle. “Secondly, the protection of renters must be a priority. And finally, the government must invest in increasing housing availability across the market.”

Calling for measures to protect renters

According to Houle, the root of the problem lies in the pursuit of maximizing returns for shareholders by large institutional investors, a trend that has escalated since the 1990s. She urged the government to intervene by implementing financial regulations to curb the acquisition of buildings by such entities.

To safeguard renters, Houle proposed prioritizing renter protection measures and expanding housing availability across the market through government investment. She advocated for tax reforms to diminish the profitability of rental real estate and urged Ottawa to restrict banks from financing acquisitions reliant on excessive rent increases or evictions, according to Global News.

The report said Houle’s testimony coincided with the release of a report by her office, advocating for the creation of a National Encampments Response Plan to address chronic homelessness.

Houle emphasized that homelessness is a national crisis affecting even remote regions, necessitating a coordinated response from the federal government. She also notes the ineffectiveness of forced evictions and stresses the need for a comprehensive approach to homelessness beyond shelters, as well as highlighting the importance of non-market housing.

“It’s really important to consider the role of non-market housing. Only 4% of the rentals in Canada are non-market and they are valuable,” said Houle.

Having briefed Housing Minister Sean Fraser and Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu on the report’s findings, Houle urged the federal government to establish a National Encampments Response Plan by August 31. She highlighted the fragmented responses to homelessness across the country and called for unified action led by the federal government.

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