Gov't solutions should focus more on Western Canada – economist

Some regions are hit by the affordability crisis harder than others

Gov't solutions should focus more on Western Canada – economist

The Canadian government should focus its energies on a tailored approach that would address the housing affordability crisis on a province-to-province basis, according to Prof. Ronald Kneebone of the University of Calgary’s Department of Economics.

Kneebone argued that since rental housing data from the CMHC indicate that affordability concerns are much more obvious in Western Canada and Ontario compared to other areas, it makes more sense to allot a proportionally greater amount of resources to the problem regions.

“If it’s east of Toronto, there really is no affordable housing crisis and the government shouldn’t be wasting money on providing income or housing supports in province’s like Quebec of the Atlantic provinces. They should dedicate all that money in Ontario and out west,” Kneebone told CityNews Edmonton.

Moreover, Quebec is defraying rental costs by increasing social support payments, which has made pumping large sums of federal money into a supposed problem superfluous at best. Last year alone, Quebec received $11.732 billion in equalization payments.

“There’s a cultural norm in Quebec that renting is not viewed as something usual, whereas in other parts of the country, a lot of families aspire to having a house in the suburbs. Quebec also has a pretty stringent rent control system in place that keeps housing costs down,” Kneebone explained.

“The government will have a certain limited amount of money to invest in this problem and if they are using it to deal with housing affordability in Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces, then they are just wasting money.”

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The comments came in the wake of remarks made by the federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, who said that Ottawa’s housing strategy will ensure that every province enjoys funding.

“It’s true that the context is different, but the needs are found everywhere,” Jean-Yves Duclos stated.

“We need to partner with local organizations, municipalities and provinces to make those investments as effective as they can be. If we look at the national housing strategy, how it works — that’s exactly what it does. It aligns the investments with the specific conditions and needs of communities.”