November 22nd is National Housing Day. Canada is the only G8 country without a national housing strategy. In Winnipeg, about 2000 people have no fixed address. The city’s Right to Housing Coalition hopes to raise awareness about the state of affordable housing in Canada. Clark Brownlee is the coordinator for Right to Housing. He spoke with Terry MacLeod.
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On May 25, the Right to Housing Coalition co-hosted a day of action to celebrate social housing in Manitoba and across the country. The event was held in part of a Canada-wide Defend Our Social Housing weekend of action, organized in conjunction with the Red Tent Campaign.
The event was well attended by community members and key decision makers, and helped draw much needed attention to the importance of federally-supported social housing.
Follow the links below for coverage of the day:
Click here to see some great pictures from the day
Des militants se battent pour des logements abordables au Canada - coverage by Radio-Canada
Click here to view coverage by CTV Winnipeg: You can watch the news clip on the CTV News Video Player; it runs from 13:32 - 14:11 minutes of the newscast
The Red Tent Campaign works toward the common goal of a funded national housing strategy that will end homelessness and ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for all people living in Canada.
Occupy Winnipeg hosted the Red Tent Campaigners November 21 to 22, 2011. Red Tent day was recognized on the 22nd by a rally and walk with speakers talking about the need for more safe and accessible social housing.
The event symbolized the desired direction for federal funding for housing, social housing! This is juxtaposed with more and more federal funding for housing going to prisons and jails.
CLICK HERE to watch highlights from Red Tent Day in Winnipeg.
The Right to Housing’s rally on Tuesday was a qualified success. Our theme was very current, “Homes not Jails”, referencing Bill C-10 that will cost us all a lot of money for little or no benefit. The National Housing Day events served two key purposes: 1) to rally our own supporters and celebrate our freedom to do it together in solidarity; and 2) to bring the issues of Canada’s housing shortage to the attention of the general population.
The rally ran very smoothly. The speakers were excellent. The weather was sunny and mild. The police escort was friendly and cooperative. Thank you to all the supporters, organizers, and everyone who came out, and all of those who wanted to but were unable.
Visit the Red Tent Campaign website to learn about National Housing Day events held across Canada.
Follow the links below to access National Housing Day media coverage from across Canada
- Houses Verses Jails, Uptown Magazine
- Radio Canada - Manitoba (Francais)
- Spotlighting Regina homelessness, Leader-Post
- Regina voices added to Red Tent movement, Leader-Post
“Housing in Crisis - City’s Blowing a Chance for Growth:” Bartley Kives (June 6, 2011)
In a recent Winnipeg Free Press article, Bartley Kives cites the lack of apartment buildings and the excess of condo conversions as the main contributors to Winnipeg’s shortage of affordable housing.
“It’s been said many times, but this amounts to a housing crisis. Many people moving to Winnipeg cannot find a place to live and many people of modest means who already live here can’t afford to remain, if they have to move, for any reason.”
At the end of this cogent and articulate article, Kives concludes by suggesting that the federal government enact a tax incentive for apartment developers, the province should look beyond rent controls to solve the problem, and that the city needs to recognize the correlation between affordable housing and crime.
The Red Tent Campaign Day of Action in Winnipeg was a huge success. We had over 100 people join us on the march to IRCOM House, and three federal parties represented at our post-march press conference. We are happy to report that the event drew a notable amount of attention from local and national media sources. Follow the links below to read some of the media coverage.
Rent controls absolved
Winnipeg Free Press
Letter to the Editor
Re: Rent controls absolved Feb. 15 2011, (condo conversion, not so much)
It was good to see a reputable report on the impact of rent regulation on the apartment vacancy rate in Manitoba. A quick read of Professor Grant’s report confirms what Right to Housing has been saying for some time, that rent regulation in Manitoba has ample latitude for rent increases for new construction, high end apartments and needed renovations. It is not the cause of the vacancy squeeze. The report indicates that the major cause of the short supply of affordable rentals is the influx of new Canadians. While this is indeed a factor, there was no mention of the cumulative effect of repressive taxation by Revenue Canada on the construction of rental accommodation. This trend to penalize new construction started in 1972 and has been increasing over the decades causing a huge decline in the supply of affordable rentals in Canada, (from 100,000 new builds per year in 1970 to just 5000 by the late nineties). This has been a largely ignored factor in the market failure of affordable rental housing across the country.
Regarding the conversion of rental apartments to condos the report minimizes this trend. It is true that the data indicates about 200 such conversions per year for the last two years in Winnipeg, following much higher rates of conversion earlier, however when ever affordable housing is removed from the market and returned at a price beyond the means of the original renter, we have displacement of the most vulnerable people. Between 1992 and 2009 Winnipeg’s private rental stock declined by 5473 units due to conversions to condos. So while 200 condo conversions a year may not seem statistically significant it means that 200 modest income households are trying to relocate in a market with 0.8% vacancy rate. When added to the hundreds of former social housing units that are now forced to charge market rent as they are no longer being subsidized due the expiry of federal operating grants, and the increased rents due to renovations, it creates the crisis of housing we are experiencing. The government of Manitoba needs to include condo conversion regulations in its current revisions to the Condominium Act. Other provinces have already done this. The bottom line is that by glossing over the real issues in housing we are creating homelessness faster than our efforts to eliminate it.
Right to Housing Coalition
Letter to the Editor
Winnipeg Free Press – Online Edition, November 17, 2010.
New condo project highlights housing needs. Province’s rent control policy hampering development
I read with interest you article regarding the new condominium project in St. James. I agree with you wholeheartedly that Winnipeg is in short supply of housing options. The Right to Housing Coalition is very concerned about the extremely low vacancy rate in Winnipeg and the lack of development sufficient to meet the demand.
I would like to point out however that the assessment that Manitoba’s rent regulations are the main problem is inaccurate. While rent regulation in its pure form can act as a deterrent to development, Manitoba’s regulatory framework is a less restrictive form of rent control (also known as second-generation rent controls) that has little impact on new development. In fact new rental developments are exempt from rent regulations for a period of 20 years. Several other exemptions also exist to ensure that regulations do not deter development and rehabilitation. Developers who have been actively building rental units in Manitoba have not been deterred from building as a result of rent controls. For example, Broadstreet Properties Ltd. have built upward of 1000 new rental unit in Winnipeg in the past 10 years and they are on record as saying that rent controls have not been the major challenge for them.
While rent controls are often cited as the main problem for new development, a recent study by the University Of Calgary School Of Public Policy shows that many factors have contributed to a growing problem that is being experienced in urban centres across the country including both regulated and unregulated.
The U of C report actually includes second generation rent controls as one tool among many in their prescription for keeping rental housing affordable. It also includes several other measures that better respond to the main problems— increasing construction costs and unfavorable federal tax laws which were implemented in the late 1970’s and 1980s after which time we saw a sharp decline in the development of rental properties because it became less profitable.
The Right to Housing Coalition is a broad coalition of individuals and groups who are concerned with the lack of affordable housing options you describe. We have come to understand that the issue is a complicated one that will require a variety public policy measures to stimulate the development of supply. We encourage multiple interventions, including amendments to federal tax laws to make development profitable. I encourage you to look at some of the recent analysis of the very critical housing situation across our country. In doing so I believe you will come to a similar conclusion that there are much bigger obstacles to rental development than rent regulation and we might be better to focus our energy on
federal tax laws rather than the abolition of rent regulation, a solution that has not solved the problem in other jurisdictions.
Coordinator, Right to Housing Coalition, Manitoba
Right to Housing and the Federal Government:
Chronology of correspondence on Kapyong’s empty housing.
February 25, 2006: R2H writes to MP Vic Toews, asking for his support, as well as that of Prime Minister Harper, in making use of empty Kapyong homes. No reply from Mr. Toews.
November, 2007: R2H meets with MP Rod Bruinooge with a plan to use empty Kapyong houses while the government resolves the land issues. R2H followed up with letter indicating the Province’s support for the plan with rental subsidies and the need for a further meeting to advance this plan. No reply was received.
March 26, 2008: A delegation from St. Peter’s Anglican Church and St. Mark’s Lutheran Church meet with Mr. Bruinooge, contending that if there was no federal money to move Kapyong houses to First Nations communities, then they should be occupied.
MP Bruinooge said to expect the relocation effort to begin “within a couple of months.”
April 21, 2008: A similar delegation from St. Peter’s Anglican and Messiah Lutheran met with MP Steven Fletcher. Mr. Fletcher blamed the First Nations court case and the indecision of the city of Winnipeg re: widening Kenaston Blvd. for the non-use of the homes. The delegation pointed out that many of the empty homes were located on streets other than Kenaston, including the homes on Carpathia. Mr. Fletcher said that some of the homes would be used “soon”.
April, 2009. As the senior conservative MP from Manitoba, R2H called Mr. Toews’ Steinbach constituency office to ask for a meeting at the Winnipeg federal cabinet office. The staff person in Steinbach said the Winnipeg office is not open to the public.
May 8, 2009: R2H wrote to Mr. Toews requesting a May or June meeting to review the issues that are preventing the use of the Kapyong houses and present the R2H plan. No response from Mr. Toews.
October 9, 2009: With the federal court’s decision that Ottawa had failed to properly consult the Treaty One First Nations before transferring Kapyong to Canada Lands, chances are good the houses will remain empty unless the Government of Canada shows courage and leadership by proceeding with R2H’s plan to put them to good use. R2H wrote to Mr. Toews, following up on our email of September 30, requesting a meeting to ask for Mr. Toews’ assistance in implementing the R2H plan for the interim use of some of the empty houses on the Kapyong base. There has been no reply from Mr. Toews.
Media Release - For Immediate Release
Families homeless; Kapyong houses still empty — Right to Housing wants to know why.
Winnipeg, MB November 18, 2009-
Right to Housing Coalition will hold informational pickets to draw attention to the more than 100 empty Kapyong houses that have remained empty for the past five years, while being maintained at a total cost of $7.5 million to taxpayers.
* One picket will take place at the former Kapyong Barracks site, corner of Kenaston and Corydon at 3:30 on Friday, November 20th.
* A second informational picket will be held in Steinbach at 1pm on Friday, November 20th, and will involve a visit to the office of Vic Toews, MP, Provencher, to ask him why he has refused to respond to the Coalition’s ongoing requests to address this issue. (See Chronology)
The Coalition wants taxpayers to know that, while the Canadian Forces housing remains empty, the houses continue to be heated and maintained, at a cost of about $1.5 million per year (based on heat, upkeep, security and lost rent). The cost of losing them due to deterioration could be over $15 million.
At the same time taxpayers are paying to heat these empty houses, there is a critical shortage of low-cost housing for families in the city.
This situation has been brought to the attention of Minister Toews on a number of occasions. Minister Toews, President of the Treasury Board and senior minister in the federal government from Manitoba, has been asked to meet to discuss the Coalition’s proposal to allow a number of the empty houses to be used as transitional housing for eligible families. All the federal government has to do to provide a letter directing the empty houses be rented.
The Province of Manitoba has agreed to provide rent subsidies under existing provincial housing programs as soon as the houses become available.
Right to Housing is a Winnipeg-based coalition that brings together 36 organizations and over 120 individuals to address the chronic need for social housing.
For more information, please contact:
Ellen Kruger, Right to Housing Coalition