June 17, 2013
Premier Greg Selinger
Manitoba Legislative Buildings
450 Broadway Ave.
Dear Premier Selinger:
On behalf of the Right to Housing Coalition, I am sending our response to your government’s recent budget. First, may we say again that we appreciate that your government is on schedule to meet your 2009 commitment of providing 1500 affordable and 1500 rent-geared-to-income housing units by 2014. We also commend the government for its commitment to another 500 affordable and 500 rent-geared-to-income units over the next two years. These commitments are in spite of declining to meager support from other levels of government. However, your government’s commitments will not meet the huge need for low income housing units required in the province. We know that in 2012, Manitoba had close to 16,000 newcomers many of whom were not able to secure safe and affordable housing that met their unique family’s needs. Newcomers to the province are in addition to the roughly 30% of renters that are in core housing need.
We recently participated in the Consultation Sessions concerning “All Aboard: Manitoba’s Poverty Reduction and Social Inclusion Strategy.” These programs are all doing good work that chip away at the effects of poverty in our communities. However, the goal should be the elimination of poverty. One hundred and forty-five community organizations who represent a variety of sectors recently worked very hard to convey to your government their consensus that raising the shelter allowance for people on Income and Employment Assistance to 75% of median market rents was one big step your government could take to help ameliorate poverty. The budget’s response was very disappointing, and grossly inadequate. This decision to ignore the request for a long-overdue increase in the EIA rent allowance was particularly troubling, in light of your plan to erode Manitoba’s revenue base through the gradual elimination of the education tax for seniors. We are extremely disappointed with that decision. Most of us WANT to pay our fair share of education taxes, in the same way that we all pay taxes towards health care. This is part of our commitment to helping to maintain a civilized society. Our income tax system is structured so that those with higher incomes pay higher taxes – as it should be.
While we are not opposed to tax relief for low-income seniors, the gradual move to remove all seniors, regardless of income and wealth, from contributing to the education of younger generations is deeply concerning. The government estimates that the initial phase will cost it $20 million annually in lost revenue with an increase to $50 million when fully implemented. We see no logical explanation for this move, especially since your government asserts an inability to increase the income of Manitoba’s poorest – EIA recipients.
We accept that due to the slowing economy and costs due to flooding, it is difficult to meet all of the important needs of Manitobans. We agree that there is a need to increase revenue through taxation and we support the 1% increase in PST in principle. However, we are also aware that taxing consumption is less progressive than taxing income and that low income Manitobans will be hit the hardest. We would prefer that the Province look at other revenue sources, such as increasing the income-tax rate for higher income earners.
We applaud the Department of Housing and Community Development for offering incentives to developers to include affordable housing units in some developments by offering an 8% tax rebate on construction costs. However, we maintain that the developers should have to keep the rents affordable for a minimum of 10 years, as the subsidy is quite generous and they are only required to make 10% of the units affordable.
Thank you for attention to our concerns.
Kerri Irvin Ross, Minister of Housing and Community Development
Peter Bjornson, Minister of Entrepreneurship Training and Trade
Stan Struthers, Minister of Finance
Joy Cramer, Deputy Minister of Housing and Community Development