Housing is a Human Right
May 27, 2021
Housing is a Human Right
Housing is a human right and must be a top priority for all levels of government in Canada. Lack of affordable housing supply is the key issue. I will push the federal NDP to go beyond the 500,000 affordable housing units promised in our 2019 election platform. I will advocate for the $22 million in federal affordable housing funding that the City of Kingston has called for. We require a National Housing is a Human Right Strategy, driven by the voices and needs of homeless and vulnerable citizens, prioritizing a shift to the zero emission homes, accessible to everyone.
Where are we at and how did we get here?
Homeless encampments will grow again in Kingston as the summer arrives. These encampments develop out of necessity, a need for community, and in search of safety. The federal government should ban encampment evictions across the country immediately. As stated in a UN special report on Encampments in Canada:
Ultimately, encampments are a reflection of the Canadian government’s failure to successfully implement the right to adequate housing.
The crisis grew worse when the Chrétien/Martin Liberals downloaded funding for non-profit housing to the provinces in the 1990s. In Ontario, Mike Harris’s provincial government further downloaded housing to municipalities (who do not have the tax revenue to support this responsibility), while simultaneously cutting funds to mental health and addiction services, pushing many onto the streets. The statistics are staggering:
- One third of Canadians are renters, and it is estimated that almost 1 in 5 Canadians spend 30% of their household incomes on shelter costs. This may be as high as 40-50% for households in Kingston earning less than $30,000 per year. This causes stress and tough decisions between paying rent vs. buying groceries.
- More than 235,000 people in Canada experience homelessness each year, including an estimated 800+ people in Kingston, with an average of 182 people each night in 2018, as stated in a recent report.
- Indigenous people, veterans, racialized people, youth, people suffering with addictions and mental health are the most vulnerable.
One recent study on homelessness in Kingston gives us a sense of the indignity and discrimination experienced by a person living on the street here, in their own words,
Being homeless… You’re restricted because of the way you look. You’re on the street. You don’t have a place. Doors are shut. People just shun you and everything else…
What can we do about it?
The Liberals and Conservatives have neglected this crisis for far too long. We can start by following the United Nations recommendation and immediately banning evictions from homeless encampments. This is just a beginning – durable solutions are essential. To create more affordable housing, the NDP has a 10 year plan to invest $14 billion (during the first 5 years) in 500,000 new units across Canada, including fast-tracking funds to municipalities. I will work hard to advocate for more. These funds need to focus on supporting municipal projects; increasing community, affordable housing and co-op capacity; and on the urgency of zero emissions building to respond to climate change. New builds will create thousands of green jobs in communities and help Canadians find affordable homes. These policies ought to be paired with speculation taxes to limit the impacts of investors who do not rent or occupy buildings, thus driving up housing costs; as well as the extension of first-time mortgage terms to 30 years, to help new buyers afford their monthly payments.
Until Canada implements national solutions to dramatically reduce homelessness and increase access to affordable housing for everyone, we can never think of ourselves as a nation that prioritizes justice for all.
A New Deal for People: New Democrats Commitments to You, September 2019, https://action.ndp.ca/page/-/2019/Q2/2019-06-19_Commitments-Doc_EN.pdf
A National Protocol for Homeless Encampments in Canada: A Human Rights Approach, Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, April 2020, https://www.make-the-shift.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/A-National-Protocol-for-Homeless-Encampments-in-Canada.pdf
Core Housing Need, 2016 Census, Statistics Canada, November 2017, https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/dp-pd/chn-biml/index-eng.cfm
A Foundation for the Public Good: Recommendations to Increase Kingston’s Housing Supply for All, City of Kingston Mayor’s Task Force on Housing, February 2020, https://www.cityofkingston.ca/documents/10180/33838002/MTFH_Recommendation_Report_2020_2_26.pdf/94f30134-cd0d-161a-117f-317e73efc513?t=1582817514977
Beyond Surviving: Identifying how to support individuals living with mental illness and/or substance use difficulties to thrive following homelessness in Kingston, Ontario, Transition from Homelessness Project Kingston Site Report, March 2021, https://www.homelesshub.ca/resource/beyond%C2%A0surviving%C2%A0identifying-how-support-individuals-living-mental-illness-andor-substance
The State of Homelessness in Canada 2016, Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, 2016, https://homelesshub.ca/sites/default/files/SOHC16_final_20Oct2016.pdf
“Experience of healthcare among the homeless and vulnerably housed a qualitative study: opportunities for equity-oriented health care”, International Journal for Equity in Health, Eva Purkey and Meredith MacKenzie, July 2019, https://equityhealthj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12939-019-1004-4
Zero Emissions Building, 350 Kingston Speaker Series, Greg Allen, April 2021, https://world.350.org/kingston/zero-emission-buildings/