MP Richard Cannings says if the federal government doesn’t act now in B.C.’s housing crisis, there will be a lot more people homeless.

MP Richard Cannings says if the federal government doesn’t act now in B.C.’s housing crisis, there will be a lot more people homeless.

Opinion: Housing crisis will grow homeless population if feds don’t act now

Federal government abandoned affordable housing strategy in the 1990s

Canada is in the middle of a housing crisis, and the South Okanagan, Boundary and West Kootenay areas are very much in the middle of that crisis. This is an urgent and rapidly growing problem that demands the cooperation and priority of all levels of government.

The crisis has emerged out of a perfect storm of factors. Housing prices are through the roof—the average price of a single-family home in Penticton is over $800,000. Those prices have forced many young families to remain in the rental market and give up their dream of ever owning a home.

Because of that pressure, the rental market is filled to capacity. That is in turn exacerbated by the fact that some landlords are deciding to cash in on the real estate boom and sell their properties, resulting in evictions if the new owner has different plans for the house. Available rentals are now rare commodities; one recent ad offered a single room in a house with shared access to a bathroom and no access to a kitchen, for $1000/month. One family in Penticton were recently evicted after a house sale and found there were simply no rental units available. They had to start a GoFundMe page and use the money to buy an old RV.

The most vulnerable in this housing train-wreck are the those on income assistance and disability pensions, who simply cannot afford anything in the general rental market and must have subsidized options. For the first time ever, those options completely ran dry locally last week. So, if you are on income assistance or are disabled and you lose your existing home, you are literally homeless and on the street.

This unhoused population has been increasing for all the reasons listed above. Add in the opioid addiction crisis and you have an issue that is dividing communities around British Columbia and across the country. People see a rise in the number of people living on the street and assume that these people are attracted to Penticton, Grand Forks or Trail for any number of reasons. But this is happening in Kelowna, Kamloops, Prince George and other communities across Canada. Municipal governments are overwhelmed.

So what can governments do to fix this? Well, first, they must cooperate at all levels to find immediate housing solutions for those people who have no homes. This means innovative ideas that keep neighbourhood concerns in mind while remembering that most of these people simply need a roof over their heads. We need to provide meaningful supports for those suffering from addictions and offer solutions to neighbourhoods worried about security.

Federally, the NDP has a plan to build 500,000 new affordable housing units over the next decade. This is designed to catch up on the needs lost over the past 30 years after the federal government abandoned its affordable housing strategy in the 1990s.

The federal government should also:

• encourage the construction of new affordable rental housing by waiving the federal portion of the GST/HST on construction costs.

• tackle the rampant money laundering that increases real estate speculation.

• stimulate the construction of co-op and non-profit social housing by establishing Quick Start Funds to streamline the application process.

Finally, reintroducing 30-year mortgages insured by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation for first-time homebuyers would allow for lower monthly payments, leaving more money in the pockets of families to make ends meet.

The bottom line is that we must all act quickly to turn this crisis around. Forcing people to live on the streets is not the answer, whether they are young workers with no place to rent, people with disabilities who can’t afford to rent a suite even if they could find one, or people with mental illness and addiction challenges that have very difficult housing options. In a country as wealthy as Canada, everyone deserves to have a roof over their heads.

To contact me about this or any other issue, please email me at or call 250-770-4480 (Penticton) or 250-365-2792 (Castlegar).

READ MORE: Housing crunch puts Penticton family on the brink of homelessness

Just Posted

Jaimee Peters photo of a Willow Midwives helping with a birth. Willow closed its doors March 31 because of a shortage of midwives. (Contributed)
South Okanagan’s only midwifery to re-open this summer

Willow Community Midwives was forced to close because of a shortage of midwives

This parking on the east side of Martin Street will be removed permanently Monday morning (June 21, 2021) to put in the Lake to Lake bike lane. (City of Penticton)
Parking removed permanently to make way for bike lane in downtown Penticton

Work begins Monday morning to replace parking spots with bike lane on Martin Street

Gord Portman getting ready for the Father’s Day dunk tank fundraiser for Discovery House. So far Portman has raised $3,000. (Facebook)
Penticton man takes the plunge for recovery house that helped save his life

Gord Portman said Discovery House and Pathways have been everything in his 1 year sobriety

Summerland cidery Millionaires' Row is hosting a Father's Day car and art show. (Facebook)
Vintage cars, art and cider for Father’s Day

Summerland’s Millionaires’ Row Cider Co. is hosting the car and art show

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

Most Read