Housing Minister Sean Fraser says the federal government should have never got out of the housing business even as high-income professionals are struggling to find affordable housing.
“For the better part of the last half century, federal governments of different partisan stripes, by the way, liberal and conservatives, have stepped away from forwarding affordable housing in this country,” he said. “That should never have happened, but it did.”
Fraser said now much of the country is dealing with a housing crunch that has no easy fixes.
He told media in Vancouver that past federal governments were mostly preoccupied with providing subsidized housing to low-income people, but there’s been a fundamental shift as working professionals struggle to afford a home.
“This is an absolutely incredible part of Canada, but it is dealing with an extraordinary problem,” Fraser said.
He said he saw a newspaper headline about how an average one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver now costs $3,000 a month, and he struggled to understand how a senior on a fixed income or a student paying back loans could afford such prices.
He said he couldn’t pinpoint a reasonable price for a one-bedroom because people come from varied circumstances, but said people shouldn’t have to pay more than 30 per cent of their income for a home.
“If you work in Canada, you should be able to afford a place to call home,” he said.
Building transit and housing near it, he said, will give people the opportunity to live and work in their communities.
Fraser said it’s important for housing to be built for people across the income spectrum, and his government is looking at ways to speed up construction of housing through subsidies and other incentives.
Fraser said he believes bringing more rentals to the market will drive prices down, but concedes Canadian home prices are subject to many market forces that make them difficult to predict.
“Right now we want to bring down the cost of living. That includes bringing down the cost of rent for people by building more purpose-built rental construction right across the country,” he said. “If you are a person who is willing to work in this country, it’s unacceptable that you can’t afford a place to live in the community you call home.”