British Columbia

Election 2015: B.C. candidates talk housing, affordability

Candidates from all four major parties running in B.C. in the 2015 federal election stopped by On The Coast to talk about where they stand on housing issues like affordability, renting, buying a home, foreign owners and more.

Elizabeth May, Jenny Kwan, Joyce Murray and Andrew Saxton talk about a key issue for many in B.C.

With real estate prices sky-rocketing and vacancy rates at around 0.5 per cent, what can be done at the federal level to stop people from being priced out of Vancouver or other cities in the province? (Julie Gordon/Reuters)

Housing is an important issue for many people in B.C., and with the 2015 election in full swing, the federal parties are staking out their positions on the issue.

Over the past week, On The Coast welcomed candidates from all four of the major parties to talk about where they stand on housing, and in particular, what they would do to help homeowners — or aspiring homeowners — and renters.

Here are some condensed highlights from those interviews.

Green Party: Elizabeth May

Green Party leader Elizabeth May said her party was committed to ending poverty and homeless in Canada, and said she would do that with a guaranteed minimum income for all Canadians, as well as with more social housing.

When asked about the cost of her plan, May said her party would release their budget after Labour Day, but said eliminating poverty would save the government money.

"Poverty is expensive. Having people who don't have access to a livable income is a drain on our health care system. People living in poverty are much more likely to be ensnared in the criminal justice system," she said.

May also pledged to reform the tax system to encourage developers to build more market rental housing and said new developments should be required to keep some units below market prices.

New Democratic Party: Jenny Kwan

Jenny Kwan, NDP candidate for Vancouver East, said her party would invest $2.7 billion in affordable and co-op housing over the next four years and encourage the construction of 10,000 new affordable housing units.

She said an NDP government would bring back a national housing strategy, which hasn't existed since 1993.

"If that program was not cancelled, and the federal dollars kept up for social housing and co-op housing, we would have at least half a million additional units of affordable or co-op housing," she said.

When it comes to helping people who want to buy a home, Kwan said the government needs more information about foreign investors, and whether or not people who own a second home are paying the capital gains taxes they should be.

Liberal Party: Joyce Murray

Joyce Murray is the Member of Parliament for Vancouver Quadra, and she said a Liberal government would double what the Conservatives are spending on infrastructure, and one third of that would be "social infrastructure" such as affordable housing.

She also defended her party's past record with affordable housing after the CBC's Stephen Quinn brought up the fact that it was a Liberal government in the early 1990s that cancelled Canada's national housing strategy.

"Canada was heading in the direction of Greece, so the government of the day had to eliminate 20 years of consecutive deficits and get Canada back in the black, which is what Mr. Chretien and Mr. Martin did," she said.

"That's one of the reasons Canada's in a decent position in terms of debt-to-GDP despite mismanagement over the last 10 years."

Murray said the Liberals' plan to spend more on infrastructure would kick-start the economy and create jobs.

Conservative Party: Andrew Saxton

Member of Parliament for North Vancouver Andrew Saxton said the Conservatives would start collecting data on foreign home owners and establish a home renovation tax credit.

He said home ownership is part of the "Canadian Dream," and to make Canadians better able to achieve that dream, the Conservatives have increased the amount of money people can take out of their RRSP for a down payment and also established a tax break for first-time home buyers.

"In Budget 2015 we've invested $1.7 billion in social housing," he said. "We want to increase the housing stock so young Canadians are first of all, able to afford a down payment, and secondly able to buy and own their own home."

When asked if a re-elected Conservative government would get back into the business of creating purpose-built rental housing, Saxton said decisions on issues like incentives for those buildings need to be made at the municipal and provincial level.

The interviews in this story are only highlights. To hear the full interviews, click on the audio files above.


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