Poverty activists lament defeat of NDP's Bill C-400 housing proposal

Bill C-400 proposed a national housing strategy that would have required the government to plan adequate, accessible and affordable housing.

Hamilton’s poverty activists say they are disappointed by the defeat of a bill proposing a national housing strategy.

Wednesday evening the House of Commons defeated Bill C-400, which urged the Canadian government to draw up a plan to ensure all citizens are guaranteed adequate, affordable and accessible housing.

NDP Member of Parliament Marie-Claude Morin first introduced the private member’s bill in 2012, but it was not looked at for a second reading until Wednesday.

'If you don’t have a decent place to live, you’re always looking for that better place that’s going to provide you with that stability.'—Alan Whittle,Good Shepherd Centre

Tom Cooper, director of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, said Canada is the only country in the G8 group of industrialized nations that lacks a national housing strategy.

Cooper added that the federal government needs to start thinking more comprehensively about the needs of Canadians in terms of housing.

"It’s desperately needed on a national level," said Cooper. "It’s needed here in Hamilton because there are about 3,700 people who fall into situations of homelessness every year and stay in a shelter. We know there’s a huge waiting list for social housing. We know lots of people are at risk of becoming homeless."

Reneé Wetselaar, project director for the Affordable Housing Flagship, echoed Cooper’s sentiments and said Hamilton is already struggling to provide housing solutions for its citizens.

"We have almost 6,000 people on the wait list for social housing in Hamilton, and that wait list isn’t getting any smaller," said Wetselaar.

She also said the current federal government is not concerned with affordable housing.

"I think the Harper government is taking a big step back for Canadians by voting it down," said Wetselaar. "It’s very disappointing and short-sighted."

Opponents said they were concerned about the potential cost of Bill C-400, but a private member's bill cannot commit the federal government to spend money.

Director of community relations and planning for the Good Shepherd organization, Alan Whittle, said the idea of a national housing strategy is about more than just housing.

"If you don’t have a decent place to live, you’re always looking for that better place that’s going to provide you with that stability," said Whittle.

The final vote on the bill was 129 voting for it and 153 voting against it. It was opposed by every Conservative Member of Parliament, including Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale MP David Sweet, who was not immediately available for comment.