Ford City residents and leaders look to candidates for action on affordable housing
Windsor-Tecumseh candidates say housing affordability is top of mind for voters
Residents and leaders in Windsor's Ford City neighbourhood are looking to candidates in the Windsor-Tecumseh riding to take federal action to help address the issue of affordable housing.
Windsor-resident David Robinson — currently in the process of trying to rebuild his life in Ford City — knows the challenges first hand.
Just this week, Robinson was released from the Southwest Detention Centre. He's been clean for seven months, and has recently moved into Launch Pad, a recovery centre and "dry house" that helps people working stay clean.
Before his time in the corrections facility, Robinson was homeless, living underneath a trailer.
"There's just nowhere for anybody to go. The waiting list for people in this city is very, very long to get into affordable housing. Very long. And it's a struggle," Robinson said.
'It's no longer the cheap area'
Gillian Benoit Gonzalez, the resident engagement coordinator for Ford City Neighbourhood Renewal strategy, said she regularly speaks with individuals in the neighbourhood struggling to find housing that's affordable, safe and accessible.
"Before, this was the cheap area. It's no longer the cheap area," Gonzalez said.
She said new businesses in the area have helped revitalize the neighbourhood, but housing costs have risen as a result.
"People are having a hard time finding something that they can afford rental-wise, [and] purchasing a home has become really expensive," said Kayla Lessard, the community development coordinator with Ford City Neighbourhood Renewal.
Lessard added that as a result, it's pushing some people out and away from the place they used to call home.
Not long ago, one could find a one-bedroom apartment in the realm of $550 or $650, Gonzalez explained. Now, however, apartments cost closer to $1,000.
"That was unheard of two years ago even. And so, across the city, but specifically in Ford City, seeing that happen is kind of shocking," she said.
Gonzalez explained that many residents in the neighbourhood have been forced to resort to living situations that aren't necessarily safe or legal.
She gave an example of a man in the area who lives in a basement apartment that regularly floods and has black mould.
Gonzalez said he can't afford anything else, adding that for others in similar situations, there's a fear that if they file a complaint about their unsafe living conditions, they'll end up on the streets because they'll have no where else to go.
With the federal election around the corner, Gonzalez said she'd like to see candidates push for more subsidies for low-income individuals; more incentives for landlords to keep their homes affordable; and more investment towards geared-to-income housing.
What will Windsor-Tecumseh candidates do to address the issue?
The Liberal party aims to build 100,000 affordable housing units over the next decade. They would also encourage home ownership through a first-time home-buyer incentive that subsidizes up to 10 per cent of the purchase of a new home and five per cent on resale homes — with restrictions.
In a statement, Windsor-Tecumseh Liberal candidate Irek Kusmierczyk said, from his experience as a Windsor city councillor, he's seen that there is "absolutely a shortage of affordable housing," as well as as a long wait list for affordable housing.
"As the member for Windsor-Tecumseh, I want to advocate for our community to make sure we benefit from our Liberal government's new, 10-year investment of nearly $20 billion in social infrastructure," said Kusmierczyk, adding that the Liberal party will prioritize significant new investment in affordable housing as well as seniors' facilities.
The NDP have a more ambitious plan, committing to building 500,000 affordable housing units in a decade.
"This is a real challenge for people," said Cheryl Hardcastle, the NDP candidate in Windsor-Tecumseh.
"First of all, the opportunities that young people have to be first-time homebuyers is nearly impossible now. The second thing is the variety of housing options that we have is extremely limited now," Hardcastle said. "So, regarding your income or stage of life for instance, you want to downsize as a senior, the market just is not accommodating people that way and in a way that they can afford. So it really is a big concern."
She added that, in addition to building more units, the NDP will work to make things easier for first-time homebuyers; will implement a foreign buyers tax on residential properties bought by people who do not live in Canada; and will find ways to develop a greater variety of housing options for would-be residents.
Meanwhile, the Conservative party plans on reviewing the so-called "stress test" to help first-time homebuyers get approved for mortgages and allow people to take out longer mortgages for lower monthly payments.
Leo Demarce, the Conservative candidate for Windsor-Tecumseh, said the Conservative party will also look at federal Crown land and bring it to the market to provide development for affordable housing. Furthermore, he added that the party is looking to eliminate the federal carbon tax, which he said has a huge cost on affordability.
"Personally I am going to go into the communities and talk about affordable housing with our city councillors and our mayors and talk about really reaching out to the developers in terms of creating developments for affordable housing, as opposed to larger houses with more condensed access, more condensed housing," Demarce said, adding that he'd like to prioritize housing for seniors as well.
Windsor-Tecumseh Green party Giovanni Abati said there is certainly a housing crunch.
"The Green party is pushing for giving incentives, either tax incentives if people want to donate land or property, tax incentives like removing the GST from builders if they want to build affordable housing or senior's homes or childcare spaces, there's a need for all that."
Daniel Burr, Windsor-Tecumseh People's Party candidate, said it's necessary to look at the causes of affordable housing issues in the riding, pointing to high levels of immigration in Canada as a concern.
"Immigrants are settling in large cities like Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and driving up the housing prices in those cities," he said.
"We're seeing a trickle down effect in Windsor as far as the housing prices in Windsor from people moving from Toronto are — you know, driving up to housing prices in Windsor. So if we can lower the immigration levels to more realistic levels for Canada, I think that will help with affordable housing."
He said there is no housing plan included in his party's platform, but there is a plan to make life in general more affordable.
Laura Chesnik, Windsor-Tecumseh Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada (MLPC) candidate, said the government needs to invest in high-quality public housing, adding that there needs to be more units in place to address rent control, private monopolies of buildings and to protect individuals against discrimination when they seek housing.
"One of the MLPC policies is that housing is a right and so it should be enshrined in the constitution as a basic human right," she said.
With files from David Common, Melissa Mancini