Burnaby NewsLeader

Burnaby-Douglas MP calls for national housing strategy

Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart -
Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart
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Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart confirmed his suspicions that housing affordability is a big issue when 50 people showed up for a recent forum on the subject on a Canucks playoff game night.

"They shared stories," Stewart said, "of seniors feeling the crunch on fixed incomes, new families for the first time actually looking to move to other provinces because it's too expensive to live here."

It's a big enough concern that Stewart is supporting a private member's bill, introduced by fellow New Democrat Marie-Claude Morin, calling on the Conservative government to sit down with the provinces, territories, municipalities and other stakeholders to devise a national housing strategy and follow through on it.

Canada is the only industrialized nation without such a strategy, said Stewart.

Meanwhile, 40 per cent of renters and one-quarter of people with mortgages are spending more than one-third of their incomes on housing, a level that typically means people start having to take money away from other necessities such as food.

At the housing forum, what surprised Stewart was a general acknowledgement that municipalities can't solve the problem on their own, and that senior governments must get involved.

"They can't do what's needed off the back of property taxes," he said of cities.

In fact, he noted, for the high cost of rent in Burnaby alone to get to a reasonable level just through the supply-and-demand equation, it would require an additional 5,000 to 7,000 units to be built in Burnaby.

What's needed is for senior governments to coordinate or build housing to meet the needs, said Stewart, who noted that private members bills cannot suggest governments spend a certain amount of money.

That's why the bill simply calls on Ottawa to work with the provinces and stakeholders to come up with a solution and move forward.

The federal government, which used to build housing co-operatives and other projects, pretty much got out of social housing in the 1990s during former Liberal finance minister Paul Martin's budget cuts to eliminate the deficit, he said.

"The whole country is affected by this."

Stewart said concerned citizens can sign a petition in support of the call for a national housing strategy by visiting his office, 4658 Hastings St. For more information, call 604-291-8863.

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

twitter.com/WandaChow

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