The housing crisis is one of the most talked about political issues of the last few years. Between January 2005 and July 2021, housing prices in Kitchener-Waterloo rose by 282 per cent.
This crisis is especially difficult for renters and those looking for subsidized or community housing. For example, those on a waiting list for addiction-supported housing could be waiting 4.5 years.
There are many different factors contributing to the housing crisis, including gentrification, the pandemic and lower job quality.
One factor affecting the availability of housing is the financialization of the housing market: housing is treated like a commodity, particularly for investment, rather than a place for people to live.
Mike Morrice, Member of Parliament for Kitchener Center, introduced Private Member Motion 71, which asks the federal government to end tax exemptions for Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs).
“Real estate investment trusts are some of Canada’s largest corporate landlords. They’ve grown significantly in recent years from owning no rental suites at all in 1996 to almost 200,000 in 2021,” Morrice said.
Social Development Centre Waterloo Region (SDCWR) is a local organization that advocates for housing as a human right and conducts research on housing.
They recently published a study called “Displacement in Kitchener’s Inner Suburbs: Experiences and perspectives from low-income tenants”.
“[PMM 71] is the first tangible suggestion that we have seen put forward because in the national housing strategy, addressing financialization is included somewhere in there but we haven’t seen any movement [in that direction],” Aleksandra Petrovic, executive director of SDCWR, said.
“When we look at what is being done through the national housing strategy, so far we have studies done and then the promise of more studies,” Petrovic said.
On Oct. 13, Morrice, along with local housing experts, held a town hall to address questions about affordable housing. Experts included representatives from K-W Urban Native Wigwam Project, KW Habilitation and Multicultural Theatre Space.
“If someone has a need for accessible housing, the waitlist is even longer,” Morrice said.
The removal of this tax exemption is not unprecedented, as tax exemptions have been cut for other types of interest trusts in the past.
“That’s why I say this is such a reasonable place to start. There is a set of solutions that is required, but one of the hopes with this motion is that, if the governing party were serious about the housing crisis, they could take what we’ve provided them and immediately enact it into law tomorrow. They could put it into the fall economic statement that’s going to be coming out within weeks,” Morrice said.
“We’re hoping to offer other parliamentarians a very reasonable solution.”
“We’re hearing a lot of rhetoric from all parties that are saying they are interested in addressing the unaffordability of housing. Well, this offers them one solution that we think everybody can agree on,” he said.