The lack of affordability and the increasing incidence of homelessness in Canada’s cities are getting out of hand, and the federal government is the entity best positioned to take steps in effectively solving the country’s housing situation, according to an observer.
In a piece for the National Post
, lawyer and Munk School of Global Affairs journalism fellow Lauren Heuser argued that the Liberal government—which bannered home affordability as one of its campaign promises last year—has been sitting out on developing a national housing strategy long enough.
“The real issue is that Canada lacks a national housing strategy to ensure basic housing benefits to all Canadians, and to minimize discrepancies between the provinces’ housing programs,” Heuser said.
The analyst noted that the federal level has access to legislative and policy tools that would allow it to implement the changes that the country’s overheated and overpriced markets sorely need.
“Although housing is a provincial responsibility, the federal government can spend in whatever areas it wants, provided it doesn’t restrict the provinces from implementing their own policies. Using its spending power, Ottawa could help ensure all Canadians have access to affordable housing,” she stated.
Heuser said that in this light, the federal government’s apparent delay in taking decisive housing action is all the more baffling.
“One of the chief concerns of Canadian public policy is ensuring that citizens are treated equally by the public sector, regardless of where they live in the country. The federal government’s strong role in health care and welfare, for example, is accepted as necessary to achieve ‘horizontal equity’ in these areas,” Heuser wrote.
“Oddly, this principle has been largely absent from housing policy discussions, even though a minimum quality of housing is as crucial to Canadians’ well-being as access to health care or social assistance. This not only violates our concept of social justice, but also has the unwelcome effect of penalizing local governments that adopt progressive policies,” she added.