Jennifer Adams is not sure where she will go when the home she rents downtown is redeveloped.
She said it is not possible for her family to fit into an apartment, but noted affordable rental housing for families is hard to come by. Compounding the situation is the fact she has a pet.
“It has definitely been a challenge and I do hope that we figure out the solution so that families have the opportunity to live in all parts of our city,” Adams said.
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh Zoomed into Kamloops from Ontario’s Peel region on Thursday (May 20) to discuss housing affordability issues and solutions alongside Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo NDP candidate Bill Sundhu and a pair of locals facing challenges in the housing market.
Sundhu noted average home prices in Kamloops have skyrocketed in the past year, increasing by 40 per cent for a single-family home and 60 per cent for a multi-family home. Rural areas have also seen an uptick. Rentals, Sundhu said, are difficult to find and are expensive. He said the issue impacts a wide demographic, from high-income individuals to millennials and single parents.
“It’s become a serious crisis and we know that housing is a human right,” Sundhu said.
Singh said Canada’s housing crisis has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. He added it is unacceptable when people can’t find a place to live.
Singh said speculation is driving up housing prices and affordable housing supplies are insufficient. He wants to see a federal foreign speculation tax, similar to what has been implemented in British Columbia, and construction of a half-million affordable homes across the country, similar to wartime efforts of yesteryear.
Housing would span a variety of informs, including co-operative, not-for-profit, rental, owned, townhouses and single-family abodes.
“People deserve to have a home,” Singh said. “They need to have a home and, right now, it doesn’t seem possible for a lot of people. We want to fix that.”
The latter program would combat the so-called missing middle housing, as well as help first-time homebuyers, who are priced out, enter the market, Singh said. In addition, he said extra supports for first-time home buyers should include doubling of the first-time home buyers’ tax credit and reintroduction of 30-year mortgages.
“The reason is, for a lot of people, the payments per month are a little too high for them to balance a mortgage, with all of the other bills in a month,” Singh said. “Adding in or reintroducing the 30-year-mortgage would give people a little bit more flexibility so they can pay their mortgage, but also have enough money left over to buy their groceries and pay their bills.”
With housing prices increasing so quickly, people who purchased homes in the last decade are able to sell for much higher than what they paid. Asked if the federal government should charge a capital gains tax to those who sell their primary residence at a profit, Singh said that is not something his party is suggesting at this time.
Another housing challenge in Kamloops is a lack of developable land. The city has encouraged infill of late, but development is occurring outside of the city. People in communities like Tobiano travel to Kamloops for work, school, groceries and more. Meanwhile, buildings and transportation are top greenhouse gas emitters.
Asked about the balance between a need for housing and climate action measures, Singh said energy-efficient housing can be built and existing homes can be retrofit. He said he sees the pandemic as an opportunity to invest in such initiatives.