Housing has been on the minds of Canadians a lot recently and for good reason. Housing is a basic need that one must have in order to flourish in other aspects of their life. But Halifax, like many other cities in Canada, is in a housing crisis, so not surprisingly it was a big focus in the recent provincial and federal elections. Party platforms covered a range of issues and proposed a variety of solutions. 

Let’s do a quick recap:

Federal Election

Although the nitty gritty details of their solutions were different, the major federal parties seemed to agree on a few overarching ideas for tackling the housing crisis.

Housing Supply

Each party recognized that there is a lack of affordable housing in Canada and proposed various solutions on how to increase the supply of affordable units. Just to name a few, measures included setting targets for the amount of homes built (and different types like co-op, middle class, non-profit, rental, etc.), converting unused and underused spaces into housing, converting a portion of federal property into housing, and incentivizing the creation of affordable housing.

Financial Misconduct

All the parties indicated a need for tackling financial misconduct that is driving up real estate prices in the Canadian housing market, most notably money laundering. Different methods for doing this were suggested, such as giving law enforcement more tools to stop money-laundering, and establishing a national crime agency that would deal specifically with financial crimes.

Foreign Investment

Tightening regulations on foreign investment in the housing market was also a common topic across party platforms. Specific solutions proposed included banning foreign investors from buying homes for two years if they weren’t living in Canada (or banning foreign investment in residential properties outright for the next two years), raising the empty home tax, and implementing a foreign buyer’s tax on the sale of homes to non-Canadian citizens.

Indigenous-Led Housing Strategy

Improving access to housing for Indigenous Peoples was mentioned in every platform. More specifically, parties promised the creation of housing strategies for Indigenous Peoples and by Indigenous Peoples. There are no Calls to Action that deal directly with improved housing however, there are many Calls to Action regarding health, like #19 that calls upon the federal government to “identify and close the gaps in health outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities”. Since adequate housing is such an important factor in determining health outcomes, it would be difficult to meet some Calls to Action without also addressing housing.

Addressing Homelessness

Chronic homelessness cannot be solved by simply giving our homeless population shelter. Additional services for things like addiction rehabilitation, mental health, employment, and affordable food are also needed. Most parties recognized the need to address these underlying issues by proposing solutions like prioritizing addiction recovery, investing in new and existing shelters, increasing services to the homeless population, appointing a federal housing advocate, and of course building more affordable housing.

Provincial Election

There was less overlap in party platforms on housing for the provincial election in August. Here’s a summary of what the major parties proposed:

Nova Scotia Liberal Party

  • Develop a 10 year provincial housing strategy
  • Review of provincial legislation to create a legislative environment for reducing housing costs
  • Build mixed-income developments
  • Rebates on the provincial portion of HST on construction costs for new affordable housing units
  • Create a provincial loan fund for non-profit housing organizations
  • Expanding non-traditional forms of housing (secondary suites, tiny homes etc.)
  • Require compensation for renters who are displaced from their homes due to renovictions.

Green Party of Nova Scotia

  • Increase supply of shelter beds and transitional housing
  • Consider rent control on a long-term basis
  • Housing First strategy in Sydney, Halifax and Truro
  • Increase supply of affordable housing
  • Increase mix of affordable housing to include public housing, co-ops, not for profits etc.
  • Guarantee that disability benefits will not be reduced due to change in living situation
  • Establish arm’s length independent provincial housing entity
  • Long-term affordable housing strategy (climate change lens)
  • 100% of social housing Net Zero Energy Ready by 2030

Nova Scotia PC Party

  • Implement a deed transfer tax and property tax levy on individuals who don’t pay income tax in Nova Scotia
  • Conduct an inventory of Nova Scotia Crown land and tender eligible properties for the development of affordable housing units

Nova Scotia NDP

  • Make rent control permanent
  • Strengthen tenants’ rights
  • Build 1000 new units of housing in next 4 years
  • Support a permanent housing trust for non-profit housing providers
  • Municipalities to require affordable housing
  • Funding housing for African Nova Scotians, Mi’kmaw communities, people experiencing criminalization, lone parent households and other marginalized populations
  • Accelerate building of small options homes for people with disabilities
  • Strengthen regulation of short-term rentals
  • Address financialization of housing

All of the above platforms have valid points and contain effective measures for improving the housing affordability situation in this province. However, the housing sector is complex and requires complex solutions to problems. Settling on a couple minor policy changes will not be enough to get Nova Scotians, and all Canadians, out of this crisis. Regardless of which parties are in power, governments need to challenge traditional ways of approaching housing policy and we as their constituents must hold them accountable to their promised actions on housing.

Sources

  1. Conservative Party of Canada 2021 Platform
  2. Green Party of Canada 2021 Platform
  3. National Democratic Party of 2021 Canada Platform
  4. Liberal Party of Canada 2021 Platform
  5. Bloc Quebecois 2021 Platform
  6. Nova Scotia Liberal Party 2021 Platform
  7. Green Party of Nova Scotia 2021 Platform
  8. Nova Scotia NDP 2021 Platform
  9. Nova Scotia PC Party 2021 Platform
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