The Problem of Affordability

There is a serious lack of affordability in Canada, and the problem is growing. As a generation, younger people are consistently working two to three jobs to survive, and our parents and grandparents who worked hard all their lives are struggling as they retire. I routinely hear people asking themselves questions they shouldn’t have to: will the pay cheque from my minimum wage job cover the basics for the next two weeks? Am I going to be evicted to make way for some big new development that I can’t possibly afford to live in? Will I be able to find any remotely affordable childcare in my area? The uncertainty is draining. It adds extra stress to our lives, limits our choices, and shrinks our possibilities.

The overall cost of housing has clearly become unreasonable, and as far as affordability problems go, this is the biggest one. For many people living in Canada, it is extremely challenging to find a place to live at a reasonable cost. Rent and housing costs have risen far too rapidly in recent years. This means finding a reasonable rate on rent for a place that meets your needs has become more and more difficult. Nevermind having to account for other costs of life such as childcare, medications, healthy food and transportation.

The other driving force of un-affordability is decreased earnings, from wage stagnation and precarious, or unfairly demanding employment. The more time we are forced to spend overworking ourselves, the less time we have to seek new training or opportunities. And more and more of us are finding ourselves in positions where we are working more hours for less pay because wage growth isn’t keeping up with the cost of goods and housing.

So what kind of solutions can we bring about? We need a guaranteed livable income, for a start. We need jobs to be secure, so no one is forced to keep taking low paying gig after low paying gig just to make ends meet. This means unions or worker’s associations in sectors where they are absent, and better legislation supporting workers’ rights. And to tackle affordability problems in housing, we need federally funded non-market housing solutions. This means a national housing strategy that treats housing as a human right, and invests in social housing projects.

I want to be talking more, right now, about having meaningful work, and ensuring a reasonable work-life balance. That is something I will fight for. But the first thing we need to do is make sure that everyone has enough income to live where they work. If we can do that, we will improve peoples’ lives and their communities. We need access to jobs in our communities that aren’t just more service or retail jobs. There’s nothing wrong with choosing to work those jobs when that is what you want, but if there is an absence of choice for other types of work as well, this becomes a much different situation.

We cannot simply leave people to try and contend alone with a system that is set up to favour wealthy developers. Developers who get to dictate how to build the places we live in. We don’t need investors building what they think the market can support to give them the widest profit margins, we need to take a stronger stand and build what is needed to support our communities and help people thrive: livable cities and communities where people don’t have to worry about how they’re going to keep a roof over their heads. I strongly believe that housing needs to be a human right. Access to housing is a foundational need, and right now, those needs are not being met, and this is making our affordability crisis worse by the day. That has to change, and I intend to make it happen.