MP Richard Cannings says if the federal government doesn’t act now in B.C.’s housing crisis, there will be a lot more people homeless.

MP Richard Cannings says if the federal government doesn’t act now in B.C.’s housing crisis, there will be a lot more people homeless.

Opinion: Housing crisis will grow homeless population if feds don’t act now

Federal government abandoned affordable housing strategy in the 1990s

Canada is in the middle of a housing crisis, and the South Okanagan, Boundary and West Kootenay areas are very much in the middle of that crisis. This is an urgent and rapidly growing problem that demands the cooperation and priority of all levels of government.

The crisis has emerged out of a perfect storm of factors. Housing prices are through the roof—the average price of a single-family home in Penticton is over $800,000. Those prices have forced many young families to remain in the rental market and give up their dream of ever owning a home.

Because of that pressure, the rental market is filled to capacity. That is in turn exacerbated by the fact that some landlords are deciding to cash in on the real estate boom and sell their properties, resulting in evictions if the new owner has different plans for the house. Available rentals are now rare commodities; one recent ad offered a single room in a house with shared access to a bathroom and no access to a kitchen, for $1000/month. One family in Penticton were recently evicted after a house sale and found there were simply no rental units available. They had to start a GoFundMe page and use the money to buy an old RV.

The most vulnerable in this housing train-wreck are the those on income assistance and disability pensions, who simply cannot afford anything in the general rental market and must have subsidized options. For the first time ever, those options completely ran dry locally last week. So, if you are on income assistance or are disabled and you lose your existing home, you are literally homeless and on the street.

This unhoused population has been increasing for all the reasons listed above. Add in the opioid addiction crisis and you have an issue that is dividing communities around British Columbia and across the country. People see a rise in the number of people living on the street and assume that these people are attracted to Penticton, Grand Forks or Trail for any number of reasons. But this is happening in Kelowna, Kamloops, Prince George and other communities across Canada. Municipal governments are overwhelmed.

So what can governments do to fix this? Well, first, they must cooperate at all levels to find immediate housing solutions for those people who have no homes. This means innovative ideas that keep neighbourhood concerns in mind while remembering that most of these people simply need a roof over their heads. We need to provide meaningful supports for those suffering from addictions and offer solutions to neighbourhoods worried about security.

Federally, the NDP has a plan to build 500,000 new affordable housing units over the next decade. This is designed to catch up on the needs lost over the past 30 years after the federal government abandoned its affordable housing strategy in the 1990s.

The federal government should also:

• encourage the construction of new affordable rental housing by waiving the federal portion of the GST/HST on construction costs.

• tackle the rampant money laundering that increases real estate speculation.

• stimulate the construction of co-op and non-profit social housing by establishing Quick Start Funds to streamline the application process.

Finally, reintroducing 30-year mortgages insured by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation for first-time homebuyers would allow for lower monthly payments, leaving more money in the pockets of families to make ends meet.

The bottom line is that we must all act quickly to turn this crisis around. Forcing people to live on the streets is not the answer, whether they are young workers with no place to rent, people with disabilities who can’t afford to rent a suite even if they could find one, or people with mental illness and addiction challenges that have very difficult housing options. In a country as wealthy as Canada, everyone deserves to have a roof over their heads.

To contact me about this or any other issue, please email me at or call 250-770-4480 (Penticton) or 250-365-2792 (Castlegar).

READ MORE: Housing crunch puts Penticton family on the brink of homelessness

Just Posted

Lightning in Kelowna, B.C. (Contributed)
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for the development of severe thunderstorms overnight

Justin Fotherby,17, and Ashley McMillan, 17 have been chosen for an invitation only competition that sees 20 of Canada’s top swimmers per event vying for a spot at the upcoming 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. (Submitted)
Penticton swimmers off to Olympic trials

The pair are eyeing a spot on the Canadian team heading to the Tokyo Olympics

Bentley resting on a bench at Kal Park in Vernon not knowing there is a baby rattlesnake curled up below. Bentley jumped down and was bit by the snake. (Facebook)
Dog bit by baby rattler at popular Vernon park

The rattlesnake was hidden underneath a park bench when it struck out

Renderings of what the skating rink could look like beside City Hall between Martin and Main in downtown Penticton. (Activate Penticton image)
Outdoor skating rink back at Penticton council

City staff recommend going forward with rink which could host 2022 BCHL’s 60th year celebration

Longtime SOWINS volunteer Diane Fru (far left) walks with members of her family as they Walk To End Abuse Sunday, June 13, 2021. South Okanagan Women In Needs Society (SOWINS) raised a record amount this year. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Walk to End Abuse in South Okanagan breaks fundraising record

More than $53,000 raised so far while the pandemic has increased need for SOWINS’ services

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

(Heather Lueck image)
Crash north of Enderby knocks out power, slows Highway 97A traffic

A witness captured footage of a medical helicopter landing at the scene

Most Read