Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Surplus

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): - Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today and have an opportunity to speak in support of this bill on behalf of the NDP.

We are supporting this bill. It is an important bill because it brings to light what many in the housing community have known for many years and have been quite shocked that CMHC is rolling in dough. It has so much money it does not know what to do with it. When the member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell says that CMHC has helped millions of Canadians, that might be true, but what is also true is that CMHC is also hoarding millions of dollars and it is going into general revenue.

Frankly, I have some difficulty understanding the position of the Conservative Party in saying that it does not support this bill because somehow Parliament will not have oversight of what happens to that money. We have no oversight or influence now. It is far better that the surplus from CMHC should be rededicated and reinvested into providing housing for Canadians. It seems to me that this is the logical and fiscally responsible position to take.

There are many housing advocates in this country who have done an incredible job. Groups like the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada and the National Housing and Homelessness Network have drawn to our attention day in and day out the plight of millions of Canadians and hundreds of thousands of families who are without appropriate, affordable, safe, secure and accessible housing in this country.

In fact, the Minister of Housing has been telling groups across the country that something like 1.7 million households, not people, in this country are in need of affordable and social housing. We certainly have a huge issue and a huge problem.

It is quite incredible that in a country as wealthy as Canada, we still have people sleeping on the streets. We still have families that every day do not know if they are going to be evicted, if they will be able to pay the month's rent or if their kids will go hungry. Every day we have people desperately looking for secure and affordable housing.

In a country as wealthy as Canada, it is a shame. It has been noted by the UN, in an international report, our lack of compliance with international conventions on that score.

It seems to me that this is the logical and fiscally responsible position to take.

There are many housing advocates in this country who have done an incredible job. Groups like the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada and the National Housing and Homelessness Network have drawn to our attention day in and day out the plight of millions of Canadians and hundreds of thousands of families who are without appropriate, affordable, safe, secure and accessible housing in this country.

In fact, the Minister of Housing has been telling groups across the country that something like 1.7 million households, not people, in this country are in need of affordable and social housing. We certainly have a huge issue and a huge problem.

It is quite incredible that in a country as wealthy as Canada, we still have people sleeping on the streets. We still have families that every day do not know if they are going to be evicted, if they will be able to pay the month's rent or if their kids will go hungry. Every day we have people desperately looking for secure and affordable housing.

In a country as wealthy as Canada, it is a shame. It has been noted by the UN, in an international report, our lack of compliance with international conventions on that score.

The National Housing and Homelessness Network and people like Michael Shapcott, Cathy Crowe and Linda Mix and other organizations across the country, like FRAPRU in Quebec, have fought so hard to get a commitment for 1% of the federal budget for housing.

It is not a lack of financial capacity that is the problem. What has been lacking is a political commitment to carry through a national housing program which ensures that the provinces, the territories and certainly our first nations communities see that those housing units are delivered.

In fact, the 1% solution for housing talks about the $2 billion that is required annually. Here we have already been told, as a result of this bill and the accumulated surpluses in CMHC, that it is sitting on a surplus of $3.4 billion. Some federal funds were already committed in the national framework agreement. Bill C-48 commits an additional $1.6 billion for affordable housing initiatives.

Therefore, the financial capacity is there. By zeroing in on these surpluses at CMHC and saying that they must be reinvested in a fiscally and socially responsible way, what better way to build housing, with good jobs? That creates a very good investment in our economy.

If we did that, the first priority for that reinvestment should be to give back to co-ops in this country the section 95 subsidies they have lost and have been fighting to get back as a result of their mortgages rolling over.

What a scandal that when a co-op happened to get a rollover on its mortgage it also lost the subsidy which allowed it to ensure that its housing co-operative had a mix of incomes and that low income people could be in that housing co-op. The co-ops have been a great Canadian success story, but this Liberal government has been committed to driving that success story into the grave by ensuring that low income families are evicted from housing co-ops because the co-ops have not had the subsidy.

The co-ops are candidate number one for reinvestment from the CMHC surplus. Let us make sure that the co-ops are able to get those subsidies back. So far the housing minister has said he will do it only from this point on, but we want to see those subsidies retroactive at least to the beginning of the year. As a result of this debate today, I call on the minister, as many of us have, to go back and do this properly and make sure that those section 95 subsidies are available for co-operatives across this country so that the success story of housing co-ops in Canada continues.

A second priority for the CMHC surplus reinvestment could be to make true the goal of the 3,300 units that are required across the north for the Inuit people. The Nunavut Housing Corporation has identified a severe housing crisis in the north. It has the highest housing costs in Canada. It has the most severe overcrowding anywhere in this country. It has people living through very harsh winters with very inadequate shelter.

Thirty-three hundred units is not a huge issue in terms of the financial investment required, but has anything happened? Has that plan been delivered? No, and again because of a lack of political commitment by this government.

Again, I want to say that a priority for the reinvestment of these surplus funds or other moneys that exist within that department should be to meet the goals of the 10-year housing plan of the Nunavut Housing Corporation to ensure that housing is built in that part of the country, because people are desperate.

In my own community of east Vancouver, we have always struggled to meet the housing needs of people. There are many people who are living in inadequate single-room occupancies. There are many people who are paying way too much money for rent every month. This surplus from CMHC could be a positive contributing factor to solving the housing crisis in this country.

I would urge members of this House to not tie this up in technical knots, to not find excuses why it cannot be done, but to see this as a legitimate and proper reinvestment of CMHC surpluses to go back into that very critical high priority of meeting our housing needs in Canada.

This Speech in Parliament was posted on June 3, 2005
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