More buildings won’t fix the housing crisis

Niyati Pancholi / Sputnik Photography
We all need secure housing.

Last year, I paid $850 in rent per month for a basement apartment. It was a 30-minute bus ride away from campus. It was unfurnished, so there was an added cost for furniture. This was not easy for an international student who’s unemployed during the school year. For most students, the rental price is between $500 to $700. People were shocked by the price I paid. What could I do? Landlords can decide whatever price they want. There’s no stopping them.  

This is one of the many realities of the housing crisis. It not only affects low-income people and families, but students as well. The average rent price per month in Brantford is $1,690, but in more densely populated areas like Toronto, it can rise to $2,750.    

With people complaining and lamenting the prices, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau designed to address the issue. He introduced a policy for the construction of affordable housing, starting in London, Ont. In his opinion, the best solution was to cut GST taxes for construction companies. This is Bill C-56, also known as the Affordable Housing and Groceries Act. Both Liberals and Conservatives glorified this bill, not before squabbling and pointing fingers at each other for not doing anything sooner, of course.    

Bill C-56 aims to encourage construction companies to build affordable rental properties faster. The properties include “apartment buildings, student housing, and senior residences built specifically for long-term rental accommodation.” The government wants to encourage construction companies to build below market value, and the market value of a house is $750,000. The bill wants to patch up housing. It aims to support the vulnerable and less financially stable groups in society. That’s a start, but only just that.  

Trudeau vowed to transform government spaces into housing. Trudeau told CBC it’s supposed to be “a real solution, not just a slogan or buzzwords.” But is this really the only solution for housing? No. The solution to affordable housing is not bigger tax cuts for construction companies. The solution is a better, more humane, economic system.  

As of 2016, there were 66,000 abandoned buildings and homes in Toronto alone. They are running into disrepair. With the $74 million being given to build these new houses, why not revamp the old eyesores?  

Trudeau also spoke about lowering food prices. Another plague facing the Canadian people. Another necessity that people are struggling to afford. Somehow, this did not seem to be an issue of the economic structure. Somehow, there just weren’t enough buildings.  

Didn’t we see this with CUPE? Rising inflation and high interest rates. The high cost of living outraces the minimal, almost non-existent raise in wages and benefits. The gap keeps on growing and we are falling behind.  

Housing is only one part of this. Grocery prices, expensive childcare, privatized healthcare and Medicare. Food banks are drying up. The list of unaffordable necessities goes on.  

But this is what happens when the dominant economic system prides itself on individualism, ruthless competition and false promises of success. Capitalism and neoliberalism are running their course. The solution is bigger than construction, it’s built into the actual economic structure of the country. How long until these “affordable houses” are no longer affordable?   

Is this the only way law and the economy can coincide? Citizens have more power than we believe. Our shared beliefs and multicultural backgrounds have value, they have weight and purpose.   

We can make a change with our similarities rather than our differences to benefit us all.  

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