A composite image with photos of Michelle Ferreri, Maryam Monsef and Joy Lachica
How would local federal candidates respond to the housing crisis?
Will Pearson  - 
September 15, 2021

With less than a week to go until the 2021 federal election, housing continues to be one of the most important issues facing Canada.

And it’s a key issue in Peterborough, too. According to United Way Peterborough, average rents have risen so much recently that there are no longer any types of apartment in the city which are affordable to someone who makes $30,000 per year. 

Meanwhile, the local hot housing market is pushing renters out of their homes and the City of Peterborough has measured a 20 percent increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness in the first six months of 2021.

With this in mind, Peterborough Currents co-publisher Will Pearson sat down with the local candidates for the Conservative, Liberal and New Democratic parties to learn how they understand the housing crisis and what new measures they’re proposing to get more affordable housing built in Peterborough.

Full interviews available on YouTube

For the sake of clarity and concision, the interviews in this podcast were edited. To listen to the interviews in their entirety, head over to our YouTube channel, where we have posted full recordings.

Credits

Interviews and editing by Will Pearson

Hosting and audio mixing by Ayesha Barmania

Music courtesy of Erika Nininger, find her music on Bandcamp.

Episode transcript

Ayesha Barmania  00:04

Hi, this is the Peterborough Currents podcast. I’m Ayesha Barmania.

Will Pearson  00:07

And I’m Will Pearson.

Ayesha Barmania  00:09

And today we’re meeting together in my backyard to continue our coverage of the 2021 federal election. And so Will has spoken to the three major party local candidates, but their housing platforms. And we’re going to take you through today, what they said. We’re focusing on housing for this episode, because it’s an issue that we have always had an interest in, and we cover a fair bit. And it’s also shaping up to be one of the key issues in the campaign locally and at a national level.

Will Pearson  00:36

Yeah, it’s a really key issue in Peterborough. The housing crisis was urgent before the pandemic, and it’s even more urgent right now. When I think of sort of what I think of the housing crisis in Peterborough, I think, of the recent annual housing report from the United Way, Peterborough that found that had this really found that the housing market in Peterborough has passed this really grim milestone recently where for the first time ever, the average rents in Peterborough have risen so much that someone who makes $30,000 a year can’t affordably pay for the rent in any type of apartment unit in the city, according to the average thanks.

Ayesha Barmania

That’s bleak.

Will Pearson

Yeah. And our own colleague Brett Throop at Peterborough Currents wrote this summer about how the city’s hot housing market is pushing renters out of their homes, sometimes right into homelessness, which is pretty depressing. And the city’s homelessness numbers reflect this as well. The built for zero report cards that the city releases show that in the first six months of 2021, the number of people experiencing homelessness in Peterborough increased by more than 20%. So, yeah, it’s just it’s a big issue for Peterborough and the country. And I think, you know, it impacts people that live on a low income, especially, but it impacts everyone. Even people that are relatively more privileged, or have more resources. A lot of them feel like their futures are being constrained by the housing market. I know I feel that way. And so I think it’s something that is important to look into. Yeah, so I started my conversations with the three candidates by trying to get a sense of how they situate themselves in this crisis. And I asked them to tell me how the housing crisis is impacting them personally them or their families. Yeah, and here’s what Michelle for the Conservative Party candidate had to say.

Michelle Ferreri  02:35

Yeah, great question. So, obviously, I have a lot of multi-generational people within my family, not just in my immediate family, but outside. So I have a lot of nieces and nephews who are just in that next, the beginning phases of their life. So they have, you know, decent jobs, health care, Ontario hydro. But they cannot purchase a home. You know, it’s with an average the average house cost right now sitting at $716,000. That’s pretty unattainable for a young person. So it’s definitely impacting them. You know, that you also see some people who are wanting to live independently as age but not having that opportunity as well. So it’s definitely impacting us. I mean, I was fortunate I got a house in 2018. Before things really went bananas, so I’ve been okay, but there’s Yeah, it’s it’s definitely impacting a lot of people I know and a lot of people in my family.

Ayesha Barmania  03:39

So that was Michelle Ferreri who’s the Conservative Party candidate. Next up, we have Joy Lachica, the NDP candidate who makes reference to her recent move from Toronto to Peterborough.

Joy Lachica  03:49

The people that have had privilege during this this pandemic, and I’ve been one, I didn’t get evicted. I was I was a homeowner, a homeowner, recently in Toronto, so I had options, but a lot of people don’t have options. People who have had options have radiated out of the city. Because they don’t care so much about the money they make. They want to live simply, they want to grow food, they want to decrease their carbon footprint because they see what’s happening all around them. And and that’s what’s been happening for a whole lot of people that I know. And I know that’s been going on for me for some time now. So the housing situation is outrageous. The fact that that that in Peterborough, since December, the cost of buying a home is 30% more than it was in the previous year. It’s outrageous. And you know, when moving here and buying a house, I didn’t pay those prices because it was before it all happened. And and I just I know that there’s such a housing crisis here. And I have new friends that I’ve made, who are Trent graduate students and so forth, they can’t even find a place to live reasonably at a reasonable price, because there’s been no impetus on the part of this Liberal government to create new affordable housing.

Ayesha Barmania 05:22

Next up, we have Maryam Monsef, incumbent Liberal candidate who talks about her history with precarious housing, making reference, I think, to her experiences as a refugee.

Maryam Monsef  05:32

One of the big lessons of COVID has been, there are many people who don’t have a place to call home. And when we told everybody to go home, shelter at home, work from home, learn from home, so that we avoid the spread of the virus, it really further highlighted just how many people in our community across the country don’t have a place to call home. I certainly know what it’s like to have a safe roof over my head. And one of the reasons why our proposal to move forward to build more housing to help young people buy their first home to protect the rights of Canadians in the housing market means a lot to me. I know what it’s like to go from shelter to social housing, to homeownership. And certainly, in our community, what I’ve seen over the past, what is it 530ish days of the pandemic, the face of downtown has changed. The challenges around homelessness and addictions and mental health challenges have really been highlighted, and just more visible these past few days. And that and I take that personally, too. This is this is my home, this is our downtown, this is our community, and there can’t be people here without a place to call home. So our plan, our plan is one that’s in line with personal experiences of folks that we see all too often in our community and around the country.

Ayesha Barmania 07:06

So as you were saying, Will, the housing crisis impacts everybody at a very personal level. So it’s interesting to hear all the candidates talk about that. When we talk about affordable housing, there are when we talk about the housing crisis, there’s a lot of discussion of affordability and a lot of different aspects. Can you kind of break down what some of those aspects are?

Will Pearson  07:23

Yeah, so I think a lot of our listeners will have, if they follow Peterborough Currents, will, you know, know that I’m interested in sort of drilling down into what affordable housing actually means. And when a project is promised by a government that says, oh, there’s a new affordable housing development, it’s really important to ask, what will the rents be? Because they’re not always the same. And so I want to I, so that the next question that I asked the three candidates was, what does affordable housing mean to them? And how would their party ensure that there was more housing in Peterborough that was affordable to someone that makes minimum wage in Peterborough. We’ll play all three clips back to back the order that you’re going to hear them in is first Maryam Monsef, then Joy Lachica and then Michelle Ferreri.

Maryam Monsef  08:09

That’s a really good question, Will. I know that 80% of the market rent definition is something that we’ve spoken about before. For me, it’s about the entire spectrum of housing, from shelters for women and homeless folks all the way to homeownership. And our plan addresses that, first and foremost, we’re going to build more housing, so that people without a home right now have a safe place to call home. And there are many tools on the table to do that. For example, we’re going to be offering municipalities for example, like the city, about $4 billion to accelerate the pace at which we build more housing. One of the reasons why housing and rent is unaffordable in our community is because of the imbalance between supply and demand. There are many people wanting to live here for all the right reasons. But this housing stock does not meet that demand. So building more housing, giving incentives to co-ops to nonprofits, as well as private developers is going to address that.

Joy Lachica  09:21

The housing platform, is connected to, obviously, the economy. Right. And so we know that Jagmeet and the federal NDP have been talking about needing to create new affordable housing projects. You know, we heard him talk about senior care and seniors residences yesterday, and how there needs to be, you know, he promises and he’s well, he’s been stating that we would hope to have a publicly, publicly created publicly developed publicly funded senior housing strategy so that no longer would it be individual privatized systems making money. But it would be to meet the needs. And it’s publicly funded and with mechanisms that are consistent and standards that are in place, so that we don’t have the tragedy going forward. In long term care facilities and seniors residents, we need housing that is safe. We need housing that is accessible for all ages, from youth up into adults from every community. And I know that Jagmeet has a plan for that to be publicly funded. And and that care and compassion. And all the elements of good housing, urban planning, rural planning, city planning, would need to take place.

Michelle Ferreri  10:57

Yeah, so affordable housing is actually anybody can look it up. But I think what needs to be clarified is is the meaning of what affordable housing is. So I’m pretty sure it’s 80% of fair market value. So as you can imagine, if the fair market value right now, if the average income, or the average house is selling for $716,000, that’s 80%. of that. So affordable actually means what you can afford, but the people are not being able to afford it. So it’s kind of a, it’s kind of a misleading term, in a lot of ways. It should be whatever you can afford. But right now, for a lot of people, like you mentioned on minimum wage, how are they supposed to afford that? So I think there’s there needs to be a distinction between low income housing and affordable housing. So in terms of so in terms of creating more to answer your question about what Conservative Party will do in terms of affordable housing, we’re going to be opening building a million new jobs, or a million new million new jobs to buy a million new houses across the country. So that’s going to be helpful. I think the other key is letting you know getting government out of the way and letting people build. So we have some incredible people within our community who are doing great work, and have been for a long time. They know how to build houses. They’re ready to build houses, but they need the red tape removed in order to do that.

Ayesha Barmania 12:22

So we heard there, the candidates started to run through their plans on getting more housing built. What are the actual like numbers and timelines for that?

Will Pearson  12:30

Yeah, each of the major parties are promising, like a different number of units that they hope to see built within a certain timeframe. The Conservatives are promising a million new homes in three years, the liberals 1.4 million in four years and the NDP 500,000, over 10 years. But they’re not the same kinds of units. The Liberals and the Conservatives aren’t specifying that those will be affordable units necessarily, and the NDP committing to or setting a goal, probably more likely of building 500,000 affordable units in particular. And I think it’s also important to point out that in Canada, we’re already averaging more than 250,000 new homes built every year. And so these commitments when the Liberals and the Conservatives aren’t on top of that, it’s you know, so well, over three years, we would expect more than 750,000 homes to be built. And so to promise 1 million in that time, is really only promising an increase of about 200,000. And that’s something to keep in mind as well.

Ayesha Barmania 13:32

So they’re all promising more units, how are they going to do it?

Will Pearson  13:35

The housing platforms, there’s a lot of planks to them. And so I’m just gonna pick out a couple of the ones that I think have the potential to be the most impactful for each party. The Conservatives are focusing on tweaking rules to enable the private market to build more housing and build it faster. And so for example, they want, they’re suggesting that they would tie any transit funding that the federal government gives to municipalities to a requirement to increase the density around that transit. So the idea being this would be one way to encourage municipalities to zone properties to be more dense, which we know is something that needs to happen if we’re going to get more housing built. Because especially in big cities, single family zoning is really constraining the amount of housing that can be built in our cities. So I think that’s a cool idea. And they’re also suggesting, reviewing the property that the federal government owns and releasing 15% of it for housing development. And then for the Liberals, one of the biggest ideas that they’re proposing to get more housing built is what they’re calling a Housing Accelerator Fund, which is a $4 billion fund. That would be money provided to municipalities that they could use to speed up the post permitting processes and the planning processes and the approval processes for new housing developments because one of the reasons why new housing developments happen so slowly is because they can run into log jams and delays in municipal governments. And so that’s sort of what the Liberals are proposing to do. And they’re also proposing to increase the funding to the National Housing Co-Investment Fund, which is part of the National Housing strategy. It’s already operating. And they want to double down on that and increase the funding that they give to that program.

Ayesha Barmania 15:27

Okay, and what about the NDP?

Will Pearson  15:31

Yeah, so the NDP are setting a goal of building 500,000 affordable units over 10 years, no specificity on how affordable but they say affordable. And they want to get this done by really focusing on helping nonprofits, cooperatives and social housing providers to build new billable units. And they’re suggesting setting up with a fast what they call a ‘fast start fund’ that would increase their capacity to help them access funding to build more affordable housing. And then the NDP has, like the Conservatives saying that they would like to take a look at the property that the federal government owns and see which ones can be released for housing development as well.

Ayesha Barmania 16:17

Okay, neat. So some interesting ideas, kind of particularly looking at funding and financing and also interesting ideas at the municipal level. Do you think these plans will have any impact in Peterborough specifically?

Will Pearson  16:29

It’s hard to say. One of the reasons it’s hard to say is that all of these plans are still pretty vague. And it’s hard to get a sense of like what they would look like in practice. But you know, to kind of go through the party by party again, the Conservatives idea to release federal land for housing seems like a great idea. I wonder how effective it would be in Peterborough where the federal government owns the Armory’s downtown? That like Post Office Depot on Rye street, and then also the the Trent Severn waterway. So I don’t know that like those properties are ready for housing development. I don’t know, maybe we can talk about like a national house-boat strategy for the Trent Severn waterway. But yeah, I don’t know about that. And then the the idea to tie transit funding to increase density. It strikes me as a great idea, but it strikes me as one that might be more tailored to the bigger cities. Yeah, so I don’t know what impact that would have in Peterborough. For the Liberals, sort of the money that they’re suggesting, giving to municipalities to help them speed up the permitting processes. Maybe? I know that developers in Peterborough say that. One of the things that’s like City Hall slows them down in their efforts to build housing. And so that might help. It’s really hard to say, though, because it’s that program is laid out so vaguely in the platform, that it’s just hard to make out how it would work. But the idea, the idea is, you know, it’s compelling. And then for the NDP, you know, I believe really strongly that we do need a big public investment in non-market housing, like Co-ops, nonprofits and other kinds of social housing providers that are outside of the private market. And so I was keen to see that in the NDP platform. In Peterborough, you know, the Mount Community Center is a good example of a housing nonprofit that has had a lot of success recently yet at building housing, but like also just building community. So that’s an example of a nonprofit that’s been successful. But there have also been nonprofits in Peterborough housing nonprofits that have failed and recently has not been that successful. Probably because they’ve been under-resourced, but it does make me wonder whether the nonprofits in Peterborough have the capacity right away to deliver the kinds of units and the number of units that we need. And so that’s something that I asked Joy Lachica about, here’s a little bit more of my conversation with Joy.

You mentioned this idea to publicly funded seniors housing, I noticed in the NDP platform of Alliance on sort of investing in Co-ops and nonprofit housing providers. To deliver, you know, a goal of 500,000 units over over 10 years. I’m wondering, I know that a lot of the sort of housing nonprofits in Peterborough have been struggling and the they’ve been under-resourced for a long time, they don’t have a lot of capacity. And, you know, I’m not sure that just offering them money is enough to help them to deliver the kind of housing that we need. So I’m wondering how you would work with those nonprofits locally, either ones that already exist or new ones to to get that housing built quickly?

Joy Lachica  19:45

So if there’s a will there’s a way and if there’s a presence, so there’s a way so, you know, certainly I’m hearing that there hasn’t been a presence federally that the Liberal right representation hasn’t has not been here as much. And that, you know, it’s there’s some jurisdictional blurriness or, you know, or, you know, finger pointing, well, that’s federal and there’s federal money for this and provincial money for that municipal, but it is the money and, and the the funding is, is sort of cross jurisdictional. So, you know, part of the purpose of, you know, what we need to do to elect an NDP government here is to get all of the stakeholders together at the table, to to make sure that the co-op housing and the working with nonprofits, that we really fine tune and see what’s been missing, and what needs to be done in order to kickstart and get all the pistons firing in a coordinated way. So I’m excited to, you know, attend the city council meetings, and to, and which I have been already, and it’s exciting to hear about the transits the changes in the transit plan, and, you know, moving to more towards a more grid system, and, and the new cycling template that’s happening, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s never perfect, but we all all are working towards incrementally a better plan. So I’m excited to sit in city council every single time, you know, even if it’s online, to be able to hear what’s going on to hear about the progress that’s happening, and to troubleshoot. What is it that we need to do to get that co-op happening, or the housing happening quicker? And to work with the stakeholders that that have been providing it currently, so that we can make it better. And I know, that’s what Jagmeet has, is his plan on a federal level. And certainly, that would be my desire to bring that to Ottawa to make sure all those coordinated pieces are in action.

Will Pearson  21:51

Yeah, so I was excited to read that focus on co-ops and nonprofits in the platform. But I know that going forward, the private market will still have a role to play in contributing to solutions to to the housing crisis. And I’m wondering how you see the private market fitting into to these discussions and how you might like to see them contribute solutions?

Joy Lachica  22:17

Well, you know, a magazine that I always subscribe to and do is Spacing and I think about urban planning, and people like Jennifer Keesmaat, who are speaking right now to the media about how we need to revision our our cities, how we need to revision our towns and communities. Given that we’re still in a pandemic, and facing so much more in the fall, and this is what needs to happen, these kinds of discussions need to occur. And and we need to talk about long term goals, what we hope to see by a certain time, and then we need because this isn’t going to just be fixed in the snap of a finger with a change of government. This is going to have to be people listening to one another, recognizing all the strengths that we bring to the table, whatever our party stripe, this is not a partisan, this is not a partisan problem to solve. This is a community problem to solve. And we’re all parts of a community that will contribute to solutions.

Will Pearson  23:19

So that was Joy Lachica, talking about the NDP, his vision to help co-ops and nonprofits build more housing, and also sort of the role that the private market might also play in in getting more housing built in Peterborough. I also asked Michelle Ferreri the Conservative candidate to help me sort of localize, localize the national conservative platform and what to help me understand what it might look like in Peterborough.

You mentioned the five point plan for building a million new homes, which of those policy planks technically most effective in Peterborough?

Michelle Ferreri  23:59

I think all of them, but I think that I think the access, right to be able to build more, right now, like we were supposed to have 2000 homes built right by the beginning of August, and we haven’t been able to achieve that. So I think there just needs to be a lot more red tape removed. I’ve talked to builders in this community across the board, some building sort of low income up into affordable and they’re ready to do the work there. They’ve been doing it some of these builders have been doing this work for over 30 years. They know what they’re doing. They know how to do it. We’ve got great sustainable models where you’re using social financing like the Mount. So it’s really that in a local level, it’s about getting out of the way letting people do what they need to do to help the people.

Will Pearson  24:45

Yeah, a key theme in the Conservative platform is getting out of the way, and enabling the private market to build more housing more quickly. But there wasn’t in that plan, correct me if I’m wrong, but there wasn’t any point made about sort of how like how much that housing would cost and whether it would be affordable or not. So I’m wondering how you know how you feel we can rely on the private market to deliver the kind of housing that low income Canadians need, and can afford?

Michelle Ferreri  25:16

Well, I think that comes down to a lot of relationships within the community too, right? I think you’re always going to have federal conversations and you’re going to have local conversations, right? A big federal overlapping umbrella policy is, you know, we’ve got a plan, we’re going to secure the future, we’re going to stop foreign investors, that’s a really key component I, you know, I just came from a meeting about that we have a lot of people coming in and driving up the cost of our houses because of foreign investment. Right? So we’re gonna really clamp down on that that’s, that’s not okay. The other issue is inflation, right? So when you look at bringing down the inflation rate, right now, the cost of food, I mean, I’m feeding three, sometimes six kids a week. That’s astronomical. Seniors on fixed incomes… So we need to get inflation under control. And we need to have a long term plan. I don’t know that we’ll ever get housing to go backward. But we certainly need to stop it where it is right now.

Will Pearson  26:06

What whole do like co-ops and nonprofits and other than publicly owned housing organizations played in your vision for how to solve this problem?

Michelle Ferreri  26:18

I think they’re critical. I think collaboration is key. Right? And I think I think you have to always look at what the common goal is, right? And I think the common goal is to get people deserve homes, people deserve a place to live, whether that’s through rent, or whether it’s owned. We all have to work together. And I think that’s really the key component when you look at how we operate, and what are we doing to support each other, right? A lot of people want to say, Oh, this government doesn’t talk to this government, or that’s a municipal problem, or that’s a provincial issue, or that’s a federal issue. And it’s true, like each level of government definitely has their own issues that they have to be in charge of. But we really have to collaborate. And we have to listen to people who know how to solve these issues.

Will Pearson  27:07

One of the things that caught my eye on the platform was the idea to incentivize landowners to donate property to community land trust’s, model off of like the way that ecological gifts are treated. I’ve ended up just because you were mentioning the the war for like community land trust’s or co-ops, nonprofits. That’s the platform. That’s the only mention of those kinds of alternative organizations, the platform does seem focused on opening up the process for private developers. So if you think that the nonprofits will play a critical role, were you concerned to see that be the only sort of mentioned of them in the platform?

Michelle Ferreri  27:47

No, and I think you know, with a platform like I said, you’re going to have a national strategy, but then on an individual community level for Peterborough-Kawartha, you’re definitely going to have to pivot and, and customize it to fit your riding. Right. There’s a lot of Canada, a lot of variation across the country. And so obviously, you’re going to have a general overview. But hopefully what you can do here on your own level is, is implement those ideas and policy around that to make sure that people are getting what they need here in Peterborough-Kawartha.

Ayesha Barmania  28:17

And so Ferreri mentioned the Liberals goal of building 2000 units in Peterborough over two years. Take us back through what that promise was.

Will Pearson  28:26

Yeah, so that’s a goal that Diane Therrien and Maryam Monsef set together in 2019, during the tent city encampments in Victoria Park. To be honest, I felt that the goalposts for that commitment were never really that firm, you know, the units have to be built and then occupied by residents within two years, or maybe just like approved and funded within two years, that was never really clear. How affordable would they be, that was never really made clear. So it’s hard to like, go back and be like, has that promise been met or not? Here’s what we can say though. During the campaign right now, Maryam Monsef is running on the Liberals’ record of having built, renovated or subsidized nearly 1700 units locally since 2015. But renovating and subsidizing units aren’t the same as building units. And so I asked Monsef if she was happy with the progress so far towards building more affordable housing units in Peterborough.

 So in the 2019 election campaign, you said that the Liberal government had a plan to build 2000 new affordable units in Peterborough. And the National Housing strategy has been like the main vehicle for realizing that goal. So far, the National Housing strategy has supported the construction of just over 200 housing units in Peterborough. And not all of those units have any affordability requirements. So I’m wondering if you’re satisfied with the level of construction that the National Housing strategy has delivered for Peterborough so far?

Maryam Monsef  29:56

So let me clarify and I’m just pulling up my notes here. in Peterborough-Kawartha we’ve supported more than 1700 units of affordable housing, that’s rent to gear, that’s accessible units, we’ve brought in $65 million in investments. Just you know, this year, we brought in $40 million in investments through the National Housing strategy. And we’ve been able to partner with folks like the quarter participation project, with Habitat for Humanity, for the mount Community Center, the Ontario Aboriginal housing folks, and what’s left now, there’s a really exciting, ambitious plan, as you know, with the city of Peterborough, to build around 1400 more units of affordable housing. And the the city is going to determine when those shovels go in the ground. But you know, I’ve seen this proposal, I’ve been briefed on it, you know, three years ago, and when the city’s ready to go, I’ll be there, I’ll be there to go after it hard and make sure that we get our fair share of housing in our community as well. So the housing strategy is working, it’s delivering for people in Peterborough. But now it’s time to, particularly post COVID, to step it up, and to seize these opportunities. And, you know, there’s a tendency for risk aversion. But this is not the time for that. People without a home can’t work from home. People without a home end up staying in abusive relationships, because where else are they going to go? Kids without a safe home, are not going to get the best start in life. And our elders also need more opportunity. So there are tools on the table, there’s a proposal for another 1400 units, which I’ve been waiting restlessly for. And when the city is ready to move forward with that I’m all in.

Will Pearson  31:53

Yeah. And just to clarify, for our listeners, the discrepancy between these numbers, I know that that 1700 number includes units that were renovated with individual support. So I think that when we hear promise about building 2000 units, I don’t I don’t think that means renovating units, it means building new units. And when I talk to folks at the city about solving homelessness, they say one of the challenges is we just don’t have the units.

Maryam Monsef  32:17

Right? Can I clarify something there? Well, if we don’t renovate those units, we lose that stock. So we end up having fewer units. And if we don’t count those units that are not going to be renovated or that are renovated, our math will be off. So I actually think it’s really important to include the units we subsidize, the units we build, and the units we renovate, because all of that addresses the availability and the accessibility and affordability of housing in our community.

Will Pearson  32:50

Yep, fair enough. So I’ve spoken to some affordable housing developers in Peterborough who said that the application process to accessing the money through the National Housing strategy is so onerous that they just don’t have capacity to do it. When I spoke to Councillor Keith Riel, the city he said that the city assigned four staff people to fill out the paperwork just to get the grant mission loan. So I’m wondering, what would a reelected Liberal government do to make this process easier for the kinds of community based housing providers and nonprofits that don’t have the resources and maybe don’t have the capacity to to access this money?

Maryam Monsef  33:27

That’s a really good question. And I would say, for nonprofits, particularly, we’ve offered seed funding so that they can hire somebody saw, like $50,000, to hire somebody to write that application process to go through the due diligence for these significant infrastructure projects. So we’ve allowed for a new stream in the National Housing strategy to do that, and folks in our community are taking advantage of it. The reality, Will, is our challenge in this community, you know, isn’t necessarily the program itself, because we’ve built really strong relationships with CMHC. So there’s a CMHC person and an entire shop and folks in Ottawa who know very well the opportunities and challenges in Peterborough. That’s a plus for us. The city. It was the mayor through her meeting a couple years ago, did something they’d not done before, which is assign a person to do this work, a one stop shop for developers to go through City Hall and get the applications and get through the red tape. So there’s the municipal component of it as well. And of course, when we’ve put forward applications in our community, we’ve been successful. That said. There are communities like Hamilton, Hamilton dreamed big, and just recently they got about 145. Let me find they got $145 million to build 6000 new units of housing in one go. It’s possible for our community to do the same. And I think that coordination that is needed with City Hall, the coordination with CMHC, what I bring to the table is a lot of hand holding through the process and advocating for these projects. I’m all in. I think part of what nonprofits and co-ops particularly will appreciate is that seed funding that creates a job for somebody to then go through the application process so that the indigenous consultation piece, the environmental assessments, the zoning conversations, all of that happened in a good way so that the projects are not stalled.

Ayesha Barmania 35:43

So we just kind of went through those three candidates on how their platforms will affect Peterborough locally. Let’s zoom out. And I kinda want to ask for your thoughts on this, do you think the platforms are sufficient on a national level?

Will Pearson  35:57

I would say that of the three major party platforms on housing, I don’t think any of them are sufficient. I don’t think any of them meet the moment or bring enough resources to respond to the level of crisis we’re facing right now on housing. That said, there’s good ideas and all of them. And I think that if you put all of those good ideas together, you might be getting somewhere. So in the Conservative platform, the idea of trying to like spur private development by tying transit money to increase densification in cities, I think is a cool idea. And just generally, their focus on enabling the private market to build more market rate housing. That’s something that needs to happen. As important as affordable housing is, we also just need more market housing. I said already in this episode, that I think we need a lot more money, public money to for nonprofits and co ops. And I was happy to see that in the NDP platform. But I think each of those two parties are kind of like missing what the other one has. I would love to see the NDP platform also have some planks that look at how are we going to spur private development of market rate housing, because that we need that. And I wish that the Conservative platform had a little bit more focus on co ops and nonprofits and that kind of housing provider. I think the Liberal idea to provide funding to municipalities to speed up the permitting process is a good one. Just pick just based on what I hear from developers in Peterborough, that that is a barrier they face. And developers will tell you that the longer it takes them to shepherd a project through the approvals process, the more expensive it’s going to be prevented in the end, because that’s more time that they’re paying mortgages on properties that don’t have revenue. And so they’re gonna try to make that up by raising rents. So that it was interesting to me. But there’s also pitfalls in all the platforms. And one pitfall in particular that I see in all three of the party platforms. And they all do this is, they in audit, as a way of making it easier to purchase houses, they’re trying to make it easier to access mortgages, and bigger mortgages. And so they’re all doing this in different ways. The Conservatives want to remove some of the stress test requirements on mortgages, and increase access to mortgage insurance. The NDP wants to reintroduce 30 year mortgages, and the Liberals also like the Conservatives want to increase access to mortgage insurance. And all of these ideas might make it easier for an individual or a family to buy a house. But you know, if we think about one of the problems facing us right now, is this what Monsef called the imbalance between supply and demand, you can bring prices down by increasing supply or lowering demand. And by making it easier to borrow money, you actually increase demand, there’s more money available for people to bid on houses, right. And so I think that all of those kinds of measures actually stand to make housing more expensive. And I think I also see, in a lot of the discourse in this election, this sort of tension between, well, how do we make housing more affordable for people that don’t own houses yet, while also protecting the equity of people that already own houses. And that’s another tension that I see in the discourse right now about housing. And I think all of the parties are trying to struggle with that. I’ve seen a lot of people talking about stake reading this as a kind of like class conflict between homeowners and renters. I don’t know if that’s particularly helpful because I know that lots of people that own homes, also have loved ones that don’t, and would like to see housing prices become more accessible for people. You know, my mom owns a home, but she wants to see housing prices go down for my sake. So I don’t know if that kind of a framing is, is helpful. But there is a tension between the interests of homeowners and the interests of renters right now that I think we need to kind of grapple with. And so I wanted to ask three candidates whether they thought housing prices did need to fall and what it wouldn’t be a good thing if housing prices went down.

Maryam Monsef  40:08

Yes, and we are. And that’s what’s on the table, the banning of blind bidding is the first major tenet of the commitment to bring down the price of housing. In addition to that, we’re going to establish the right to Home Inspections so that people aren’t just able to bid on a home sight unseen and get it or the other way around. They’re told no home inspection, take it or leave it, and then they get a home stock that is not particularly helpful. There’s a requirement proposed for real estate agents to disclose all participants in a transaction when they’re involved in both sides of the sale. And again, that’ll help bring down some of that pricing.

Joy Lachica  40:58

Absolutely. This is beyond what should be and it needs to be. It’s like, it’s like a racehorse that’s out of the gate, and we need to stop, we need to stop it. Because it’s not okay, that this race is going on. And you know, we’ve before there is more damage and loss and just access that is obstructed to good housing, for everybody. It needs to be stopped.

Michelle Ferreri  41:40

Yeah, I mean, I agree. I don’t think a housing crash or a market crash there is probably good for anybody. I don’t think that’s going to work, right? It’s tough, right? Because then the people who have bought in this market at those prices, now they’ve lost their equity. Right? So you really have to make sure you’re not leaving anyone out.

Will Pearson  42:03

So I thought that was an interesting contrast in the three answers with Maryam Monsef and Joy Lachica both saying that housing prices do need to fall. Joy Lachica in particular seemed pretty emphatic about that. But Michelle Ferreri expressing a little bit of nervousness around what that might mean for people that already own homes. important to remember that this isn’t just about homeowners and potential homeowners, the price of a house influences how much renters in a community. And so it does influence the whole housing market across the spectrum.

Ayesha Barmania 42:39

And so we’ve talked for a fair bit about this. But is there anything else you wanted to cover any final points you wanted to make?

Will Pearson  42:45

Well, I think it’s important not to lose sight of just the significance and the meaning of these issues in people’s lives. It’s easy when you talk about housing policy, it can sometimes feel kind of abstract and kind of like distant, especially when you’re talking about like market forces. And like we can have a conversation about whether we should even be providing housing using the market. But we do. And so that’s, you know, we do need to sort of grapple with those kinds of forces. So I think it’s important to remember that we’re talking about policies that impacts human beings on a really basic level, the current liberal Liberal government did vote to formally acknowledge housing as a fundamental human right. And I have lots of questions about what that means, in our community, where, you know, there’s a bylaw that makes it illegal for people to sleep outside and pucks. Even well, homeless shelters continue to ban people from accessing the services. So I have a lot of questions about sort of what it means to say that housing is a human right when that kind of thing is still happening in our community. And so I wanted to end my conversation with the three candidates by asking them, what does it mean to you to say that housing is a human right? And how do you want to see that right realized more fully in Peterborough? And I thought that would be a good way to end our podcast as well. So here are their answers to that.

Joy Lachica  44:13

Thanks, William. And in my role as a delegate to the Canadian Labour Congress, and as an executive member, I’ve been to the United Nations committee on the status of women. I’ve been a delegate every year and gone to New York in the time that I’ve been elected. And, and every year, we look at and we revisit the 17 goals for a sustainable future: the United Nations sustainability goals. So and I’m part of the team that writes an analysis of where we’ve come since the previous UN CSW and then we make plans and assess our short term goals for the future. Housing is one of those, those human rights. So this is part of my lens. And it has been for a long time, that that those 17 goals for a sustainable future that the United Nations talks about, you know, everything and I can, I can list them all for you. But everything from, you know, poverty to housing to clean water for all, there’s a children’s bill of rights as well, when they’re 17. And they’re all so integrated. And housing is top of the pile. I intend to keep my ear to that track and, you know, United Nations Committee for the status of women and the 17 goals for sustainability so that we can meet climate targets before 2030. And that we can make that happen now. No more gradual transitions.

Michelle Ferreri  45:58

I think you’re right, I think if you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, right. And I think working in poverty reduction, and working with people who are working poverty reduction, you can’t get to a job, you can’t get to anything, if you have so much stress of housing and food. It is a human right. Right. And we can’t, and it’s smart. It’s a smart decision and investment, to invest in people to make sure they have the basic needs of life. So I think it’s really important. And I think the difference, you know, is having a plan to execute that. I mean, we can all think it and ideology is great, but if we don’t have a plan to execute it into support people, and I think that’s why our job creation aspect as well within our five points is really important, important because we’re offering subsidization for employers to hire more people, the longer we know, the longer you’re off work, the longer you’re off work, right. So I think incentive incentives are very powerful. I don’t think punishing people works. I think incentives work. And I think a lot of our platform shows that.

Maryam Monsef  47:08

It’s really hard to live a secure and dignified life without a place to call home. It’s just really hard. And the right to a home can only be realized, if all orders of government, municipalities, indigenous leadership, the province and the federal government are working together to reduce red tape, to address risk aversion to build more homes, and to help more people buy their first home to help the most vulnerable get into a safe home. And to ensure that, you know, for those who have additional needs that they have the wraparound supports, we have what it takes in our community to house every single person who doesn’t have a place to call home. We have what it takes in this community to build more homes so that more people young people particularly can get into that first home. We’re closer to achieving that right to housing, then we may realize

Ayesha Barmania 48:24

Well, that brings us to the end of the episode and thanks so much for doing all this work and bring us this reporting, Will.

Will Pearson  48:31

No problem. Thanks for talking with me.

Ayesha Barmania 48:39

Music In this episode comes courtesy of Erika Nininger, check out the show notes for a link to her Bandcamp. This episode was produced by Will Pearson and me, Ayesha Barmania. We are the Co-publishers of Peterborough Currents an independent local journalism outlet serving the Peterborough area. You can help make more reporting like this possible by becoming a financial supporter. Our reporting is free for everyone to read and listen to, but it’s not free to make. We really appreciate all the folks who helped make our work possible. You can become one of those people by having our website and clicking the support us button. That’s Peterborough Current dot CA. Thanks so much for listening and bye for now.

Filed under: Federal election 2021