Candidates for Chilliwack-Hope: Mark Strahl, (Conservatives), Kelly Velonis (Liberals), DJ Pohl (NDP), Arthur Green (Greens), Robert Bogunovic (PPC). (Submitted)

Candidates for Chilliwack-Hope: Mark Strahl, (Conservatives), Kelly Velonis (Liberals), DJ Pohl (NDP), Arthur Green (Greens), Robert Bogunovic (PPC). (Submitted)

Chilliwack Healthier Community is quizzing candidates with a series of election questions

Chilliwack-Hope candidates offer various visions for housing and rental affordability

The first in a series of election questions from Chilliwack Healthier Community (CHC) is focused on the critical issue of housing and rental affordability.

The Chilliwack Progress has condensed answers from Chilliwack-Hope candidates into a news summary online and in print, with their full and complete responses available by scrolling to the end of this page.

“At election time CHC has always tried to create a forum for candidates and service providers to ask questions and discuss the most pressing issues of the day,” said Sabine Mendez, executive director of CHC.

Since an in-person event was not going to happen, and it was too late to organize an online forum, the CHC decided to engage with voters with a series of questions.

CHC is a community network of more than 40 local partners focused on affordable housing, accessibility, mental health, addictions, poverty reduction and cultural safety from government, community agencies, law enforcement and business.

Here is the first set of questions: “What do you believe is the most effective federal strategy for increasing housing and rental affordability? How is your party’s strategy different and/or better than the other parties’ approach?”

Their answers to the housing questions are summarized, in alphabetical order by candidate, as follows.

Robert Bogunovic, People’s Party of Canada (PPC) candidate, said that “if the federal government respects the constitution,” the area where it could have the most impact would be “immigration” policies.

He posits there are “intimate links” between housing and immigration, especially those who immigrate to Canada with significant wealth.

Affordability, then, is a product of supply and demand, Bogunovic said.

“First and foremost, our immigration policies must not exacerbate the problems Canadians are already struggling with,” Bogunovic said.

Putting a specific cap on the numbers of immigrants is the mechanism.

“Reducing immigration to less than 150,000 per year will help address the housing crisis because it will reduce demand within our housing market. This is the PPC solution.”

The PPC strategy differs from other parties which are “driven by political considerations” that can hinder them advocating practical solutions.

“They feel the need to pander, and so these other parties deny the role that demand plays in the housing equation. Every other party ignores the reality that British Columbia is already producing housing near maximum capacity, and they all believe they can spend their way out of this crisis using money they plan to steal from your children and your grandchildren.”

For Arthur Green of the Green Party of Canada, affordable housing is an especially sensitive topic, but the answer could be tiny homes.

“I was born into abject poverty and raised in very squalid conditions,” Green said, with five children and two adults in a two-bedroom home.

He himself was “inspired out of homelessness” by one act of kindness, when he was offered a job from someone who had nothing to gain. Eventually he became that person’s boss, and a property owner.

“Affordable housing is the key and the solution, not only for housing the less fortunate, but for creating a changed mindset as to what any of us are capable of.

The mindset totally changes from housing victim to victor becoming a property owner.

With most priced out of the traditional housing market, the real opportunity lies in tiny homes, Green offered.

Here’s his math. The average housing allowance for those on social assistance is approximately $360 per month. The average cost of a functional tiny home is $25,000. On a mortgage with a 25-year amortization, the average yearly principle would be about $1000 per year or less than $100 a month, leaving lots of room in the $360 monthly budget.

“It would also create a huge boon in tiny home construction and an uplift to our economy, creating sustainable housing.

“The only thing we need to do this, is government will.”

For DJ Pohl, candidate for the New Democratic Party (NDP) of Canada, everyone “should have the right” to a safe and affordable place to call home.

“Chilliwack-Hope is experiencing high rates of population growth while simultaneously seeing skyrocketing rents, demo-victions, and ballooning home prices,” Pohl said.

That forces impossible choices, between rent or food for example. It can lead to being unhoused.

Seniors and people living with disabilities are disproportionately affected, Pohl underlined.

”I believe the most effective federal strategy to increase housing and rental affordability would be to mandate a percentage of affordable homes/units be required in new builds and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) rules,” Pohl said.

NDP has pledged to create at least 500,000 housing units in the next 10 years with half of it within the next five years.

To help end speculation fuelling high housing prices, the NDP will establish a 20 per cent foreign buyer’s tax on the sale of homes to individuals who aren’t Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

“Finally, New Democrats will also fight money laundering and work with the provinces to create a public beneficial ownership registry to increase transparency about who owns properties.”

Their strategy differs when it comes to taking action on the housing front “because we intend to do it,” Pohl vowed.

Decades of inaction from past governments have created this problem. It will take “bold action, not empty promises,” Pohl stressed. “Canada has the fastest growing housing prices in all of the G7 and the NDP is the only party with the political will to provide immediate relief for families that are struggling while delivering on long-term solutions to the housing affordability crisis.”

Mark Strahl, the incumbent candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) said affordable housing is slipping out of reach for many.

“It’s time to face the fact: We have a housing crisis in Canada,” Strahl said.

“The primary cause is that supply simply isn’t keeping up with demand.”

Action is needed from all levels of government to shift out of this position, Strahl said.

“We need to treat this like the crisis it is. Years of study and delay will just leave more and more Canadians and newcomers trapped in inadequate or insecure housing.

“We need shovels in the ground building enough housing not just to keep up with but to get ahead of population growth.”

The Conservative approach in multi-pronged but focuses on increasing supply.

“We need to ensure that Canadians, first and foremost, can afford the housing that we do have, keeping out foreign speculators, corruption, and laundered money that force up prices. And we need to remove unnecessary roadblocks preventing Canadians from getting mortgages.

What sets the CPC apart from others on the housing question?

Canada’s Conservatives have “a comprehensive plan” to make housing more affordable, with a plan to build one million homes in the next three years.

“To do so they will leverage federal infrastructure investments to increase housing supply.”

Kelly Velonis – Liberal Party of Canada

The most effective federal strategy for increasing housing and rental affordability will be staying the course with the Liberals’ first ever National Housing Strategy (NHS) introduced in 2017, said Velonis.

Chilliwack has already benefited with the development of a 36-unit affordable housing project, a partnership between the Liberal government, the provincial government, the City of Chilliwack and Ruth and Naomi’s. This project also includes 20-day care spaces and nine treatment beds.

NHS delivered a 67-unit apartment complex on Webb Avenue, made possible with the CMHC’s Rental Construction Financing Initiative (RCFi), geared to innovative and socially responsible housing options.

There was also $5 million for the affordable housing complex at 9194 Edward Street in Chilliwack.

The Rental Construction Financing Initiative is a component of the NHS and Chilliwack officials had been trying for years to become eligible to apply for funding to create more affordable housing stock, and now it is a reality, Velonis said.

What sets the Liberals apart on housing is their three-part housing plan, which includes ‘A Home For Everyone’ program to unlock home ownership by helping save a family buying their first home up to $30,000.

They also plan to build more, to preserve, or repair an additional 1.4 million homes in four years.

“We have done great work so far yet there is still so much more work to do to make housing affordable for all,” Velonis said.

“Now is not the time to change course, it is time to continue with a plan that has shown progress, a real plan that is working and will continue to work.”

RELATED: CHC grills 2019 candidates over breakfast

Full answers below:

Robert Bogunovic – People’s Party of Canada (PPC)

Addressing this issue is challenging because of the division of powers. City councils determine property zoning and provincial governments set tax policies on housing. If the federal government respects the constitution, the area where we can be most impactful concerns our policies on immigration. There are intimate links between housing and immigration, especially regarding migrants who come with significant wealth.

Housing and rent affordability are products of supply and demand. Provincial efforts to address supply (building more housing) aren’t especially effective when the federal government keeps increasing demand through excessively high rates of immigration. According to SFU’s Sanjay Jeram: “Many key voices on this issue have demonstrated that housing prices have become very disconnected from local incomes. Only focusing on supply doesn’t work if the Lower Mainland happens to attract immigrants with well-above average levels of foreign-sourced wealth.

Jeram asserts that “Any solution has to focus on supply and demand.” UBC’s Daniel Hiebert agrees, declaring “First and foremost, immigration policy is, essentially, also a form of housing policy”.

We need skilled workers, but we need to attract the right mix, and we must make the immigration process easier for those we invite in. First and foremost, our immigration policies must not exacerbate the problems Canadians are already struggling with. Reducing immigration to less than 150,000/year will help address the housing crisis because it will reduce demand within our housing market. This is the PPC solution.

Our solution differs from the other parties because they are driven by political considerations that hinder them from promoting obvious and practical solutions. They feel the need to pander, and so these other parties deny the role that demand plays in the housing equation. Every other party ignores the reality that British Columbia is already producing housing near maximum capacity, and they all believe they can spend their way out of this crisis using money they plan to steal from your children and your grandchildren.

Art Green – Green Party of Canada

Affordable housing is a very sensitive subject for myself. I was born into abject poverty and raised in very squalid conditions. Five children(4 boys and a girl) and 2 adults in in a nonfunctional 2 bdrm. home. Only one operational tap and a bath.

Unfortunately being raised in these types of conditions, does not inspire a lot of hope for one’s future. And as it turned out, I became homeless myself, in the earlier part of my life. I also suffered all of the tragedies that go along with homelessness. Malnutrition, mental health, addiction and depression.

However, I believe hope is the key. I was inspired out of homelessness by one act of kindness, I was offered a job, by a person who had absolutely nothing invested in me. Their love and kindness inspired me to prove to the world that given the opportunity, that I/we could solve any issue if we all just reach out to all those others living in despair with nothing more than a kind heart and a willingness to love and listen.

Only five years later, after I accepted this generous and wholesome act of kindness, and taking full advantage of this true kind opportunity, I became this kind gentleman’s boss. I also, not only became housed, but became a multi property owner.

There’s is nothing more inspiring for a homeless person. Affordable housing is the key and the solution, not only for housing the less fortunate, but for creating a changed mindset as to what any of us are capable of.

The problem today is that we’ve lost our perspective of what is really affordable. A $1000/month may be considered affordable to the average person in an average market economy. But to a homeless or unemployed person it is absolutely ridiculous.

What inspired myself, and I believe is the key to transitioning away from these abject poverty situations, is ownership. Once a person, and I believe all home owners will agree, purchase their first home, your mindset changes, from I’m no longer that poverty victim, to I’m just as good as those people who looked down their noses at me.

I believe the key to solving this dilemma is to allow the poorest of our society to actually become property owners. Obviously, just like us, whose first home probably wasn’t Windsor Castle, the fact we got into the market, was the first major step in our homegrown personal wealth.

Today, because we’ve priced ourselves out of the traditional housing market, our opportunity lies in tiny homes. The average housing allowance for those living on social assistance is approximately $360/month. The average cost of a functional tiny home could be purchased all dressed out for approximately $25,000. On a mortgage with a 25 year amortization, the average yearly principle would be approximately $1000/year or less than $100/month, leaving lots of room in the $360 monthly budget.

Not only could we create home ownership for all these under advantaged clients, we’d actually Save money doing so. So in essence it would cost nothing to our taxpayers. It would also create a huge boon in tiny home construction and an uplift to our economy, creating sustainable housing.

This would not only benefit those on social assistance, but the working poor as well. After a few years of gaining equity, clients could upgrade or transfer their equity into other investments.

The only thing we need to do this is government will.

DJ Pohl – New Democratic Party (NDP)

Everyone should have the right to a safe and affordable place to call home. Chilliwack-Hope is experiencing high rates of population growth while simultaneously seeing skyrocketing rents, demo-victions, and ballooning home prices. This means families are struggling to stay in the communities where they want to live and work and are facing constant stress and impossible choices between rent or food. They are living in substandard housing or relocating out of their community, or worse, facing the real risk of being unhoused. The national housing crisis also disproportionately impacts vulnerable populations including seniors and people living with disabilities.

A major part of the long-term solution is to ensure that more affordable rental units are built across the country. I believe the most effective federal strategy to increase housing and rental affordability would be to mandate a percentage of affordable homes/units be required in new builds and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) rules. As a starting point a New Democrat government will create at least 500,000 units of quality, affordable housing in the next ten years with half of that done within the next five years. We will dedicate fast-start funds for co-ops, social, and non-profit housing to streamline applications and we will waive the federal portion of the GST/HST on the construction of new affordable rental units which will create jobs, help get new units built faster and keep them affordable for the long term.

We will also re-introduce 30-year terms to CMHC insured mortgages on entry-level homes for first time home buyers. This will allow for smaller monthly payments, freeing up funds to help make ends meet for young families. We will also give people a hand with closing costs by doubling the Home Buyer’s Tax Credit to $1,500.

To help put an end to speculation that’s fueling high housing prices, we’ll put in place a 20% Foreign Buyer’s tax on the sale of homes to individuals who aren’t Canadian citizens or permanent residents. This will help prioritize sales for people looking to live in the neighbourhood over those looking to turn a profit. Finally, New Democrats will also fight money laundering and work with the provinces to create a public beneficial ownership registry to increase transparency about who owns properties.

Our strategy is different than the other parties because we intend to do it. Decades of inaction from Liberal and Conservative governments have created this problem and we need bold action, not empty promises. Furthermore, many of these pieces can be delivered right away and it targets both supply-side and demand-side issues. The Liberal Government has had six years to crack down on profiteers, wealthy corporations and foreign investors but did nothing causing the problem to get significantly worse.

Housing affordability is becoming out of reach for the average Canadian, with rents rising in every province and 1.6 million households spending over 30 percent of their income on housing. Canada has the fastest growing housing prices in all of the G7 and the NDP is the only party with the political will to provide immediate relief for families that are struggling while delivering on long-term solutions to the housing affordability crisis.

Mark Strahl – Conservative

It’s time to face the fact: We have a housing crisis in Canada. Affording a home – to rent, let alone to buy – is slipping out of reach of Canadians across our country. The primary cause is that supply simply isn’t keeping up with demand. Governments have not let Canadians build enough housing to keep up with our growing population.

We need action – from all levels of government. We need to treat this like the crisis it is. Years of study and delay will just leave more and more Canadians and newcomers trapped in inadequate or insecure housing. We need shovels in the ground building enough housing not just to keep up with but to get ahead of population growth. We need to ensure that Canadians, first and foremost, can afford the housing that we do have, keeping out foreign speculators, corruption, and laundered money that force up prices. And we need to remove unnecessary roadblocks preventing Canadians from getting mortgages.

Canada’s Conservatives have a comprehensive plan to make housing more affordable.

To swiftly increase supply, we will implement a plan to build 1 million homes in the next three years. To do so, we will:

Leverage federal infrastructure investments to increase housing supply. We will:

Build public transit infrastructure that connects homes and jobs by bringing public transit to where people are buying homes; and

Require municipalities receiving federal funding for public transit to increase density near the funded transit;

Review the extensive real estate portfolio of the federal government – the largest property owner in the country with over 37,000 buildings – and release at least 15% for housing while improving the Federal Lands Initiative;

Incent developers to build the housing Canadians both want and need, by:

Encouraging Canadians to invest in rental housing by extending the ability to defer capital gains tax when selling a rental property and reinvesting in rental housing, something that is currently excluded; and

Exploring converting unneeded office space to housing.

Continue the Conservative commitment to Reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples by enacting a “For Indigenous, By Indigenous” strategy – long called for by Indigenous housing advocates, who have been ignored by this Liberal government;

Canada’s Conservatives are committed to putting a stop to federal paternalism and instead partnering with Indigenous communities and empowering Indigenous Peoples with the autonomy to meet their own housing needs.

Enhance the viability of using Community Land Trusts for affordable housing by creating an incentive for corporations and private landowners to donate property to Land Trusts for the development of affordable housing.

The incentive will mirror that which exists for donating land to ecological reserves.

To root out the corrupt activities that drive up real estate prices and put homeownership out of reach, we will:

Implement comprehensive changes to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, and give FINTRAC, law enforcement, and prosecutors the tools necessary to identify, halt, and prosecute money-laundering in Canadian real estate markets.

Establish a federal Beneficial Ownership Registry for residential property.

Closely examine the findings and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, which is doing important work, and quickly implement recommendations at the federal level.

To arrest and reverse the inflationary impacts of foreign buyers and speculation in the housing market, we will ensure that housing in Canada is truly for Canadian citizens and residents first. The Liberals are on record stating, “we’re a very safe market for foreign investment but we’re not a great market for Canadians looking for choices around housing.” This must change.

We need a real estate market that serves the interests of everyday Canadians: the young family who needs more space for their kids, the recent university grad trying to find an apartment in the city, the tradesperson moving to a new community for work, the retired empty-nesters wanting to downsize without losing all their home equity to pay for an overpriced condo – all are underserved by Canada’s lack of affordable housing options.

We will:

Ban foreign investors not living in or moving to Canada from buying homes here for a two-year period after which it will be reviewed.

Instead, encourage foreign investment in purpose-built rental housing that is affordable to Canadians.

To address homelessness, we will:

Re-implement the Housing First approach, which has been watered down by the current federal government, to aid in the fight against Canada’s addictions crisis.

Revise the federal government’s substance abuse policy framework to make recovery its overarching goal.

Invest $325 million over the next three years to create 1,000 residential drug treatment beds and build 50 recovery community centres across the country.

Support innovative approaches to address the crises of mental health challenges and addiction, such as land-based treatment programs developed and managed by Indigenous communities as part of a plan to enhance the delivery of culturally appropriate addictions treatment and prevention services in First Nations communities with high needs.

To make mortgages more affordable, we will:

Encourage a new market in seven- to ten-year mortgages to provide stability both for first-time home buyers and lenders, opening another secure path to homeownership for Canadians, and reducing the need for mortgage stress tests.

Remove the requirement to conduct a stress test when a homeowner renews a mortgage with another lender instead of only when staying with their current lender, as is the case today. This will increase competition and help homeowners access more affordable options.

Increase the limit on eligibility for mortgage insurance and index it to home price inflation, allowing those in high-priced real estate markets with less than a 20% down-payment an opportunity at home-ownership.

Fix the mortgage stress test to stop discriminating against small business owners, contractors and other non-permanent employees including casual workers.

Canada’s Conservatives will never tax Canadians’ capital gains on the sale of their principal residence, something many within the Liberal party are threatening to do.

Kelly Velonis – Liberal

The most effective federal strategy for increasing housing and rental affordability continues to be the Liberal Government’s first ever National Housing Strategy (NHS) introduced in 2017.

Chilliwack has had the good fortune to have seen first hand the results of the National Housing Strategy(NHS).

Chilliwack has seen the development of a 36 unit affordable housing project between the Liberal governments NHS, the provincial government, the City of Chilliwack and Ruth and Naomi’s. This project also includes 20- day care spaces and nine treatment beds.

This Federal affordable housing program brought a four storey 67- unit apartment complex with affordable housing on Webb Ave. Which was as made possible with the CMHC’s Rental Construction Financing Initiative (RCFi), which promotes innovative and socially responsible housing options.

The program also gave residents more access to affordable housing with the 5 million investment into the affordable housing complex at 9194 Edward Street in Chilliwack.

The Rental Construction Financing Initiative is one of many components of Canada’s first-ever National Housing Strategy. Chilliwack officials had been trying for years to get Chilliwack qualified to apply for funding under NHS to create more affordable housing stock, and now it is a reality.

A re-elected Liberal government will move forward with a three-part housing plan:

“ A Home For Everyone”, which will:

Unlock Home Ownership: Liberals will help save a family buying their first home up to $30,000.

Build More homes: Liberals will build, preserve, or repair an additional 1.4 million homes in four years.

Protect your Rights: Liberals will create a Home Buyers’ Bill of Rights to make the process of buying a home fairer, more open, and transparent.

It will help renters become owners by introducing 1 billion in loans and grants and continuing to work with private, non-profit and co-op parties.

Help Canadians afford a down payment faster and introduce more flexible first-time home buyer incentives.

It will offer more support for Indigenous housing, curb unproductive foreign ownership and continue to work to end chronic homelessness.

It is time to stop speculation and house flipping and work with the provinces and municipalities to speed up housing construction. One of the key barriers is back logged and under resourced zoning and permits.

The plan will work to build and repair more affordable housing in fast growing communities.

We have done great work so far yet there is still so much more work to do to make housing affordable for ALL. Now is not the time to change course, it is time to continue with a plan that has shown progress, a REAL plan that is working and will continue to work.

RELATED: CHC questioned candidates in 2017

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
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Canada Election 2021