Affordability is one of the central issues in the 2019 federal election campaign, and one group is looking to push the needs of renters as a policy plank.
The Canadian Rental Housing Index (CRHI) found a sizeable amount of renters nationwide have living conditions that are beyond what’s generally considered affordable rent, 30 per cent or less of your monthly income going to housing and utilities.
In Saskatchewan, the CRHI found that 42 per cent of renters have 30 per cent or more of their monthly income going to shelter costs. For 16 per cent of renters, this takes up 50 per cent or more of their income.
The odds of living in a precarious rental situation increase for seniors, young adults, and Indigenous renters based on the report’s findings.
“For a long time, the conversation around rental housing affordability in Canada has focused on the population as a whole, but the numbers clearly show several key, vulnerable groups are bearing the brunt of this crisis,” said Jeff Morrison, executive director of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association.
“We very much hope that those seeking office in this election and Canadian voters will use this opportunity to push for more immediate and substantial action on this critical issue.”
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The CRHI highlighted a number of federal Saskatchewan ridings with higher proportions of renters paying more than 30 per cent of their wages to shelter costs. These include Regina Wascana (47 per cent), Regina Qu’Appelle (48 per cent), Saskatoon West (48 per cent) and Prince Albert (45 per cent).
All the federal party leaders are pushing affordability as central campaign planks.
According to University of Regina political science department head Jim Farney, it’s a piece in a larger puzzle.
“There’s a couple of trends going on. The big long-term one, and by long-term I mean forty years, if you adjust for purchasing power and parity, a control for inflation essentially, people’s wages haven’t gone up. They’ve stayed the same,” Farney said.
“But especially in Canada’s big cities housing has gotten more expensive. So to buy into that middle class dream of owning your own home has gotten more expensive, especially in that last ten or 15 years.”
The Conservatives are proposing tax cuts to help people get ahead, the Liberals are planning to extend their first-time homebuyers program and the NDP plan on building 500,000 affordable houses nationwide.
For most Canadians, the federal government doesn’t dictate their earnings or the housing market. In Farney’s view, individual federal policies have minimal impact on affordability.
“We’re a big, open economy, so that means there’s relatively little that government can do. There’s some stuff – it matters in the three, four, five per cent range, but it’s not huge,” he said.