Madam Speaker, it is always great to rise to speak on behalf of my constituents of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, and it is always great to rise on the topic of housing, something that is near and dear to my heart.
I am one of probably a handful of people in the House who have lived in social housing, and that was through the 1970s with my family. I have that perspective of being a tenant. My perspective of living in a social housing unit is probably a lot different than my mother, who had two small kids in tow when we moved into the unit on Oriole Crescent.
It is important, when we talk about the financialization of housing, that we focus on what many have talked about today, and in other debates, and that is the perspective of the tenant and the challenges they face in trying to make ends meet in a very challenging market. That has happened historically. We have heard that through the decades. We have seen the rise and fall of interest rates. We have seen housing challenges with supply issues. Those challenges, of course, are back today. There is no denying that we have a crisis today.
Being a municipal councillor for so many years, I had the opportunity to serve on our municipal non-profit. CityHousing Hamilton was the largest non-profit housing provider in the city of Hamilton. We managed 7,000 of the city's 14,000 affordable housing units. I worked with an incredible team, including people such as Tom Hunter, Sean Botham, Leanne Ward, and Adam Sweedland, who is the CEO now, who are the front lines in providing support.
As my friend and colleague just mentioned, for those who are on the front lines providing support to tenants who are in need and those looking to find an affordable place to live, there is really no issue of who the government is or what political stripe they are. What housing providers are looking for, in this case for units that were owned and managed by the municipality, is financial support and policies that protect tenants, as well as policies and legislation that would make investments in housing.
When I think back to my time serving for over a decade on our municipal non-profit, and for the last seven years before my election here, I served as its president, I look at the challenges that we faced at CityHousing Hamilton, and the other housing providers that we worked in consultation and co-operation with. They were people such as Jeff Neven at Indwell services and his team, who provide incredible support, not just in Hamilton but in southern Ontario as well. There are the organizations such as Mission Services with Carol Cowan-Morneau and her team there, including Sue Smith and others, who do tremendous work in assisting some of our most vulnerable Canadians and Hamiltonians.
Another organization is Good Shepherd. I had the opportunity to speak to Brother Richard the other day at the ONPHA Conference in Toronto. At the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association Conference, Brother Richard was talking about projects Good Shepherd has on the horizon.
All of those groups and organizations look to all three levels of government for support. As has been referenced earlier today, and I have relayed this point many times in the House, for 30 years, non-profit housing providers have been left to their own devices. Back in the 1990s, the federal government decided to exit the sector. They passed on and downloaded that responsibility onto the provinces.
In the province of Ontario, when that was downloaded, Mike Harris and the common-sense revolutionary guard in the Legislature decided to pass those services and the costs for social housing on to municipalities. Municipalities have struggled to not just provide quality services for those services that were downloaded onto them, but they have struggled to get at the affordability housing wait-list. Those units I mentioned earlier, thousands of them, were passed on to city hall with the keys and no resources attached.
Here we had thousands of post-war units that were providing support for tenants, a safe place to call home for many, and the municipality was then left to its own devices in trying to incorporate the costs of repairing and renovating those units in their municipal budgets, which is unheard of. It happens nowhere else in Canada, except the province of Ontario, where a Conservative government would see fit to download those services to the municipalities.
As members of CityHousing, we had to find unique ways to make ends meet. We were land rich and cash poor and looked to our holdings of land to provide opportunities for development. We went out to the private sector and found unique partnerships to try to encourage the private sector to build on properties that we owned and to provide new units. The units people were living in were post-World War II units, for instance, where the windows were leaking, the roof was leaking and maybe the elevator did not work in a medium- or high-rise building. We needed partners who had resources, and we allowed access to our lands in order to provide density and new units, trying to get at that 6,200- to 6,400-unit wait-list we had.
When I look at the national housing strategy and what it does, it is providing support to housing providers. I just listed a handful of many dozens in the city of Hamilton. The national housing strategy was a game-changer. Municipalities, since the early 1990s, had asked consecutive federal governments for resources for renovation and repair. Many of the units that stakeholders and housing providers managed in the city of Hamilton could not pass a property standards inspection because of the state of disrepair. They asked for resources to get at the wait-list. Some of our most vulnerable Canadians sit on that list, including seniors and persons with disabilities. We know that indigenous people make up a greater percentage of those on the wait-list than the general population in Canada does. We looked for ways and means to renovate, repair and build units on our own, but we just could not make it work.
The national housing strategy, when it was announced early in the first mandate, was a game-changer for municipalities. It was a program that provided opportunity and hope for housing providers that there would be resources and that we would not have to continue to try to make ends meet on our own.
I look at the investments that have been made. I will use Hamilton as an example. The co-investment fund meant that we had tens of millions of dollars in federal resources available to get at our oldest units, to get at energy efficiencies, to reduce greenhouse gases and to make our units more accessible for people with disabilities.
I look at the rapid housing initiative. It pulls people out of encampments and seeks to address the issue of women fleeing domestic violence. The rapid housing initiative, of course, came at a perfect time. It came during the pandemic, when municipalities were struggling to build new units with supply chain issues. When I look at the resources that were passed along there and look back to my participation on our board, I would say that irrespective of what one's partisan stripe was on city council or who participated as board members for a municipal non-profit, we were just thankful that a government recognized the need and recognized that municipalities and housing providers had their challenges.
I look to the Canada housing benefit. It provides a portable rent supplement to people who are looking for a market unit to live in. It also provides a top-up for them to go out and find an affordable place to call home.
I look at the housing accelerator fund, which we have talked about extensively here, and the assistance it is providing in working with municipalities as our partners and working with stakeholders in municipalities across the country. Instead of casting blame on municipalities, small-town mayors and councillors, we are working with our municipal partners.
What I have heard is interesting, because many of the people on the opposite side of the House in the Conservative Party are former municipal representatives. Every time the Leader of the Opposition gets up and chastises the gatekeepers, this fictitious bogeyman entity to blame for the housing challenges we have, members who were municipal councillors get up and encourage him to do more and say more to chastise municipalities.
It is important to recognize the inroads we have made with the national housing strategy. It is a fluid document. Members are going to continue to see changes. The GST waiver is an important initiative that we just announced. They are going to see movement on the co-op file. They are going to see other initiatives that have been called for. I am hoping for an acquisition strategy at some point in time. We know our rural partners need additional supports.
For me, these are all important initiatives and they prove that the federal government is listening to the stakeholders. It proves that we are providing those investments contrary to what we have seen for the last 30 years.