Flawed Decades-Old Policies Fuel Canada’s Housing Crisis, Stresses Ex-Deputy PM


Canada’s ongoing housing crisis can be traced back to several decades of flawed policy, which originated when the federal government delegated the responsibility of addressing the concern to the provincial governments back in the 1980s. This perspective was presented by a former deputy prime minister.

In revealing this, the ex-deputy prime minister, Sheila Copps, noted that things were different when Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) used to play a more active role in the housing sector. During that era, there was a substantially higher level of national investment in housing as well as a coherent and effective housing policy and strategy.

Copps stated that the decision taken in 1987 to withdraw from housing at the federal level set off a 30-year cycle of underbuilt housing. This also led to a tri-decade gap in scrutinizing and implementing good public policy on housing. In her words, “I think that’s a big issue.”

During the 1970s, national housing policy saw the federal government more directly involved in spearheading the development of not only regular housing but also seniors and Indigenous housing. Unfortunately, this changed in the 1980s when the baton was passed to the provincial governments, which, as Copps observed, failed to match up to the task.

While it’s true that some provincial governments, such as Quebec, allocated the necessary funding to social housing, others did not. As Copps explained, “When the provincial governments took over the money intended for housing, a lot of them didn’t actually spend it on housing.”

However, things took a turn in 2017 when the federal government reinserted itself into the housing sphere under the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. This moment marked the start of a cooperation that still needs time to solve the present issues of scarcity and costliness that have come to characterize Canadian cities. As of now, five years down the line, Canada is grappling with a problem that started mushrooming since they relinquished control over housing in 1987.

Copps went on to add, “Sometimes, a national government needs to be at the table to fix problems. Leaving it up to 10 provinces and three territories isn’t always the best approach.”

Furthermore, she proposed that the federal housing strategy should include plans for encouraging migration away from Canada’s most densely populated regions. Comparing the housing prices in rural and remote communities with urban areas, she advised, “We need to think of ways to motivate people to relocate. The pandemic has shown us that not everyone must reside in downtown Toronto.”

In her opinion, a national government that prioritizes both building housing and managing migration is necessary to tackle this longstanding issue, ushering in opportunities for citizens to think about relocating and potentially benefit from a registered homeownership investment plan.


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