Jasbir Sandhu, MP for Surrey North
Both in my community office and when I am out in Surrey, I frequently hear from constituents who are concerned about housing in Surrey North. Given the severe lack of adequate, affordable and accessible housing in our community, it does not surprise me that the topic is on the minds of so many of my constituents.
At the forefront of the conversation, are Surrey’s statistics on homelessness. In the most recent Metro Vancouver Homelessness Count, conducted in March 2014, there were 403 persons recorded who were homeless in Surrey. Of these, 67 identified as Aboriginal and 52 were youth; there were also significant numbers of homeless seniors, women and children. These statistics indicate that Surrey hosts the second largest number of street entrenched persons in Metro Vancouver, next to the City of Vancouver.
Also pertinent to the discussions around affordable housing across Canada, is the looming expiration of the social housing agreements. Since the 1970s, the federal government has entered into long term agreements with social housing providers, such as co-operative, low rent and non-profit housing, to ensure that rental costs remain affordable.
These agreements are now expiring and no promise for renewal is in sight. To date, about 45 000 social housing units have been affected; all will have disappeared by 2040. As a result of the expiration of their social housing agreement, tenants may see their monthly rents go up by $300 or more.
There are 4 376 social housing units in Surrey, representing 13% of the rental units available in the city. Of these, 44% are home to families, 41% serve seniors and the remaining 15% are targeted for persons who have a high risk of homelessness. The expiration of social housing agreements will affect a significant number of our neighbours, pushing them closer to homelessness.
Rental properties comprise 25% of Surrey households, and the average rent in Surrey is $100-$200 per month above the level of affordability for someone who lives below the poverty line (about 18% of Surrey’s population). Renters who spend at least 30% of their income on housing, and are unable to find housing that is an appropriate size and quality that they can afford, are considered in “core housing need”. There are 10 430 renters in core housing need in Surrey. Of the core housing need population, 34% are considered “worst case need”. These renters spend at least half of their income on housing and a decrease in their income or an increase in their rent could push them into homelessness.
In a country like Canada, the opportunity to have a secure home for your family should be considered a fundamental human right. However, Prime Minister Harper and the Conservatives have made it clear that it is not a priority for them in law-making.
Bill C-400, introduced by my NDP colleague Marie-Claude Morin, would have established a Canada-wide housing strategy. Unfortunately, the legislation was turned down by Conservative MPS, leaving Canada as the only G8 country without a National Housing Strategy. This is embarrassing.
I, along with my NDP colleagues intend to continue championing housing as a core human right.