CHURCHILL: More leadership needed from Premier Houston on the housing crisis
October 11, 2023 – (Halifax, NS)
Across this province, people are falling behind.
Nova Scotia now has the highest inflation in the country. The price of essentials like gas and groceries have skyrocketed, and power rates are increasing by 14 per cent.
It has never been more expensive to be a Nova Scotian than under Tim Houston’s Conservative government.
At the centre of this cost-of-living crisis is the housing crisis. We have the highest rent increases in Canada. Rent is nearly 10 per cent more than it was just a year ago.
In some ways, the housing crisis is all too visible, like the tents dotting Grand Parade Square in downtown Halifax.
In other ways, it’s harder to see but difficult for so many.
The senior whose fixed income is being swallowed up each month by housing costs.
The young family in line at the grocery store who’ve given up on the idea of owning a home.
The student you walk past on campus who is about to drop out because they can’t find a place to live.
These are the scars—those we see and those we don’t—of a crisis that the current provincial government seems unwilling to solve or even address.
Let’s be clear: housing is a provincial responsibility. Municipalities and the federal government are essential to finding answers, but the province must take the lead role, now.
Sadly, this Premier and his government have decided to pass the buck.
At a recent press conference, Premier Houston read a carefully prepared list of reasons HRM council was to blame for the housing crisis in our capital city.
That’s not political leadership and rising to the moment to meet a defining challenge.
The CMHC tells us we need to add 70,000 new units to the market by 2030 to meet demand, yet housing starts are down dramatically compared to last year.
If we’re going to change the fate of this province, we need leadership from the provincial government to lower the cost of building, reduce red tape that prevents housing development where we need it most, and step up to ensure we have a workforce that meet the demand.
That’s why my colleagues and I in the provincial Liberal caucus are calling on Premier Houston to immediately work with his federal and municipal colleagues with the sole objective of finding practical solutions to the housing crisis.
No more games, no more finger pointing.
We need short, medium, and long-term actions that can be taken across the housing spectrum. Immediate actions could include:
A commitment to find temporary shelter for our homeless population before winter hits.
Reversing the government’s terrible decision to raise thresholds for the rent supplement program.
Reducing the cost of building so houses and apartments are built as fast as possible.
Training more skilled trades workers – as fast as possible.
Making it more affordable for seniors looking to exit the housing market so new buyers can enter it.
Reforming zoning laws to increase supply and affordability of housing across the province.
Expanding eligibility of the affordable housing grant so homeowners can add units to their property.
We need to treat the housing crisis the same way we respond to natural disasters—as an immediate threat that can’t be held up by red tape or petty politics.
Within a month of the devastating wildfires in Tantallon and Shelburne County this summer, the province invested more than $7 million to buy modular homes for those who lost theirs.
Why do we not see the same level of urgency when it comes to the more than 1,000 people who are homeless in Halifax and the hundreds more in other cities, towns, and villages across the province?
Why do we not see the same urgency when so many Nova Scotians are waking up with a pit in their stomachs because they don’t know how they’ll make rent or pay the mortgage?
It is long past time for leadership.
This legislative session, Liberals will be bringing forward a suite of bills that, if passed, will incentivize building and reduce red tape to get more homes and apartments built quickly and affordably.
Liberals are ready to provide that leadership. Nova Scotians should be asking themselves: is Premier Houston?
Hon. Zach Churchill
Leader - Nova Scotia Liberal Party