Posted April 8, 2022
“After a devastating recession….our economy has not just recovered. It is booming” - said the Finance Minister while delivering the Budget Speech 2022.
Booming but not for millions of low- and moderate- income and other vulnerable tenants who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and continue to bear the brunt of it. The federal budget 2022, although has some nuggets for low- and moderate- income people such as the dental care program, it is still weak as it leaves the structural changes that need to happen in the housing market untouched to hit ACORN’s core demand of building more non-market and social housing.
- Affordable and healthy homes
Building more unaffordable homes: The emphasis of the budget is to build more homes and build them fast. The question is building homes for WHO? The key program announced today is the Housing Accelerator Fund by which municipalities will get support to build more housing. The component gets the majority of the new funding but, it is clear that all these 100,000 new homes are meant for the middle class and not for low- and moderate- income tenants who are struggling to access healthy and affordable homes.
Stopping foreign buyers, great but what about domestic corporate players? It proposes some restrictions on foreign buyers to buy housing in Canada but is moving slowly to make fundamental changes to ensure that big corporate landlords such as Real Estatement Investment Trusts are prevented domestically to stop buying more affordable housing and displacing the most vulnerable tenants. It is worth noting that the budget document says that details about the review of tax treatment for these landlords will be made public later!
This commitment to be effective needs a clear timeline and a roadmap. The CMHC needs to stop financing REITs and the government must ban them from receiving any federal affordable housing funding. The priority needs to be building non-profit and social housing.
Changing RCFI: Reviews have shown how the Rental Construction Financing Initiative under the National housing strategy has been designed only for middle-class families and does nothing for people in core housing need. One step forward in the budget is reform of the RCFI by having at least 40% of the units it supports provide rent equal to or lower than 80% of the average market rent in their local community.
If this program is delivered under the NHS that is supposed to deliver affordable housing, why not target 100% of funds to build real affordable housing?
What about the period until which affordability will be kept? The guidelines limited the affordability to a maximum of 20 years.
One-time payment to individuals struggling with housing challenges: Millions of tenants are struggling with thousands of dollars in accumulated rental arrears as a result of the pandemic. The budget only announced a one-time $500 payment for people struggling with housing challenges. ACORN members are eager to hear the details of this but $500 one time won’t go far in for people being crushed by this recent cost of living crisis.
ACORN has been demanding a rent relief program to help renters from eviction since the start of the pandemic, and are still waiting.
Preventing renovictions: While the mandate letter for the minister of housing makes a commitment to prevent renovictions, the budget does not indicate any steps towards it.
- Fair banking
ACORN’s fair banking campaign has highlighted the failure of the government and banks to provide fair banking options to people who need it most. ACORN’s latest surveys point to a surge in installment loans - higher amounts of predatory loans to be paid over a longer period with annual interest rate of 60% plus charges, insurance etc.
ACORN’s latest survey shows 83% of people took out these loans during the pandemic to meet basic expenses.
Liberals committed to cracking down on predatory lending but this is a BIG MISSING item in the budget. We see that the government has imposed a one-time tax of 15% on profits over $1 billion, for the 2021 tax year and also raised the corporate income tax rate for the banks from 15% to 16.5%.
Liberals had committed to raise the tax rate for banks for 15-18%. Moreover, the money needs to be leveraged to create low-cost credit alternatives for people who do not have access to fair banking and are forced to rely on lenders that charge 45-400% annual rate of interest!
- Affordable, high-speed internet
ACORN’s Internet for All campaign highlights how cost is the major barrier to digital equity in Canada. The federal government announced the Connecting Families 2.0 to cover low-income seniors but the program is still non-inclusive and sets targets as to how many low-income families and seniors can get access to affordable, high-speed internet. On top of this, the program is still voluntary for big telecoms!
ACORN has been demanding affordable, high speed internet for ALL low-income people.
A few other things in the budget:
- Waiving interest on Canada Student Loans until March 2023 and enhancing repayment assistance to ensure that no person making $40,000 or less will need to make payments on their federal student loans going forward.
- Dental care for Canadians with family incomes of less than $90,000 annually, starting with under 12 years-olds in 2022, expanding to under 18 years-olds, seniors and persons living with a disability in 2023, with full implementation by 2025.
- $140 million over two years, starting in 2022-23, to Health Canada for the Wellness Together Canada portal so it can continue to provide Canadians with tools and services to support their mental health and well-being.
- $25 million over two years, starting in 2022-23, for Women and Gender Equality Canada to establish a national pilot project for a Menstrual Equity Fund that will help make menstrual products available to Canadians in need.