When they are pressed to comment on social housing and homelessness, most civic politicians pass the buck. It’s a Federal and Provincial responsibility, they say. Cities have the smallest tax base of all governments,they complain. The fact is: there is a lot that cities can do to fight the housing crisis in British Columbia even within their current jurisdictions, legal powers and budgets. If they are willing to face up to the depth and severity of the housing crisis in BC and to take appropriately drastic actions, challenging these limits, they can do even more.
But there is a grain of ugly truth in this politician buck-passing. The Federal Government of Canada cut their regular social housing programs in 1993. Ten years later, in 2002, the BC Liberals ended the long-shrinking regular provincially funded social housing program in BC. And one more decade on, in the winter of 2014, the cuts were so entrenched that the BC minister of housing Rich Coleman declared “we don’t build social housing.”
A desperate scramble to adapt to this new reality has taken place in every municipality. City governments have championed partnership deals with private businesses, non-profits, charities, and the occasional senior government grant to try to make up for these massive cuts to tax-based funding. In every case they have failed to build the housing needed. The housing and homelessness crisis has worsened.
A city housing action program to end homelessness needs to take account of these two hard truths: First, the social housing over 100,000 people facing homelessness in BC need will only come through tax-based housing programs organized by the provincial, federal and city governments together, and; Second, in the meantime there is a lot that cities can do to stop the loss of low-income affordable rental housing, and to join and advance the struggle for social housing programs from senior governments.
Come to the townhall rally to launch a Housing Action Plan for Cities that outlines what cities can and must do to end the housing and homelessness crisis, and to mobilize our communities to interrupt the business-as-usual municipal election, demanding immediate action to end homelessness.
- Light snack food will be available at the hall
- Childcare available on site
- To arrange a ride to the town hall contact 604-781-7346
- Bonsor is wheelchair accessible, with elevators and accessible washrooms