The Discourse Nanaimo asked major Nanaimo-Ladysmith candidates in-depth questions about the housing crisis. Left to right: Michelle Corfield, Liberal, Lisa Marie Barron, NDP, and Paul Manly, Green. Photos via Facebook
The Discourse Nanaimo asked major Nanaimo-Ladysmith candidates in-depth questions about the housing crisis. Left to right: Michelle Corfield, Liberal, Lisa Marie Barron, NDP, and Paul Manly, Green. Photos via Facebook
Nanaimo Vancouver Island

Nanaimo-Ladysmith candidates explain how they’ll make housing more affordable

What will candidates do to make rent more affordable? How will they address homelessness? Will they intervene in the real estate market? Your biggest housing questions, answered.
Julie Chadwick September 9, 2021

It’s not a stretch to say that in some ways, though the Nanaimo-Ladysmith area is a beautiful and desirable place to live, it is also a community in crisis. Rental prices for two-bedroom apartments in Nanaimo have soared by an average of 59 per cent in the last five years and the number of unhoused residents is rising steadily.

With this in mind, The Discourse Nanaimo asked major party candidates some in-depth questions regarding the housing crisis and their respective parties’ positions on the issue.

The Discourse has chosen to focus election coverage on major party candidates, based on previous election results in this riding. Information on additional parties can be found here. At the time of publication, Conservative candidate Tamara Kronis did not respond with answers. The candidates are presented in random order and answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Michelle Corfield, Liberal candidate

  1. What is the approximate length of time that you have lived in Nanaimo-Ladysmith and what is your connection to the area?

I was born on the Island and raised in Cedar.  I have chosen to live in Nanaimo my whole life—raised my own children, obtained three degrees, and I conduct my businesses from here.  I am the director of the Nanaimo Port Authority, resolved the Colliery Dam issue, and built the Steve Smith Bike Park from donations and equity contributions. My connection is that I am a Nuu-chah-nulth woman and that my ancestors have lived and travelled throughout Vancouver Island for millennia.

2. What role do you think the federal government should play in housing?

Throughout this campaign and others, I hear constituents blaming the government in power for all the problems Canadians have. Today’s problems are not a result of one party in power—and certainly not in the last six years; it’s a cumulative effect of different parties in power changing the political direction to the right and left party ideology.  

The federal government and its MP’s are legislators—they pass laws for the safety and security of all Canadians.  Cabinet Ministers implement the political direction of the government in power.  These include reviewing regulations, action plans, and budgetary plans.

The federal government definitely has a role in developing a national housing strategy and using the legislative process to ensure that regulations and capital investments are enacted to ensure that the current inequalities in our society are reduced.

3. Some social planning experts say that a major federally-funded push to build more affordable housing units is key to addressing Canada’s housing crisis. Do you agree or disagree and why?

In Nanaimo, we have a huge discrepancy between current homeowners, those trying to purchase their own homes, and the critical homelessness issue plaguing our communities. I agree that a significant federally-funded push is needed to address Canada’s housing crisis.  We need to have funds invested in our communities so that the funds stay with good-paying jobs and stimulate our economy under a strategy and policies that make sense for the average Canadian.

4. When you think of housing, what sector is your top priority?

In Nanaimo, we have to address the homelessness crisis. However, this is not a quick fix.  It needs to be paired with mental health, addiction, and front-line supports.  Now is not the time for cutbacks for vital services.  This problem will continue and will exasperate exponentially.  What I know is Nanaimo-Ladysmith needs the right government in power and the right MP who can advocate and lobby for our community. We can find innovative solutions as a community.

5. What specifically do you plan to do to support renters in the current market?

I know from experience how hard it is to pay rent and save for a down payment, especially in the current market.  We need a rent-to-own program and first-time home buyers incentive. We also need to stop renovictions and unfair rent increases. Landlords should pay a proportional surtax on excessive rent increases.

A strong MP with the government in power will be able to support Nanaimo renters with these initiatives. What I know is that Nanaimo-Ladysmith doesn’t need another back-bencher member who can only bring our communities concerns and issues to an empty House of Commons or grandiose soap-box statements that a letter was sent to the Minister. We need better leadership than that.

6. How do you plan to address the lack of mental health and housing services for the unhoused populations in Nanaimo?

We must ensure that Canada’s Homelessness Strategy is implemented, and we must have a federal housing advocate appointed to ensure that a mandate to reduce homelessness by 50 per cent is implemented. We need a new federal transfer—the Canada Mental Health Transfer—to B.C. to expand access to free mental health services. We also need additional funding transferred to B.C. for evidence-based treatment of addictions.

7. Do you support government interventions into the real estate and rental markets? If yes, what form of interventions do you advocate for? If no, why not (ie what do you think would work better)?

I support government interventions in the real estate and rental markets that make sense for all Canadians. This includes working with the realtors, inspectors, lending institutions, and municipal and federal regulators to increase consumer protection and transparency. When Canadians can no longer enter the market due to exorbitant pricing from foreign investments, we need to increase the power of federal regulators to respond to housing price fluctuations and ensure a stable housing market. We need to have policies to curb excessive profits in the financialization of housing so that housing is more affordable.  Without a concrete national plan and federal investments, Nanaimo-Ladysmith residents will no longer be able to enter the real estate market.

Lisa Marie Barron, NDP candidate

  1. What is the approximate length of time that you have lived in Nanaimo-Ladysmith and what is your connection to the area?

Nanaimo-Ladysmith has been my home for over 26 years. Both of my parents live here, as do my three brothers and their families along with many cousins and other relatives. I have deep roots and connections in Nanaimo-Ladysmith. I was elected school board trustee in 2018 with an overwhelming amount of support by the community. I also work in addictions as a youth family navigator, where I assist youth who have been left behind by federal inaction to address the opioid crisis, as they struggle with addictions to find support and service they need for recovery.

2. What role do you think the federal government should play in housing?

I’m hearing this a lot from community members that many cannot find affordable housing. We need urgent action on the housing crisis at all levels of government. There is a lot more that the federal government could be doing to support families. Under Trudeau, home costs have increased by 55 per cent, and many people are struggling to keep up with rising rent costs. Erin O’Toole voted against building 500,000 units of affordable housing, it’s clear this isn’t his priority. 

We need strong representation here in Nanaimo-Ladysmith to tackle this housing crisis in our unique communities. The federal government needs to lead on affordable housing; needs to work with all levels of government and do something constructive to address this national issue at the local level.

3. Some social planning experts say that a major federally funded push to build more affordable housing units is key to addressing Canada’s housing crisis. Do you agree or disagree and why?

Yes, I couldn’t agree more. So many in our community are unable to find affordable, accessible homes. The Liberals have neglected the housing crisis in Canada for too long, turning their backs on families that are struggling to stay in their communities. In this riding, affordable rental units are snapped up quickly, and people end up living in inadequate housing or forced to spend most of their income on rent.

The New Democrats will invest immediately to create half a million units of quality, affordable housing across the country. Our plan will create jobs, and build the rental, cooperative, and social housing that is so desperately needed. We’ll make sure that houses are homes, not places for the international super rich to park their cash, with a 20 per cent levy on home purchases from international speculators.

We will also address the Indigenous housing crisis, putting an end to chronic overcrowding by working with Indigenous communities to implement a co-developed, fully funded Indigenous National Housing Strategy within our first 100 days. This will mean funding to meet the needs of Indigenous peoples, whether in urban, rural, or remote communities.

4. When you think of housing, what sector is your top priority?

My top priority is to work in partnership with provinces and municipalities, build capacity for social, community, and affordable housing providers, to provide rental support for co-ops, and meet our environmental energy efficiency goals. We need to kick-start the construction of co-ops, social and non-profit housing and break the logjam that has prevented these groups from accessing housing funding. We will set up dedicated fast-start funds to streamline the application process to get projects off the ground now, not years from now. 

Jagmeet Singh will also mobilize federal resources and lands for these projects, turning unused and under-used properties into vibrant new communities. A New Democrat government will create at least 500,000 units of quality, affordable housing in the next ten years, with half of that done within five years. With my deep roots here and my community connections, I know that this work can be done quickly right here in our communities. 

5. What specifically do you plan to do to support renters in the current market?

For too many, safe and affordable housing is increasingly out of reach. Thanks to skyrocketing rents, demo- and reno-victions and ballooning home prices, the pandemic has only made things worse. One in three Canadians is a renter, and average rents rose in every single province last year. And what few affordable apartments there are get snapped up quickly. The worry that people feel today is the result of the bad choices that Liberal and Conservative governments have made. 

A New Democrat government plans to make it easier for families to pay rent by providing up to $5,000 a year while we tackle waitlists for affordable housing.

6. How do you plan to address the lack of mental health and housing services for the unhoused populations in Nanaimo?

Homelessness is a complex and challenging issue.

Our affordable housing strategy will include adopting a “housing first” approach. All levels of government need to fast-track the purchase, lease and conversion of hotels for emergency housing relief until more permanent, community-based solutions are available.

As a top priority, we need to address the root causes of poverty and homelessness. General health, mental health and poverty are linked, and a national pharmacare program that includes mental health and addictions support will mean that all Canadians can access the health care they need. We also need to work constructively with our community partners and agencies to ensure that grants and funding are making it to the right places and programs. 

7. Do you support government interventions into the real estate and rental markets? If yes, what form of interventions do you advocate for? If no, why not (ie what do you think would work better)?

Canada has the fastest-growing housing prices in all the G7, with no signs of slowing. The Liberals have neglected the housing crisis in Canada for too long. New Democrats believe people need help now. Making affordable rental housing more available is critical, we believe that the dream of homeownership shouldn’t be out of reach. We’ll re-introduce 30-year terms to CMHC insured mortgages on entry-level homes for first time home buyers. Allowing for smaller monthly payments and doubling the Home Buyer’s Tax Credit to $1,500.

A New Democrat government will also provide resources to facilitate co-housing, such as model co-ownership agreements, and ease access to financing by offering CMHC-backed co-ownership mortgages.

Big money is driving up housing costs. The New Democrats will put in place a 20 per cent foreign buyer’s tax on the sale of homes to individuals who aren’t Canadian citizens or permanent residents. We’ll work with all the provinces to create a public beneficial ownership registry to increase transparency and require reporting to stop money laundering.

Paul Manly, Green candidate

  1. What is the approximate length of time that you have lived in Nanaimo-Ladysmith and what is your connection to the area?

I was born in Port Alice. My grandfather had a farm at the end of Andre’s Road (off Jingle Pot) since 1942. That’s where my dad grew up and where my parents live now (on part of the original property). The Nanaimo area has always been home-base for me. I lived in Ladysmith and attended school there from Grade 4 to Grade 10. In 2001, my wife Sam and I bought a house in Nanaimo and we have lived here ever since.

2. What role do you think the federal government should play in housing?

The federal government needs to play a stronger role in housing. This used to be the case between the ‘60s and ‘80s, but then the federal government started to withdraw from housing. Since then, successive governments have failed to roll out adequate federal funding.

Now we are in the midst of an affordable housing and homelessness crisis. Skyrocketing rents have pushed hundreds of people into homelessness and thousands more to the brink all across the country. Federal action is urgently needed to invest in affordable housing, regulate the market, and create national standards. These actions are all within the realm of federal authority.

More funding needs to be allocated to protect and build affordable non-profit and co-op housing. But we can’t simply build our way out of the crisis. Fixing the root of the problem requires stronger regulation against predatory practices, like renovictions, tax evasion, and money laundering. 

This is why I brought forward Motion M-66 in parliament, calling for a series of federal actions to address housing unaffordability and homelessness. I also called for an emergency debate in the House of Commons to address the crisis. 

3. Some social planning experts say that a major federally-funded push to build more affordable housing units is key to addressing Canada’s housing crisis. Do you agree or disagree and why?

I agree that we need a federally-funded push to build more affordable housing. We should be funding new affordable housing and putting restrictive covenants in place to ensure that those units remain affordable over the long-term. 

However, giant corporate investors are rapidly buying up affordable housing units and flipping them into more expensive market-rate housing. That’s the reason why building our way out of this crisis is impossible on its own, without stronger regulation of the housing market. 

We need to start by protecting existing affordable housing. This means buying up what is left and turning it over to non-profit and co-op housing organizations. The federal government should also incentivize municipalities to zone for non-market affordable housing. Zoning density increases in certain areas could be tied to affordable housing only. This type of zoning would make land more accessible for non-profits and co-ops, and eliminate land speculation and competition from corporate interests. 

4. When you think of housing, what sector is your top priority?

Housing is a human right and people deserve to be housed. We need to prioritize securing that right. I have been hearing from community members who are struggling to remain housed. The cost of renting an apartment or home in the mid-island area has increased dramatically in recent years. People who are marginalized and living on fixed incomes—including Indigenous people, people of colour, people with diverse abilities, low-income seniors, and single-parent families—face greater challenges to securing safe, long-term affordable housing. 

It’s important to recognize that this is a problem that touches the lives of almost all members of our communities. Here in Nanaimo-Ladysmith and in communities all across Canada, the crisis is local and it’s personal.

If we only focus on one group of people or one type of solution, we won’t end the housing crisis. We cannot end homelessness without addressing the skyrocketing costs of housing in our communities. And we can’t make housing affordable without addressing the root causes—predatory investment practices and inadequate regulation. Ending the crisis will require the political will to take a series of actions across the board. 

5. What specifically do you plan to do to support renters in the current market?

Supporting renters is especially important in the wake of the pandemic. Many households have suffered financial hardship and are on the verge of becoming homeless. Throughout the pandemic, I have been advocating for emergency rental relief in parliament and sharing specific issues from our community with government ministers. The Green Party is also calling for a national moratorium on evictions until the pandemic is over and for a reasonable time after. 

However, rental assistance subsidies for people living in for-profit, market rate housing are a band-aid solution, and ultimately a transfer of wealth. Most of that money is going to end up in the pockets of big corporate landlords who are some of the worst offenders in this crisis. 

I will continue calling for measures to protect renters over the longer term. This includes national standards to establish rent and vacancy controls, which would stop landlords from driving up rental prices during and between tenancies. It also includes rental assistance to residents in affordable housing that is owned and operated by the non-profit and co-op sectors. This would ensure that government funds are going directly to the residents, without being used for executive bonuses or shareholder dividends. 

6. How do you plan to address the lack of mental health and housing services for the unhoused populations in Nanaimo?

Studies show that a “housing first” approach is the most effective way to address chronic homelessness. Once the need for housing is met, it becomes easier to connect people with the services they need for mental health issues, addictions, and other barriers.

I have been actively working with local agencies, the Nanaimo Homelessness Coalition, and the municipalities to make them aware of federal funding opportunities and provide letters of support. There are some promising initiatives underway in our community. The Nanaimo Homelessness Coalition and the United Way are administering new federal funding through the Reaching Home initiative. Some of this funding will go towards a new Coordinated Access System for Nanaimo. This system will help make local services and supports more efficient, and clarify where people can seek assistance based on their specific needs. A new navigation centre is also underway, which will provide supportive housing with integrated health supports.

We need more initiatives like these in our community. I will continue advocating for more federal funding in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, and supporting the work of local organizations and municipalities. I will also continue calling for more accessible mental health services, and a Guaranteed Livable Income to lift people out of poverty.

7. Do you support government interventions into the real estate and rental markets? If yes, what form of interventions do you advocate for? If no, why not (ie what do you think would work better)?

Absolutely. We cannot end the housing crisis without stronger regulation. Many corporate investors, hedge funds, and real estate investment trusts (REITs) are engaged in predatory practices. They are rapidly buying up affordable housing, renovicting tenants, and then renting at higher market rates in order to provide a large return to investors. In many cases, this is affordable housing that was constructed with government subsidies in the ‘60s and ‘70s. We’re also seeing deep-pocketed corporate investors buying up single-family homes in Canada to create “portfolios” of rental housing. Affordable apartments and houses are disappearing at a rate far faster than governments are building new affordable units. 

It is clear that the housing market needs strong regulation. The government needs to take action to close tax haven loopholes and crackdown on money laundering. The “empty home” tax for foreign and corporate residential property owners who leave buildings and units vacant needs to be higher. The government should establish national standards for rent and vacancy control to remove incentives for these predatory practices. Also, more federal funding should go towards building and protecting affordable and supportive housing, with the priority on non-profit and co-op models to remove the profit motive. 

For more information on the local housing crisis and solutions, check out our series Making Rent and sign up for our weekly newsletter to get the latest updates on our reporting.