The West Coast is in the midst of a housing crisis as seasonal workers are finding no availability and locals are finding no affordability.
Housing costs are skyrocketing across the country and West Coast MP Gord Johns believes the federal government must step in before a generation is lost to overwork.
“People are working way too hard just to have a roof over their heads and they become slaves, really, to the top and that’s where inequality has really taken foot,” Johns told the Westerly News.
“We need to fix it because it’s unjust to a generation. The millennials are coming into this new realm of reality and we need to make sure they’ve got affordability and they can enjoy life. We want all Canadians to have a good quality life but right now, with the housing affordability, it’s not a reality.”
He said the federal government needs to act because most municipalities cannot handle the crisis on their own.
“It’s been on the backburner for many communities because they’ve also had to grapple with the downloading of infrastructure,” he said. “They collect 8 per cent of the taxes yet they’re responsible for 60 per cent of all infrastructure.”
He said the Federal Government’s recently announced study to look into housing costs in Toronto and Vancouver is a good start but smaller communities can’t be overlooked.
“We’re in a crisis because it needs leadership…[The] federal government needs to step up; they need to step up and take leadership on affordable housing and not just in Canada’s largest cities,” he said.
“Where I will be a voice is ensuring that this government doesn’t just see the priority in Vancouver and Toronto for affordable housing and that the needs for affordable housing are affecting even remote, small communities like Tofino and Ucluelet.”
Johns said he recently met with Tofino mayor Josie Osborne and was inspired by her commitment to figure out solutions.
“The mayor is determined to deal with affordable housing,” he said.
“Im highly anticipating and excited to hear what they come up with but we know it needs some urgent action. It can’t wait any longer and I know, from talking to the mayor, she’s made it a priority…We’ve all seen that, when the mayor is committed to something, she’s working hard on it.”
He acknowledged Tofino’s recent efforts to rein in vacation rentals in an effort to boost residential housing options but suggested the community’s median income is around $25,000 and many local homeowners rely on rental incomes to pay their mortgages.
“Even if you’re earning $50,000 a year on the West Coast, it’s very difficult to qualify for a mortgage and get into the housing market, so people are forced to do this to make ends meet,” he said.
He added the district must enforce its bylaws and ensure every vacation rental has at least one permanent resident on site.
“The big violation and the big problem is when people rent out houses and they don’t have anyone living on site,” he said.
“That’s always been an issue for Tofino and it’s got to be local government that determines if it’s a priority and, if it is, how they’re going to take action because it’s not an easy thing to solve.”
He added bylaws around vacation rentals must be navigated at the local level.
“Municipalities have the ability and the bylaws to crack down on these issues, not the federal government,” he said.
“Communities can set targets. They can get innovative and creative and create tools and mechanisms to make affordability happen…Whistler’s done it, so why cant Tofino? I think there’s models out there where it could work.”