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Simcoe-Grey candidates respond to youth questions on housing security

In this series, CollingwoodToday paired with a journalism student from Algonquin College to ask candidates in the Simcoe-Grey riding pressing questions about youth in their community.

CollingwoodToday has worked with a journalism student from Algonquin College to prepare a series of questions and answers with Simcoe-Grey candidates for your information. The topics discussed have a particular focus on the issues impacting youth and young adults in Canada, and in the Simcoe-Grey riding.

This series will include seven different articles with one question per article posted over the next couple of days. 

This Q and A has been edited down for length and clarity.

The following are each candidate's answers to the following question: With the rising cost of housing in Ontario, what solutions are you proposing to help homeless youth in your community, and how do you prepare to bring affordable housing to the forefront?

Sherri Jackson, Green: Yeah, we have a massive problem in our area with affordable housing. We actually have 697 estimated homeless people in our community, and 130 of them are under the age of 18. So we've got a big problem.

One of the things that we propose to do is to create a ‘National Housing Program’ and appoint a minister of housing, who is going to be responsible for creating 250,000 new units, and 150,000 retrofitted units across Canada.

We're also going to make safe shelter and affordable housing a mandated fundamental right within Canada.

Tony D’Angelo, Veterans Coalition Party of Canada: Well, that's a difficult thing to do. The mortgage bubble that we're in right now is absolutely ridiculous. For anyone. I mean, even two-income families can’t get into the housing market at all.

Something's gotta give somewhere, I'm just not sure what's going to give first; if mortgage bubbles are going to burst, or if people are just going to start falling off the radar and not be able to buy homes. I really can't think of anything that can be done right now.

I know all the other governments are saying this that and the other thing, but unfortunately, it comes down to the economics. We need to improve salaries so that people can afford to get into the housing market. 

Ilona Matthews, New Democratic Party (NDP): Simcoe County already has an ‘Out Of The Cold’ program for the homeless, which is a really great start.

We need to provide services for the homeless because they have needs; perhaps they couldn't get an education, perhaps they’re not well, or they need mental health help, or prescription help. So with our Medicare that we will implement; which is not going to cost them anything, they will be able to get: dental care, hearing loss care, eye care, for no charge. They won't have to pay out of their pockets.

They would also need education and training to help them turn their lives around. We're also looking at a guaranteed income program to help them with their affordability as far as housing goes. Right now a lot of people are renting and they're having trouble making ends meet because the rents are so high. What we want to do is provide immediate relief to renters who need help right now, with the rental benefit of up to $5,000. That would be immediate help, apply for it and get it.

For first time homebuyers well we want to re-introduce the 30-year mortgages. And double the tax credits to $1,500.00 from $750.00. As well, we want to build 500,000 affordable homes across the country over the next four or five years. We will also apply a foreign buyers tax to crack down on speculation that drives prices up, because that's one of the problems we have, especially in Vancouver and all over Canada.

Richard Sommer, Peoples’ Party of Canada (PPC): First of all, everyone would love to have all kinds of things offered to them. No one alive wouldn't want a free cruise or free housing offered to them. But the thing about the PPC is, we take a look at what is the real situation with regards to debt and deficits?

So, given that, we don't anticipate any handouts per se as far as what other parties may be offering. But we do have some great things that I think are in the lane of being responsible such as the renewal of the capital gains tax. Also officially excluding a person’s primary residence from that.

We actually have plans to give tax credits to seniors and so on but our first priority is balancing the budget. If you find yourself in a situation where you have excessive or even moderate credit card debt, everybody knows everyone would counsel you to pay that off first. The smartest thing to do in everyday life as well as in government is to get rid of debt first.

And so, if we can achieve a budget where we are not increasing our debt and not increasing our interest payments, and we’re actually whittling away at our debt. It should be attainable to eliminate those billions and billions of dollars that we're having to give away for nothing.

Once that’s done, we’d be in a better position to say “Okay let’s subsidize this thing, or let’s help out people in that area.”

Terry Dowdall, Conservative Party of Canada: I propose to support the on-going efforts of the Simcoe County Alliance initiative to develop a strategic plan to end homelessness.

Last year, the Alliance undertook a Homeless Enumeration Project, which included taking stock of young people that couch-surf, to increase awareness, to track progress, and to build on a coordinated approach to address homelessness.

I support taking an integrated approach, with varying community partners, which includes listening and learning about the reasons for homelessness, in order to address the underlying reasons as well. For example, there may be mental health issues at play with some people and an integrated approach could help.

Providing more housing will help to bring down the cost of housing, and will help to ensure that there are options for young people. Funding for housing projects and starts, including public-private partnerships, would kick-start the housing construction industry.

Lorne Kenney, Liberal: Homelessness in our area is a serious social and economic issue.

It is absurd that we have this problem in a country as rich as Canada but we do. That is why I am proud that the Liberal government adopted the $55 billion housing strategy, which is intended to provide the foundational funding to address the issue.

It is true that we have the Barbara Weider House for youth in transition, but much more is required. It is true that the Out of the Cold Program will operate this winter season. Both serve the South Georgian Bay Area. They are extremely important and should be considered essential social services and funded accordingly. 

Beyond that, we need to adopt measures that increase the stock of affordable housing. We need to attack the root economic causes and lack of well-paying employment opportunities that result in so many young people living perilously close to poverty.

I support a series of measures that will enable and stimulate new business activity in the area, businesses that will provide living wages and careers for our young people. We have excellent examples of these but they are in far too short supply.