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OPINION: The right to housing

Mary Boyd, director of the MacKillop Centre for Social Justice, with the fourth annual Report Card on Child and Family Poverty on P.E.I.
Mary Boyd, director of the MacKillop Centre for Social Justice, with the fourth annual Report Card on Child and Family Poverty on P.E.I. - Jason Daley

Canada made a historic commitment to progressively implement the right to housing

BY MARY BOYD

GUEST OPINION

Richard Brown mentioned in his letter in the public forum on August 21, that 170 prominent Canadians and organizations headed by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, signed a letter calling on the federal government to make housing a fundamental human right in Canada.

The P.E.I. Coalition for a Poverty Eradication Strategy and Campaign 2000 were among the signers of that letter. It urged the Prime Minister to “make good his commitment to the right to housing by enshrining that right in upcoming National Housing Strategy legislation.” It is not enough for the Prime Minister to say that housing is a right. It must be enshrined in legislation. The Special Rapporteur to the United Nations on the Right to Housing, Emily Paradis also supported the request.

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The groups wanted to show Prime Minister Trudeau that a legislated recognition of the right to housing has wide-spread support across Canada. It offers the Prime Minister a way forward. The signers stated that the housing crisis is caused by a failure to protect human rights by not living up to our international human rights commitments. Canada can fix the problem by fulfilling those obligations and by including a legislated right to housing as the foundation of the National Housing Strategy.

The letter reminded the Prime Minister that every year 235,000 people experience homelessness in Canada and at the present moment 1.7 million Canadian households are living in unsafe, unsuitable, or unaffordable housing without better options available to them. Of these, a disproportionate number are women. Also overrepresented are indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, immigrants, refugees, youth, older adults, and members of racialized communities - all of this due to a failure to protect and implement human rights.

Canada made a historic commitment to progressively implement the right to housing but it has to act by passing legislation that ensures meaningful accountability to that right.

Richard Brown points out some of the consequences of the housing crisis in this province: families living in apartments that are barely fit for human habitation; families struggling to pay their rent; people being forced out of their apartments that are being renovated and ungraded; lack of affordable places to live; long-term housing being shifted into short-term tourist accommodations, and on it goes.

In our economy, the right to make money supersedes all other rights including the right to housing. Airbnb and similar programs are exacerbating the problem by causing housing shortages and escalating rents. People living on low incomes are especially hard hit.

Local politicians see the extent of housing and poverty problems when they campaign. It puzzles us that once the election is over the problems remain. People are left in silence; unhealthy living conditions and growing numbers are homeless. It would be helpful to see more concrete details of how the provincial government plans to implement its 2018 budget promise to provide 1,000 new affordable homes in the next two years and how they will do it with $17 million?

- Mary Boyd, P.E.I. Coalition for a Poverty Eradication Strategy

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