Canada’s policy time bomb: Rising home prices and homelessness
OTTAWA -- When you watch the news or read the latest macroeconomic data, things in Canada seem good. Unemployment remains near historic lows, interest rates are under control and Canada is back on the list of the top 10 largest economies in the world. Sounds pretty good.
How is it that even with all this good news Canadians remain anxious about our economic state of affairs? Research suggests that there is a fundamental disconnect between the macroeconomic data and how people feel. Only a little more than 15 per cent of Canadians, according to the Bloomberg Nanos Canadian Confidence Index remain upbeat about the coming year and a significant number of Canadians are outright worried about a recession in 2020.
Views on real estate are a double-edged sword. Canadians who are homeowners feel better when they see housing prices in their neighbourhood rise but the other side of that sword is that for those Canadians that are not homeowners, rising prices make both homeownership more difficult to attain and affordable rentals more elusive to find.
In a new eye-popping national study on homelessness for the Ottawa Mission, a majority of Canadians reported that someone they cared about was at risk of being homeless. Only 35 per cent of respondents reported no one they cared for was at risk of being homeless (43 per cent reported a small risk, 15 per cent a medium risk, and five per cent a high risk). When you walk down the street in your neighbourhood, one in five of your neighbours have someone they care about and think that person may have a high or medium risk of being homeless.
The same study suggests that a majority of Canadians believe that the issue of homelessness will have a serious or somewhat serious impact on Canada as a country. If you live in the hot real estate market of British Columbia or you are a woman, this sentiment rises to eight in ten.
When you factor the current problem of homelessness and overlay population growth in Canada one should become even more concerned. Canada is among the fastest growing countries in the G7 and StatCan projects that Canada could have a population of 48.8 million people by 2050. The forces of population growth and lack of affordable housing will collide with inaction.
The good news is that Canadians do not lay finding a solution at the feet of one level of government. Asked who should be responsible for dealing with homelessness no clear player or level of government comes out way ahead. Twenty-three per cent cite the federal government, 18 per cent municipal and provincial governments, 14 per cent family and friends of the homeless and 16 per cent say everyone should be responsible. This speaks to the need to organize a common sense of purpose.
The unspoken truth is that Canadians are worried that someone they care about is at risk of being homeless. Everyone should take note of this policy time bomb.
Nik Nanos is the Chief Data Scientist for Nanos Research and the Official Pollster for CTV News