Sunday, December 17, 2006

Homelessness and Affordable Housing

Homelessness is an ever growing crises. According to Human Resources and Social Development Canada, there are currently 150,000 to 250,000 people living on the streets. I probably don't have to explain to you the problems that this brings about, such as crime, and most notably, health problems. There has been at least four homeless people who have died on the streets of Alberta this year alone.

In a book I read awhile ago about affordable housing, there supposedly is a plan out there called the 1% solution. The reason it is called this is simple: the supporters of it want the federal government to give an additional 1% of their budget (about $2 billion) to affordable housing. This probably won't give every single homeless person a place to live, but it would significantly help. And the great part is that it is only 1% more. The book also explains how there used to be (pre - '70s/80s) much more government money for affordable housing, but so many Conservative and Liberal governments cut funding for it. I also remember that (I think under a Liberal government), a plan was created with other governments across Canada (provincial and municipal) to pay for affordable housing. But the problem was that the feds gave little (if any) money for it! They just agreed it was a good idea.

In the last budget, Minister Flaherty announced a higher income tax rate for people who earned less than $36,400. Their tax rate is now 15.5%, .5% higher than before. While this will only cost them about $180 more per year, that money could be used to, say, buy their kids new clothes and Christmas presents. This budget also lowered the GST by 1%. And seeing that necessities like groceries are not taxed, this will not benefit low-income people, it will benefit people who buy things like computers and TVs. In other words, the people who are not homeless, and can always feed their family enough. Do you see how this works? The Conservatives are giving to the rich the money they are taking from the poor. And this does not even take into effect the several other benefits now such as the child fitness tax credit and the 2% drop of corporate taxes.

My point from the above is this: the government is giving so many benefits for people who don't need it, but they are not giving enough to the people who really need it. The cost of all the tax incentives could have been used to pay for social programs (lots of which have been cut by them) and affordable housing. In fact, the GST cut will cost an estimated $3.5 billion this year, and $5.17 billion in the next year. Remember the 1% solution? This could have been easily done if there had not been this GST cut.

In the next election, let's show the Conservatives (and the Liberals) what Canadians believe in, because either they don't know, or they're just missing a little something called compassion.

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