Waterloo – On Oct 30th ACORN, the grassroots social and economic justice organisation with chapters across the country, delivered over 400 tenant testimonials to federal liberal MPs including Waterloo’s Bardish Chagger. This action coincided with ACORN’s national housing spokesperson Tanya Bukart giving testimony to the National Housing Council’s review panel on the financialisation of purpose built rental housing. Bukart’s testimony highlighted the effects on renters created by the stress of living in a precarious housing market, which has been transformed over the past decades, into an investment industry with profit seeking constantly driving up housing and rental prices.
Today’s show features interviews with Acer Bonapart, the chair of the Waterloo Region chapter of ACORN, and Mike Morrice, the Green Party MP for Kitchener Centre, who has been pressuring the government over the ongoing crisis in the affordability of housing in Canada since being elected in 2021. Additionally, Geordie Dent of The Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations (FMTA), which advocates for better rights for tenants, adds comments on the financialisation of housing.
For the purposes of this review, the National Housing Council is using the Federal Housing Advocate’s definition of the financialization of housing which is “the growing dominance of financial actors in the housing sector, which is transforming the main function of housing from a place to live into a financial asset and a tool for investor profits.” The definition continues “These may include asset management companies, hedge funds, pension funds, private equity funds, real estate investment trusts (REITs), real estate operating companies and sovereign wealth funds.”
The National Housing Council, which refers to reports commissioned by The Federal Housing Advocate adds “The financialization of purpose-built rental housing has been linked to a range of negative impacts for renters, such as evictions, rising rents and reduced building services and maintenance.” On this point the National Right to Housing Network, a grassroots tenants rights organisation also focusing on the national panel explains “Financialization of housing refers to the treatment of housing primarily as a financial asset and tool for maximizing investor profit at the expense of human rights among tenants and tenancy-seeking individuals.”
The show focuses on the financialisation of the housing market, immediate steps which could be taken to start addressing the affordability crisis, and the longer term role of government in creating and maintaining an affordable and quality housing supply to meet the needs of growing populations.
Kitchener, ON – As the Greenbelt situation continues to evolve, CKMS news again spoke with Kevin Thomason of the Grand River Environmental Network, and a local campaigner on a handful of campaigns to protect the Grand River watershed and the Waterloo moraine. For quite a while now Kevin has been organizing against Ontario’s conservative government’s plans to develop the ecologically important lands of the protected Greenbelt.
First, however, some recent background. As our last interview with Kevin was set to air on September 21st, Doug Ford announced he would be reversing the Greenbelt land deals saying “I am very, very sorry… it was a mistake to open the Greenbelt.” He added his actions were “with the best of intentions”, and that he “prides himself on keeping his promises”. With the 2018 promises to never develop the Green Belt, in mind, Ford once again promised to “won’t make any changes to the green belt in the future”.
After Ford admitted his governments’ mistakes, the conservative premiere suggested that developers may need to be compensated. However, on September 27th, and right after this interview with Kevin Thomason was completed, new minister of municipal affairs and housing minister Paul Calandra announced that developers will not be compensated for the reversal of the Ford governments Greenbelt decision. Thomason had said that developers do not have a special “right to develop”, and that land speculation and profit making are not protected acts. For now, it would seem, the Ford government agrees with Thomason.
Immediately after Calandra was named minister on September 4th, he announced that the greenbelt development plans were going ahead, and that any reviews may lead to more greenbelt land being taken for housing developments. On September 25th, the NDP tabled the “Green Belt Protection Act” which the conservatives voted down at first reading. Calandra said the conservatives will table better legislation that will “codify” Greenbelt boundaries. All these major turnabouts in policy and the handful of resignations in the past months in the conservative government only reinforce what NPD leader Marit Stiles told Allison Jones of the Canadian Press “I don’t trust this government at all to fix a mess of their own making”.
In this interview Kevin Thomason maintains his position that despite the conservative’s recent reversal on the development of the greenbelt, the Ford government is “corrupt”. Arguing that the Greenbelt was not the only area where Ford is attempting to take develop ecologically important lands under the guise of the housing crisis, and “given it to developers”, noting that “the RCMP do not investigate favouritism, they investigate crime”.
Kevin also spoke of the ongoing resistance to Doug Ford’s plans, including highway 413 construction, highway 7 expansion, forcing housing sprawl over other ecologically important lands with ministerial zoning orders, and other patterns of behaviour from the Ford government which “are not serving the best interest of Ontarians”.
These problematic patterns are an issue Phil Pothen, the Ontario Environment Program Manager of the environmental advocacy organisation Environmental Defense, has also discussed. As Phil said in a September 21st press release:
“While we welcome Premier Ford’s full reversal of the inappropriate removals of Greenbelt lands, the Ontario government’s $8.3 billion gift to developers represented just the most visible part of a dishonest and counterproductive push for sprawl that will only worsen Ontario’s housing shortage. To clean up what remains of the Ontario government’s land use and environmental mess, including Highway 413, it is essential to strengthen Greenbelt protections to ensure future government’s can’t try this again.”
Pothen continued: “We hope this change marks the beginning of a broader shift away from the government’s current misguided policies, including: forced boundary expansions in Hamilton and Halton, Waterloo and elsewhere; its lowering of Growth Plan density requirements; its gutting of Conservation Authorities; and its dismantling of regional land use planning. These damaging decisions, along with attempts to repeal laws which promote efficient land use and construction, must also be reversed.”
In a statement to CKMS News on September 13th, days before Ford’s Greenbelt reversal announcement, Kitchener-Conestoga PC MPP Mike Harris Jr. said that he supported Ford’s direction, writing that the conservative government will continue with their plan to build homes on “non-sensitive” Green Belt lands claiming this was “requested by many municipalities”. Harris concluded: “I want to emphasize that, under the continued leadership of our Premier, our Government will prioritize addressing the housing crisis.”
Following Ford’s greenbelt reversal announcement on the 21st, MPP Harris, responded to CKMS News with a statement regarding the quick policy changes from his government, saying: “After extensive consultations with cabinet, caucus and upon reviewing the public’s response, the Premier decided that the Greenbelt would be preserved.”
Harris added that the government will maintain the protection on the lands they had added to the Greenbelt to compensate for the lands they removed and that “As the process of reversing the decision is complex, more information will be released as it becomes available.”
CKMS News has asked MPP Harris about the corruption allegations and the criminal investigation but did not receive a response by the time of publication. CKMS will continue to provide updates to this ongoing story.
How has the grocery rebate impacted people in Kitchener-Waterloo, and are there alternatives that can be implemented to address sharply rising costs, including a universal basic income?
Today’s show talks to Kim Wilhelm, interim CEO of the Food bank of Kitchener-Waterloo and MP for London North Centre and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue, Peter Fragiskatos, and listens in to the testimony of Neil Hetherington, the CEO of the Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto, in front of the the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance about the recently announced grocery rebate as part of the 2023/24 budget.
The music on today’s show is called “BAIKAL” by @scandinavianz courtesy of by BreakingCopyright on youtube.
This music is used under a Creative Commons (CC BY 3.0) license.
This program is a part of the “Local Journalism Initiative” and is funded by the Community Radio Fund of Canada, Heritage Canada, and the CKMS Newsroom.
In January, a group of people, small stock market investors, members of a Reddit forum called WallStreetBets, got organized and decided to stick it to the man. That’s, at least, what this David Vs. Goliath narrative is.
However, things are not so black and white. They are mostly grey, and that’s what we’re talking about today with David Cimon, assistant professor of finance at the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Hopefully, after this conversation, things will be much clearer.
This program is a part of the “Local Journalism Initiative” grant program and is funded by the Community Radio Fund of Canada, the Government of Canada, and the CKMS Newsroom.
Check out the archived versions of this program and other episodes on radiowaterloo.ca/news. You can follow us on twitter @RadioWaterloo. And you can email email@example.com to get in touch with comments or ideas about stories to cover.