Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Housing policy

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The City of Winnipeg has adopted a new housing policy that could result in the expansion of existing incentives to support builders, renters and homebuyers city-wide.

The city already funds programs for housing in the inner city and downtown, where the need is greatest, but an expanded program could weaken that effort if it disperses scarce resources too widely.

That doesn't mean the new policy, which says modestly priced housing is an important part of every healthy neighbourhood wherever it is located, isn't a worthy goal, but the heavy lifting in achieving it properly belongs with other levels of government.

The city has a leadership role to play and it can certainly use zoning and tax-credit measures to help the provincial and federal governments achieve complete and balanced communities.

The Selinger government, meanwhile, is pushing legislation that would enable municipalities to compel developers and homeowners in new subdivisions to financially support affordable and rental housing.

This idea should be stopped in its tracks. Affordable housing is a broad social goal that should not be downloaded onto the backs of a few in new subdivisions. Someone buying a home in a new suburb should not be expected to pay an additional tax to support a broad public policy that theoretically benefits the entire community.

The proposed legislation is only an enabling bill, but it sends the wrong message to municipalities and opens the door to a policy that is unfair and could discourage new development.

The problem of affordable housing, both ownership and rental, is a Canada-wide problem that requires a national response. The federal government, however, long ago abandoned its role in funding housing programs for low-income households.

The city is responsible for understanding the problem and proposing solutions, but it should insist that the governments with the deepest pockets not offload their responsibilities.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 16, 2013 A8

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