Cloverdale – Langley City candidates talk housing

Candidates in the Cloverdale - Langley City riding share their views on housing in the Fraser Valley

By Tyler Olsen | September 13, 2021 |6:20 am

For the 2021, federal election, The Current is focusing on two issues with critical and unique local implications: housing affordability and Indigenous issues.

We sought interviews with candidates from each of the four major parties. In Cloverdale – Langley City, we spoke to Liberal candidate John Aldag and NDP candidate Rajesh Jayaprakash. Conservative candidate Tamara Jansen did not respond to repeated requests for an interview. (You can read why we did not request interviews with other parties’ candidates here.)

To read candidate questionnaires from other ridings, and to catch up on all our election coverage, check out our Fraser Valley Votes election hub. You can also read our riding profile for Cloverdale – Langley City to learn more about the election in that riding.

Liberal — John Aldag

FVC: To start, are house prices too high?

Aldag: I think that in some of the markets like the Metro Vancouver area, and the Greater Toronto Area, we have house prices that are absolutely too high. You know, I’ve heard on the doorsteps the top issue that I’m getting in this campaign, as I have in the two previous campaigns, affordability in the region is the top issue. Parents are concerned about whether their kids will actually be able to afford homes. I remember, when I was a Member of Parliament in Cloverdale-Langley City, I had seen a piece that said that unless actions are taken, the generation of kids that are growing up now may be the first ones in Canadian history that won’t actually be able to own their own homes. And that’s very concerning. It’s concerning for Canadians, it’s concerning for our Liberal government. And that’s why I’m really, really excited about the announcement made this week to address specifically the housing crisis that we have, particularly here in the Lower Mainland.

FVC: Can you lay out what exactly the Liberal Party would do to depress house prices?

Aldag: You know, there’s a number of actions and I’ll go through it. So there’s about 20 points that were released this week. One of the things we need to be really careful about is not taking away the equity that people have in their homes. And this is a conversation I have is that people have bought their homes, so many of them have been in them for many years. And they’ve seen an appreciation in prices, and that’s in many cases become their retirement funds. And so we need to be really careful that we don’t cause the collapse of housing prices, or that we don’t actually get into a situation where mortgages are worth more than the value of the house. That’s been known [to happen]. And so that’s where I think the government has to move very carefully so that we’re not causing a complete shift that will have unknown consequences, or repercussions in the housing market.

So that being said, one of the things I heard about knocking on doors, a couple of days ago, in a rental unit in Langley City. And there are people that have been in the unit for many years, and they said they’re paying rents and with their incomes the way that they are, they haven’t been able to save for a down payment. And so one the items that’s included is helping renters become owners, and includes committing a billion dollars in loans and grants to to help people make a transition from the rental market into homeownership. There’s an item to help young Canadians actually afford a down payment. This will be done through introducing a tax-free first home savings account, which would allow under-40-year-old Canadians to save up to $40,000 to put toward their purchase, and they wouldn’t have to repay this. It’s sort of like how right now you can take money out of RRSPs for first-time homebuyers, but it has to be repaid. This would allow people to actually access $40,000 and not have to repay that. Because that becomes a disincentive for people to get into the housing market.

FVC: If house prices are too high, but if you’re trying to be very careful about not really reducing house prices, can anything actually be solved?

Aldag: Yeah, I think that it’s about actually helping people get into the housing market that’s there now. And so when there’s these barriers to things like down payments that prevent homeownership, that’s where a couple of the things I just talked about will be important to help renters do that, and young owners, the under-40 crowd. I think that we also need to have a mix of housing. So it needs to be appropriate housing as well. So in the valley right now we see a lot of condos being built, one- and two-bedroom condos that are great for people leaving their parents home striking on their own. And if they can get into the housing market, and those become affordable, they build up some equity. So then they can transition to maybe townhomes and eventually, standalone single-family homes. I know that there has been a shortage of some of that entry-level stock within the area. And so that’s where we need to work with developers with municipalities, but making sure that we have a mix of affordable homes so it’s not just the middle-dollar, standalone single-family homes in our communities, but there is this mix allows people to transition as they go through the various life stages of leaving home, getting married, having kids, downsizing, moving back into smaller places. And I think that that’s been part of the the issue—that we don’t have that full mix and price points that people can actually afford.

FVC: The Liberals have been in power since 2015. And since then house prices have doubled, basically, and the party has been unable to afford to keep them down. Why should people listening to you think that the Liberals can actually make a difference in their next term if they are elected?

Aldag: Well, I think that it’s about some ongoing change. So we did do some things with the mortgage stress test that was intended to deal with escalating house prices there were, we were working with the provinces. The province did some work on not taxing foreign homeownership and empty homes. So the sense was that as the provinces were starting to tweak how the housing market works, if we got in and started layering things on, you could end up with these consequences that would, like I say, affect housing prices and really throw the whole market out. So I think it’s been about incremental changes between different levels of government involved in things and seeing how we can actually crack this nut, this difficult issue of homeownership.

FVC: Is that caution the problem? Because while the government was being cautious on this, house prices have skyrocketed and people can’t afford a home now?

Aldag: I wouldn’t say that they’ve necessarily doubled. They’ve definitely increased, absolutely. . [Editor’s note: All classes of Langley homes have more than doubled in price from Oct. 2015, according to the FVREB. The benchmark price of a single-family house has increased 113%.] And that’s why I say that, you know, the government is being extremely ambitious and extremely aggressive in this platform to say, ‘Okay, we are hearing it, the things that have been done have made some difference, but it’s time to go to that next step.’ So like I said, there’s about 20 different items that have come out in our plan. There’s things to help first-time homebuyers, make the incentives for homeownership more flexible. There’s reducing monthly mortgage costs. So this new platform on affordability, it continues to chip away at the barriers that we’ve had on affordability and and helping people get into the housing market that otherwise might be prevented from getting in there.

FVC: But you’re suggesting that things have worked in the past in some way. And I imagine that some people would suggest that they can’t imagine homes being more expensive than they are now?

Aldag: Well, I think we’ve seen that in Metro Vancouver, we have some of the highest real estate prices in the world. And that’s unacceptable to see that continue. And that’s why I say our government is responding quite aggressively with this platform to help address these issues. I have kids that are at that point where they should be striking out on their own, and they’re still living at home. And there’s nothing more than I would like them to see them succeed and get out on their own. But, it’s that same thing they’re struggling with, going away to university, paying for student loans, and trying to save money eventually for homeownership. And so that’s where some of our programs are. Like I say, it’s continuing to move the needle all along on this issue and to help families and those wanting to get into homeownership to do so.

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NDP — Rajesh Jayaprakash

FVC: Are house prices too high?

Jayaprakash: Yes

FVC: Given that, what are your party’s plans to depress house prices?

Jayaprakash: There are a bunch of options and steps that the NDP is taking, such as building half a million residential units and looking at more co-op housing. But you know, what I want to focus on here is there are a lot of promises. Any election all the parties will come and say: ’We are going to fix it, we are going to fix it.’ But now the important thing to remember here is whose mess are we dealing with? Who has been in power in the past one decade, or maybe more than that? And if Liberals and Conservatives are coming and saying ‘OK, we are going to fix this,’ the question to them is why didn’t you do it already or why were you being a spectator for all these years? Both of them. They had all the chance to do this. They did not do it. And during the election time they are given a lot of questions. The question now for them is: what about the promises you gave last time? What about those promises? There is a long list of empty promises. My point on this is there are expenses promises we are making, everybody is making, and the thing voters need to think about is: who to trust?

FVC: But I want to hear from you about what the NDP would do and why we people should trust the NDP to follow through on what it says it can do when it’s tough to build that many houses. There’s a lot of hurdles that you need to clear, not just at the federal level, but the municipal and other levels. How is the NDP going to deliver on those promises?

Jayaprakash: Yeah, the key here is working with the municipal government who has the ability to do it. The question is, everybody’s making the promises, and they had the chance, the Liberals had the chance. There was nothing stopping them to do more. And they were watching. The housing prices increased to 62% over a few years. They had the chance, the Conservatives had the chance. The question is let’s give Jagmeet Singh the chance. That’s where I will leave it there.

FVC: But what are you going to do?

Jayaprakash: We have to work with the provincial and the municipal forces to build more rental housing, to promote more of the newer modes of living, housing. Promote those things, more co-ops and such houses. That is the strategy. [Unclear]. The question is who has the ability to do that.

FVC: The vast majority of new homes are built by the private market, though. What would the NDP do to encourage more building by the private market, in addition to the houses that you want to create through public means?

Jayaprakash: I don’t have that level of detail about how we are going to help the private market but we can say that the bigger level that [unclear] and we have the ability to make it happen. And we will work with the provincial and municipal level, and if necessary private groups, to make it happen.

FVC: One of the planks of the NDP platform is relaxing some of the market rules so you can have 30 year mortgages now. But economists say that has the potential of just creating more demand for home sales and pushing prices even higher, and not actually addressing the problem over the long term. Is your party willing to make decisions that might be tough in the short term, to address the long-term problem of housing affordability?

Jayaprakash: I know a lot of people who can’t afford the mortgage. It’s about getting some of the people who cannot afford at this high price. The fundamental problem is the high price. Now the question is the 30-year is one of the steps that helps and with anything like this there will be arguments on both sides. The 30-year is something we know will help people of lesser means.

These interviews have been very lightly edited for clarity and basic grammar. Nothing of substance has been omitted. Each interview was recorded, but technical difficulties with two interviews makes publishing consistent recordings for each candidate difficult, so in the interest of fairness and consistency, we are publishing the transcripts.

Tyler Olsen

Managing Editor at Fraser Valley Current

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