The Green Party of Ontario is proposing an innovative solution to poverty: using budget surpluses to help economically vulnerable families buy their own homes. “Paying rent keeps people poor,”. The Green Party doesn’t just want to make sure our poorest citizens have a roof over their heads; we want to help them own the roofs over their heads. “Encouraging and facilitating home ownership will help people break the vicious cycle of poverty and dependence, while creating further economic and employment opportunities.”

Under the Green proposal, future provincial budget surpluses would be used to build up a $5 billion Long-Term Affordable Housing Investment Fund. The interest generated by the fund would then be used to support and leverage the construction of affordable housing, including seniors’ housing, co-housing developments and sweat equity housing, where the buyers invest their own labour. “A government program to support home ownership is a viable long-term solution as well as a sound social and fiscal investment,” de Jong says. “By offering low-cost housing, manageable payment schedules and no down payments, we would give even those with the most modest incomes a way to build up equity.”

The plan is similar to the Habitat for Humanity model, which lets the economically disadvantaged buy affordable homes at cost, financed with affordable loans. The homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments are then used to build more houses.

“Most housing programs are just stop-gap measures that cost taxpayers a lot of money without providing long-term benefits,” de Jong says. “Subsidized housing, for example, doesn’t address the root causes of generational poverty, and it doesn’t give people any real means to escape that poverty.”

The Green Party’s housing fund would benefit the working poor by helping them build a solid financial foundation that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. It could also give disabled people more independence, provide a way for the homeless to get off the streets, and give people on welfare the means to take control of their own financial futures.

“After the Affordable Housing Investment Fund reaches the target level of $5 billion, we would apply future surpluses to Ontario debt repayment,” de Jong says. “This sequence of policy priorities recognizes the fact that the cost of not eliminating Ontario’s current high social deficit is costing us all many times over in other costs what it would cost to fix the problem now. It is also the proper thing to do.”

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