Canadian service members say Habitat for Humanity is an option amid housing crisis

An email encouraging members of the Canadian Armed Forces to consider contacting Habitat for Humanity if they cannot find affordable housing highlights a growing challenge faced by military members and their families.

The email was sent by a senior officer at 19 Wing Comox to other members of the Royal Canadian Air Force base on northern Vancouver Island, which is home to the military search and rescue school as well than several aircraft squadrons.

“Following our discussion this morning, a potential housing option for our people is Habitat for Humanity,” the May 5 email said. “If any of your employees are interested, please have them view the information located here.”

The email, the authenticity of which has been confirmed by the Department of National Defence, included a link and contact information for the charity’s North Vancouver Island branch, as well as a list of criteria for applying. a house.

Defense Department spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande said members were not directed to Habitat for Humanity, but rather it was presented as an option for those who had “significant difficulty” in to find accommodation.

“To the best of our knowledge, this has not been an option presented or explored by CAF members in other parts of the country.”

Military housing deficit

But the email highlighted growing complaints and concerns about the impact of soaring house prices and rents on members of the Canadian Armed Forces – and Ottawa’s repeated failure to provide enough military housing.

General Wayne Eyre, chief of the defense staff, warned last month that his troops were feeling the bite of escalating housing prices and other living costs due to their unique way of life , which includes constant moves throughout their careers.

At the same time, Eyre lamented a shortage of military housing, stating, “Now we’re somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 units short on our bases, which also compounds the housing problem.”

Online forums are full of members of the Armed Forces discussing the current housing crisis, with some on the verge of desperately seeking advice on how to find affordable housing in markets where even rental prices are exorbitant.

A spokesperson for Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North said he was unsure if any of the 39 local homes built by the charity since 2004 had been attributed to the military.

While several members of the Armed Forces who were contacted declined to comment because they did not have permission to conduct an interview, real estate agents say they have seen firsthand the stress many soldiers and their families are under. confronted.

“Exceptionally hard”

“The last two years have been exceptionally, exceptionally difficult for them,” said Tracy Fogtmann, a real estate agent who works with military families moving to the Comox area. “I’ve been in the business for 19 years and I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The situation is similar in other military communities such as Kingston, Ont., where broker Luca Andolfatto has seen the stress many soldiers, their families and even their real estate agents are feeling.

Real estate agent Luca Andolfatto poses for a portrait in Kingston, Ont., a city with a heavy military presence, on Saturday. Andolfatto has seen the stress Canadian troops, their families, and even real estate agents feel over housing affordability. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

“It’s a lot of stress and a lot of pressure both on the staff themselves and on the real estate agents,” said Andolfatto, who has worked with military families for 34 years. “Anyone not ranked as an officer would find it difficult.”

The armed forces actually advised the military against buying a home, warning in March that some bases are located in “unpredictable and seemingly inflated real estate markets” and that a price correction was expected.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) reported in February that “rent affordability continues to be a significant challenge across the country.”

Many bases have military housing. But even though internal MoD assessments have repeatedly asserted since 2017 that at least 5,000 more units are needed to meet growing military needs, the number of government-owned houses has steadily declined for decades. years.