Jimmy Carter ham­mers it home

For­mer U.S. pres­i­dent touts Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity as model for gov­ern­ments

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - BY JOR­DAN PRESS

For­mer U.S. pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter says that Cana­dian gov­ern­ments should con­sider em­u­lat­ing the non-profit he has pro­moted for years as a means of al­le­vi­at­ing an af­ford­able hous­ing crunch in this coun­try.

Carter has been a long­time vol­un­teer with Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity, which helps low­in­come fam­i­lies buy a house through af­ford­able pay­ment sched­ules and get­ting the fam­i­lies in­volved in build­ing their homes.

Carter says other coun­tries like Peru have adopted sim­i­lar mod­els to help build more af­ford­able hous­ing units and re­duce re­liance on the so­cial safety net.

The for­mer pres­i­dent is get­ting a chance to push the mes­sage this week as part of a Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity project to build 150 homes across Canada for the coun­try’s sesqui­cen­ten­nial, first in Ed­mon­ton where the fed­eral in­fra­struc­ture min­is­ter joined the work site and then Wed­nes­day in Win­nipeg.

But he ac­knowl­edges that the hous­ing chal­lenge re­mains a dif­fi­cult one to tackle for pol­icy makers and vol­un­teers.

“It’s not enough. What the lo­cal, state and fed­eral govern­ment do and what vol­un­teers like we do put to­gether makes a big dent in the need, but it’s still not enough,” he said in an in­ter­view from a work site in Ed­mon­ton.

“Every­where we go, the need is well known and peo­ple just don’t pay enough at­ten­tion to it.”

There are an es­ti­mated 1.6 mil­lion house­holds con­sid­ered in “core hous­ing need” — mean­ing they spend more than onethird of their be­fore-tax in­come on hous­ing that may be sub­stan­dard or doesn’t meet their needs.

The fed­eral govern­ment hopes that its forth­com­ing na­tional hous­ing strat­egy cuts that fig­ure by at least 500,000 over the next decade.

The plan will look at the en­tire hous­ing con­tin­uum, which in­cludes Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion helps fam­i­lies bridge the gap be­tween so­cial hous­ing and mar­ket-based homes by giv­ing them af­ford­able pay­ments and in­ter­est rates, while also re­quir­ing that they in­vest in the con­struc­tion of their home through sweat eq­uity.

Carter’s ar­gu­ment is that Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity fam­i­lies be­come re­spon­si­ble tax­pay­ers, which in­creases govern­ment tax rev­enues and de­creases amounts spent on so­cial ser­vices.

“They change from a life of de­pen­dency on some­times the fed­eral and lo­cal gov­ern­ments to one of self-suf­fi­ciency,” he said.

The fed­eral Lib­er­als have tried to use the cost of hous­ing as a talk­ing point in the lat­est round in the on­go­ing trade dis­pute over soft­wood lum­ber, warn­ing that U.S. hous­ing prices may be­come un­af­ford­able for many Amer­i­cans if the Trump administration con­tin­ues to im­pose high tar­iffs on soft­wood that is used in the con­struc­tion of new homes.

In May, Carter pub­licly sided with U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s de­ci­sion to im­pose new fees on Cana­dian ex­ports, which at last count has left the do­mes­tic in­dus­try fac­ing av­er­age du­ties of about 27 per cent.

The Carter fam­ily is in­volved in soft­wood lum­ber and the for­mer pres­i­dent says he be­lieves the rift could soon pass.

“We just want an hon­est and fair ar­range­ment to be made that suits both sides. And I think this can be done,” Carter said.

“We want to be fair to both sides and we want to take care of forestry work­ers and tim­ber own­ers as well.”

JA­SON FRANSON/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

For­mer U.S. pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter and his wife, Ros­alynn, helped build homes for Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity in Ed­mon­ton on Tues­day.

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