"There really Is 'No Life Like It' if you live on base"
October 15, 2003
Imagine how you'd feel paying rent for a house or an apartment â â€œ your home â â€œ that was so poorly insulated your family's food froze in the cupboards in the winter. Imagine the risks to you and your children's health arising from the black mould on the walls and water smelling of sewage or under a long-term boil water advisory.
Imagine your outrage at living under these conditions as your landlord increased your rent every year by $100 a month â â€œ far higher than the rent hike limits protecting most Canadian tenants. Then imagine your frustration at being able to do nothing about it because your landlord, who also happens to be your boss, had such power that health, safety and tenant protection laws in your province couldn't help you.
For thousands of families living in Canadian Forces housing, no imagination is required. Welcome to their reality.
It's a sad fact that many Canadian families are living in similarly intolerable conditions. However, if they rent, they at least have some recourse available to them under provincial laws designed to protect tenants from irresponsible and exploitive landlords. But what if your landlord is the Government of Canada? The provinces have no jurisdiction over rental increases and maintenance levels of federal housing units.
On November 1st, residents living in Canadian Forces housing will be hit with yet another rent increase for their Private Married Quarters. Many tenants have seen their rents jump by as much as 25 percent.
The Canadian Forces Housing Authority (CFHA) says it simply wants to charge fair market rents that reflect the local real estate markets. Yet it isn't equally prepared to match the living standards of local units.
On-base housing provides military families with a valuable resource to address their specific needs. The life of a soldier is no 9-to-5 job. Most are on call 24-hours a day. Proximity to their base is critical. They must uproot their families every few years, to wherever they're asked to serve. They're deployed for months at a time, leaving their spouses and children behind. Often, the community on a military base is the only source of emotional and practical support for these families.
True, the men and women of the armed forces chose this life, accepting there would be sacrifices. But all of Canadians benefit from the personal sacrifices they make to be able to serve our country. And far from some low-cost luxurious perk, the housing that facilitates their ability to do their job is often a substandard health and safety hazard.
Soldiers and their spouses are reluctant to complain about their living conditions. Yet, the military housing situation has gotten so bad that some have begun to speak out. For those who continue to endure in silence, we must fight on their behalf.
That's why I announced a petition campaign this week to demand the CFHA suspend any future rent increases at least until the Government of Canada makes substantive improvements to the living conditions of housing provided for military families.
If like me, you believe our soldiers deserve fair treatment and more respect, copies of the petition are available at: www.jayhillmp.com