Canada’s Minister of Housing, Ahmed Hussen, whose job it is to make housing more affordable for Canadians, now owns two rental properties in the nation’s capital.
It smells like a conflict of interest, n’est-ce pas?
As the first federal housing minister — housing is actually in the swing plane of the province, not Ottawa — Hussen rhymed off within the first week of his latest cabinet appointment a slew of proposed actions.
“I think the first and foremost thing is to build housing supply,” Hussen said of his priorities during his first week of this latest portfolio in an interview with the CBC’s The House.
“It is to ban foreign ownership in our housing sector. It is to implement the promised tax on non-residential, non-Canadian vacant homes beginning in January 2022 and (make) sure that we, as a federal government … get together our other partners to ensure that they can leverage our upcoming investments to build more housing supply, but also to repair the existing stock and increase the capacity of organizations and municipalities to build more housing supply and more affordable housing.”
All this was being said while Hussen was quietly buying up a couple of rental properties.
As True North’s Lindsay Shepherd recently reported, when asked in the House by Kelowna-Lake Country’s Conservative MP, Tracy Gray, what the average rental price was for an apartment in her riding, Hussen flippantly replied, “It doesn’t matter.”
As Shepherd stated, “Hussen couldn’t even conjure up some faux empathy and offer a canned response about how rental rates across the country are unaffordable and not in line with current salaries — he could only offer indifference and deflection.”
And then, on March 23, he bought his second rental property, which his office insisted was rented out at below market rates.
However, Hussen’s handlers wouldn’t cough up the actual rent or reveal if his two properties were rented by family, friend or strangers.
Add to this the fact that, a year earlier, it was discovered that Hussen’s department had given a $133,000 grant to the Community Media Advocacy Centre (CMAC), an organization whose senior consultant has a history of antisemitism.
Fellow Liberal MP Anthony Housefather claims that he told Hussen about the consultant before the news broke, and that Hussen and his department could have moved quicker to cut the CMAC’s funding but failed to do so.
In 2017, Hussen was presented with the Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards—he is from Somalia—an award that honours the achievements of immigrants who have chosen to make Canada their home.
Hussen was also presented with a Queen’s Gold and Diamond Jubilee medal. He also received the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Authority Award for his efficacious advocacy work in Toronto’s troubled Regent Park housing project.
So, he has a stack of kudos.
But do those bon mots forgive him of having two conflicts of interest represented by him owning two rental properties in high-rent Ottawa?
As Minister of Housing, Hussen may be privy to information about the housing market not known to the general public, which to some critics, makes his investments akin to insider trading.
“It brings to mind how Congress in the U.S. won’t pass the Stock Act because they’re all inside traders,” housing expert and journalist Neil Sharma told True North’s Lindsay Shepherd.
“The economics of housing in Canada might be a little more obscure to understand for the average Canadian, but what the Minister of Housing is doing isn’t any different. He should be solving the supply paucity, not profiting off it.”
Even when asked by TV Ontario’s Steve Paikin whether he thought he was in conflict for being both a landlord and the housing minister, Hassen replied … “Not really… I’m happy to be contributing to that housing supply.”
Hussen reportedly was smirking as he said it.