At the centre of our long-term plan is a focus on the most vulnerable, particularly those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Canada’s back. It’s a refrain often heard as our government re-emerges on the world stage with a renewed spirit of co-operation toward our international partners. The same phrase should be used on the housing file. The federal government is back in housing, and we are here to stay.
Last month, our government proposed the largest and longest commitment to housing ever seen in this country. We will deliver Canada’s first-ever National Housing Strategy. The financing proposed extends beyond a decade, with the total funds available far exceeding the $11.2 billion highlighted in Budget 2017.
The needs are many. We must build more affordable housing, create a path to home ownership for those with low incomes, house the chronically homeless, and address the massive backlog of repairs in our affordable housing stock. Our government is aware that we can only do this by working with the provinces and territories, as well as municipal governments and indigenous partners.
The plan is to have a pan-Canadian vision for housing in place by year’s end. The National Housing Strategy will create a long-term road map for governments and housing providers across the country.
When we took office, there was about $2 billion in funding committed to housing annually by the previous government. That figure was set to drastically shrink as a large number of critical housing agreements were left to expire. The stage was set for the federal government to exit from the housing sector altogether.
But in our first year in office, we moved quickly to build on base funding by investing an additional $2.3 billion over two years, immediately increasing spending against homelessness by 50 per cent and more than tripling our housing transfers to the provinces and territories. We established a strong foundation on which to build a National Housing Strategy. And that’s where Budget 2017 comes in.
Budget 2017 commits another $11.2 billion in federal funding over a 10-year-period, starting in 2018. Budget 2017 also enables more than $10 billion in low interest loans and mortgage guarantees to spur rental housing construction and repair. And Budget 2017 made that all-important promise to protect billions of dollars of investment previously set to expire.
These amounts don’t include additional housing dollars to be spent through the government’s new indigenous infrastructure initiative. Nor do these numbers include investments we are making in other areas, such as mental health, which go hand-in-hand with a housing-first approach.
Some have expressed the concern that our housing investments are back-end loaded. These assertions misunderstand the facts. Annual allocations by the federal government are, in fact, just about equal year-to-year as new money is added to old, and as expiring agreements are reinvested.
At the centre of our long-term plan is a focus on the most vulnerable, particularly those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. We have committed an average of $200 million per year over the next decade to tackle homelessness.
With these major investments, we are aiming to cut chronic homelessness in half, and take 500,000 families out of housing need. We will make social and economic opportunity real for these Canadians.
We are also getting a head-start on that work by immediately funding research like that recently announced in Toronto in partnership with A Way Home. That particular project, centred on youth, signals our focus on prevention and our recognition that many shelter users have significant mental health, addiction, and brain injury challenges.
For Canadians searching for safe and affordable housing, for tenants waiting for badly needed repair to existing housing stock, for young people hoping to buy a home and start a family, for seniors looking to retire with dignity, Canada is back in housing. Our government is delivering a National Housing Strategy.
Adam Vaughan is the parliamentary secretary to the minister of Families, Children and Social Development (Housing and Urban Affairs).
Jean-Yves Duclos is the minister of Families, Children and Social Development and minister responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
This article was published online by the Toronto Star on May 4, 2017. The original article can be found here.