Ottawa's housing plan aims to help 530,000 vulnerable households
Ottawa has unveiled a national housing strategy that aims to address the urgent housing needs of 530,000 vulnerable families and individuals, create 100,000 new housing units, repair another 300,000 units and cut chronic homelessness by 50 per cent over the coming decade, federal officials say.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used a visit to a Toronto neighbourhood Wednesday afternoon to unveil details of the plan to invest $11.2 billion in federal funding over 11 years.
Trudeau said the strategy marks a significant return to the housing file for the federal government. Combined with investments from other levels of government, the total spending could reach $40 billion.
“We know that housing affordability is a huge issue for Canadians right across the country. We’re focusing on making sure that people can afford their homes, making sure that we take a significantly more effective approach on homelessness,” Trudeau said on Parliament Hill.
“We know that making sure that people have housing that they can rely on is a fundamental building block for success for families and for communities,” he said, before departing to Toronto.
“This is something we are very, very excited about. It’s been a long time coming,” Trudeau said.
Wednesday’s announcement provides the details of how funding earmarked in the 2017 federal budget for housing will be spent over the coming decade.
“The primary focus of the national housing strategy will be meeting the needs of vulnerable populations,” an official with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation told reporters during a background briefing.
Those include seniors, Indigenous peoples, survivors of family violence, people with disabilities, refugees, veterans, young adults, people with mental health and addiction issues and the homeless.
“Every Canadian deserves a safe home that they can afford,” the official said.
The measures, hammered out after consultations with municipalities, housing advocates and other stakeholders, include:
- $15.9 billion for a national housing co-investment fund to build an expected 60,000 new units and repair 240,000 others. It will provide $4.7 billion in capital contributions and $11.2 billion in low-cost loans. At least 2,400 units will go to people with developmental disabilities; 12,000 affordable units for seniors and 7,000 for survivors of family violence.
- $2 billion for a new Canada Housing Benefit to provide funding directly to low-income families and individuals. Provinces and territories will be expected to provide matching funds to bring total investment to $4 billion. This measure is expected to assist 300,000 vulnerable households.
- $2.2 billion for homelessness partner strategy to expand and extend agreement, which had been due to end in 2018-19, to work with provinces and communities to reduce homelessness.
- $4.3 billion Canada Community Housing Initiative to provinces and territories to support their own housing efforts. Combined with matching provincial funds, the total investment will be $8.6 billion.
- New legislation to require future federal governments to maintain a national housing strategy.
- Creation of a new federal housing advocate to help seek solutions to systemic affordable housing issues.
- At least 25 per cent of the investments will support projects to target the needs of women and girls, including new and repaired shelter spaces and affordable housing for senior women.
- Targeted support for Indigenous peoples not living on reserves.
The plan goes some distance to meeting demands of municipal leaders who had made the repair of existing stock, construction of new housing and renewing rent subsidies key priorities.
As proof of the crisis, municipal leaders pointed to recent census data showing that 3.3 million Canadians households are spending at least 30 per cent of their income on shelter.
Official details of the strategy were to be released simultaneously in Toronto by Trudeau and in Vancouver by Jean-Yves Duclos, minister of families, children and social development.
Trudeau, with Mayor John Tory, was scheduled to speak in Lawrence Heights, the site of a Toronto Community Housing revitalization project.
The release was timed to National Housing Day, an annual event created after the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee declared homelessness a national disaster in 1998.
In Toronto, activists and members of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty marched through the streets, demanding that the federal government spend the $11.2 billion over two years.
Next month, city council is expected to vote on a motion to request that Tory declare an emergency in the shelter system and immediately open new beds.
On Monday, the city’s emergency shelter system was at 96 per cent capacity, or 5,389 of 5,593 available spots were full. Those numbers included 1,305 available spots in motels, of which about 1,200 were occupied, to manage the overflow in the family shelter system.
In Toronto, more than 36 per cent of renter households live in what is known as core housing need, or are living in unaffordable, inadequate and unsuitable housing, according to 2016 census data.
Those figures were in a mid-November report released by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, produced with Statistics Canada.