Ottawa’s housing plan will create 100,000 new housing units nationally

TheStar.com – News/GTA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited a Toronto neighbourhood Wednesday to unveil details of the plan to invest $11.2 billion to address the urgent housing needs of 530,000 vulnerable families and individuals.
Nov. 22, 2017.   By

Ottawa has unveiled a national housing strategy that will create 100,000 new housing units and repair another 300,000 over the coming decade, federal officials say.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited a Toronto neighbourhood Wednesday to unveil details of the plan to invest $11.2 billion to address the urgent housing needs of 530,000 vulnerable families and individuals.

The plan will cut chronic homelessness by 50 per cent, federal officials say.

Trudeau said the strategy marks a significant return to the housing file for the federal government. Combined with investments from other levels of government, total spending could reach $40 billion.

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“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 in Ottawa before travelling to Toronto for the announcement.

“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.”

The prime minister later joined Mayor John Tory and Ontario Housing Minister Peter Milczyn at an afternoon press conference in Lawrence Heights, the site of a Toronto Community Housing revitalization project.

Included in the strategy, was a pledge to use a portion of a $15.9-billion national co-investment fund to repair Canada’s aging and ailing social housing stock. The precise amount has not been determined.

Municipal leaders had made the repair of existing stock, construction of new housing and renewing rent subsidies key priorities for the strategy.

At the press conference Wednesday, Tory spoke of a call last year by a coalition of big city mayors who “rang the alarm bell” on an escalating crisis, particularly when it came to the decline of social housing stock, a lack of affordable housing options and the resulting strain on the emergency shelter system.

“When housing in crisis the impacts are real and they are profound, cutting across all ages and all income levels and producing widespread social and economic negative impacts,” said Tory, flanked by leads on the Toronto housing file MP Adam Vaughan (Spadina-Fort York) and deputy mayor Ana Bailao.

The federal government, said Tory, has been responsive to all of the points the coalition made, and called the strategy the first “meaningful” federal response to Canada’s housing crisis in 50 years.

“In Toronto, this strategy and funding will help us repair our social housing and this will keep a roof, a proper and fit roof, over the heads of 60,000 Toronto households,” the mayor said.

The strategy provides the details of how funding earmarked in the 2017 federal budget for housing will be spent over the coming decade.

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 to expand and extend the homelessness partnering strategy, which had been due to end in 2018-19.
  • $4.3 billion for a Canada Community Housing Initiative to provinces and territories to support their 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.
  • 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 federal government also recognizes that housing is a human right, for the first time.

“This is an incredible moment for Canada and our leadership on human rights,” said Leilani Farha, executive director of Canada Without Poverty.

“The recognition of the right to housing in the NHS and the adoption of rights-based approach in the strategy are major steps forward as we work to end homelessness and housing insecurity across the country,” added Farha, who is also UN special rapporteur on housing.

As Trudeau, Tory and stakeholders gathered in Toronto, Jean-Yves Duclos, minister of families, children and social development, released the details of the strategy in Vancouver.

When asked what pieces of the strategy most tightly align with Toronto’s needs, Duclos pointed to the commitment to maintain federal subsidies for co-operative and community housing, for the next decade.

“There has been a lot of anxiety and nervousness over the years as to the future of the community housing stock in Toronto and Ontario,” Dulcos told the Star.

“That time, that era of uncertainly and anxiety is now ending, because the federal government is saying today that it will be there as a reliable and strong partner over the next 10 years to make sure that the housing stock and more importantly the vulnerable Canadians living in that housing stock will be protected.”

David Hulchanski, a professor of housing and community development at the University of Toronto, said the federal government’s formal commitment to housing security was “a bit of good news,” but said more detailed information on exactly how the money will be spent is essential.

Hulchanski suggested annual reports, detailing precisely how much money is spent and where, across the country.

On Parliament Hill, opposition parties voiced disappointment with the strategy, saying it’s not moving fast enough to help the most vulnerable and does nothing to aid first-time home buyers.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called it “timid,” saying much of the federal investments won’t happen for years, even after the next federal election in 2019.

“There are so many people that are in desperate need of housing that this plan does not address the seriousness of the crisis,” Singh told reporters.

https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/11/22/ottawas-housing-plan-aims-to-help-530000-vulnerable-households.html

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