During the federal election campaign this past summer, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered a number of solutions to the affordable housing crisis. Now that Trudeau has won his election, thousands of households remain confused.
While the Liberals $40-billion, 10-year National Housing Strategy (NHS) was to add 25,000 new housing units and refurbish more than 300,000 public housing units – Canada’s homelessness rates continue to rise. Currently, there are more than 283,000 households across the country waiting for affordable housing, according to a new batch of survey data released by Statistics Canada.
And it’s not just been a matter of months. In fact, a total of 173,600 households, or nearly two-thirds of those on the waitlist, have been waiting at least two years. Out of the total number of those households, one-fifth were already in a subsidized unit and waiting to either move to a new home, or have someone from the household move out on their own.
Tim Richter, CEO of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, says that the need cannot be underscored strongly enough. “It also points to the urgency of a federal government response, and that we should be doing as much as we can as soon as we can,” he said.
Liberal MP Adam Vaughan, tweeted that Indigenous populations need to be focused on as well, noting that a national urban Indigenous program would be “the next chapter” in the strategy. Meanwhile, Ahmed Hussen, the new social development minister, said federal efforts would go towards the best way to quickly launch low-cost developments.
Hussen lauded the Liberals for their commitment to building new housing. “The federal government’s role is to be a strong and reliable and long-term partner,” Hussen told reporters. “The key is to continue that, to increase those investments, to make sure that municipalities and communities can rely on us to really address the housing crisis in this country.” He noted that while hundreds of thousands of households wait for housing, another 1.7 million of them occupy the “core housing need” subset – those who live in a home that is too small or too expensive.
Tim Ross, executive director of the Co-Operative Housing Federation of Canada, said that all red tape should be eliminated in order to streamline housing projects.
“Perhaps now there’s an opportunity to fast-track some of that funding to build new supply to address the significant core housing need across the country, particularly those who are on wait lists for social and affordable housing,” he said, noting that most who received social housing were satisfied with their homes, but wished that their energy costs were also more manageable.
“For other households who are not satisfied with their dwelling, moving may not be an option given personal circumstances, financial constraints and housing markets in their area,” the study noted. “For them, housing dissatisfaction, and the circumstances underlying it, may constitute an ongoing source of disadvantage.”
On the plus side, a portable rent supplement might be coming down the pipeline in order to offer further support for households in housing distress.
This was hinted at by The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in a recent online statement last week which stated that it would soon have news about agreements with provinces and territories to “unlock more funding for community housing and provide direct benefits to low-income households.”