BY: JAY BRIJPAUL
The federal government recently revealed a brave plan to spend over $40 billion dollars in ten years towards affordable housing. The money will be going toward building 100,000 new housing units; repairing 300,000 aging affordable housing units; saving 385,000 households from losing an affordable home; chopping homelessness by half; assisting 300,000 households with financial help through the Canada Housing Benefit Program, and helping over 530,000 families who spend over 33% of their gross earnings on substandard housing. A system will be put in place to establish a national housing council to help the government keep this plan on track.
In reference to this, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “Everyone deserves a safe and affordable place to call home. We took a major step forward on housing today, and we will continue to deliver initiatives that strengthen the middle class and lifts more Canadians out of poverty. Housing rights are human rights, and everyone deserves a safe and affordable place to call home… and one person on the streets in Canada is too many.”
The National Housing Strategy will work in partnership with Canadian provinces and territories. The provinces and territories are expected to match the funds given by the federal government. The government is working on a separate plan for the First Nations, Inuit and Metis. Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and Minister Responsible for CMHC said in a statement: “Our government is establishing a federal leadership role in housing. The National Housing Strategy will create a new generation of housing in Canada. It will promote diverse communities and will build housing that is sustainable, accessible, mixed-income and mixed-use that will be located near transit, work, and public services.”
The federal government earmarks $15.9 billion for a new National Housing Co-Investment Fund, $8.6 billion for a new Canada Community Housing Initiative, $2.2 billion to address homelessness, $300 million for housing needs in the north, and $241 million towards research.
The housing plan is gender-based and will look at the needs of battered women and girls, and affordable housing for senior women. Funds will be allocated to help repair shelter spaces. “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,” according to Mayor Tory.
This plan will take effect as of April 2018 and will extend until 2028. Most of the financial stimulus will come into effect after 2020 because of all the intricacies involved in establishing the inner workings and negotiations within the various level of governments. “We are looking at the realistic horizon that is going to not just put a band-aid on the problem, but create the kind of deep change and lasting impact that we know Canadians are going to need,” our Prime Minister has declared.
My opinion is that the national housing strategy does not address the increasing pressure on middle-class families with income between $50,000 to $70,000 in Toronto. With the current housing prices, the plan should allocate funds to build more affordable homes to assist these families. Jim Murphy, CEO of the Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario, said that “there is increasing concern that those in the middle, who probably wouldn’t qualify for most of these programs, are still facing hardship. They can’t afford to own with an average price of $1.3 million (for a detached resale house in Toronto in October). Increasingly, rent is becoming difficult, not only in terms of price but in terms of supply and finding a place.”
It is a giant leap in the right direction as housing is a basic need. “The national housing strategy released this afternoon is a breakthrough for cities and communities from coast to coast to coast,” said FCM President Jenny Gerbasi. “This is the kind of federal leadership that local governments have been seeking for more than twenty years.”
The new proposed plan is optimistic and will stimulate the economy while providing shelter for the most vulnerable in our society. I give it two thumbs up.