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Liberals roll out social housing funding to keep 55,000 units in system

The Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada called on federal, provincial and territorial governments to "act swiftly to protect more households in need of assistance."
April 4, 2018
By Emily Mathieu

Low-income residents of federally run co-operatives and non-profit housing are being promised more stability through the creation of an initiative designed to protect affordable housing across the country.

The money will come through a new $500 million Federal Community Housing Initiative and is expected to result in the "stabilization" of 55,000 federally administered social housing units through the temporary extension of rent supplements and the development of new subsidy programs. The initiative is part of the National Housing Strategy.

"Our home is our refuge. It's the launch pad for our lives, the place where we care for our families, where we belong to a community and most importantly where we can see and build a future for us all," said Adam Vaughan, parliamentary secretary to the minister of families, children and social development, during a news conference Wednesday at Windmill Line Co-op, in Toronto.

"For many decades, community housing, co-op housing, has played perhaps the most important role in providing good quality affordable housing, not just here but right across the country," he said

The first $38 million of the funding initiative will be spent extending rent supplements, meaning housing providers with operating agreements that will expire before February 2020 won't see a change in the subsidies that came with those agreements until the end of March 2020.

The government will be consulting with social housing providers about how to best spend the rest of the money, or design the next phase

The broad national strategy includes a portable housing benefit, at a cost of $4 billion, but requires provinces and territories to cover half the costs and won't start until 2021.

Karla Skoutajan, acting executive director of the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada described the initiative as welcome news, in a written statement.

"But we still have more work to do in supporting our members with provincially administered agreements, and we are calling on federal, provincial and territorial governments to act swiftly to protect more households in need of assistance."

Similar supports for provincially run co-ops and community housing is expected to come through a $4.3 billion Canada Community Housing Initiative and is contingent on an agreement with provinces and territories, she said.

Vaughan said all three levels of government are meeting next week to "set the framework for a multilateral agreement," with the goal of getting money flowing into all levels of social housing, including Toronto Community Housing, as soon as possible.

The expiration of the subsidies had been a source of considerable anxiety at co-operatives

Last year the Star wrote about Spruce Court Co-op, where members feared losing rent supplements because they wanted to break out of their federal agreement so they could refinance the property's mortgage to secure money for much needed capital repairs.

Federal funding meant they were allowed to break their mortgage early and without penalty, but would lose their subsidies in 2021, rather than 2025.

When the broad details of the national strategy were announced in November, it included a fix or new rules that allowed co-ops like Spruce Court to refinance without losing the subsidies.