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Liberals committed $13B to affordable housing, report says
August 28, 2019
Laurie Monsebraaten

About 1 million Canadian families are benefiting from more than $13 billion in federal funding committed to specific affordable housing projects across the country since 2015, according to a report being released Tuesday.

The money is helping to build 41,000 new affordable units, repair another 229,600 units and provide social housing subsidies for 782,000 Canadian families and or individuals, says the progress report on federal housing initiatives to be released by Children, Families and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos in Montreal. It has also helped put 35,000 homeless people into more stable housing.

Among the projects is a $1.34-billion plan to help renew and repair more than 58,000 crumbling Toronto Community Housing units over the next 10 years, announced in April.

Funding comes from the 2016 budget and the federal government’s $40-billion, 10-year national housing strategy released in November 2017.

Under the strategy, Ottawa aims to create 125,000 new housing units, repair more than 300,000 units, cut homelessness by half and pull 530,000 families out of “core housing need.”

“We are delivering real change and showing that the federal government is back in housing, and back for good,” Duclos says in a forward to the report.

But critics have questioned whether the Liberals’ ambitious multibillion-dollar plan -- which defines affordability in relation to average market rents and not in relation to what residents can afford to pay -- will address the needs of Canada’s lowest income residents.

In June, Yves Giroux, Canada’s parliamentary budget officer, said the new strategy actually reduces targeted funding for households in need of financial support.

“It is not clear that National Housing Strategy will reduce the prevalence of housing need relative to 2017 levels,” Giroux said in his report.

David Hulchanski, a professor of housing and community development at the University of Toronto, has said his examination of federal budget figures also suggests it will be difficult for the Liberals to meet their goal of helping more than 500,000 families who pay more than 30 per cent of their incomes on rent.

On the ownership side, federal measures to strengthen mortgage stress-testing have helped to reduce the spiralling cost of buying a home across the country by 3.4 per cent nationally, or the equivalent of about $17,000, according to the report.

In the country’s largest cities, mortgage stress-testing has cut the cost of home ownership in Vancouver by 7.9 per cent or $80,000, and in Toronto by about 5.3 per cent or $40,000, the report says.

In its spring budget, the Liberal government increased funding for the housing strategy to more than $55 billion.

Legislation passed in June requires Ottawa to advance a human rights-based approach to housing that prioritizes the needs of the most vulnerable and requires regular reporting to Parliament on progress toward meeting its housing strategy goals.

“The national housing strategy will create a new generation of housing in Canada,” Duclos says in the report. “It promotes diverse communities, and builds housing that is sustainable, accessible, mixed income, mixed use and that is fully integrated into the community -- close to transit, close to work and close to public services.”