Canada is facing an affordable housing crisis. Home prices are soaring out of reach in many cities. One in five renters spends more than half their income on housing. Emergency shelter occupancy rates are pushing 90 per cent. And 1.5 million Canadians can’t find safe, decent housing they can afford.
Municipalities — the big cities in particular — have shown local leadership in tackling these housing issues. A year ago, we counted 1,752 people as homeless, which is still way too many, but it is a 43% decrease from the 2008 count. During that time our agencies and partners have housed over 6,000 people and they’ve stayed housed more than 80% of the time. Cities across the country have dedicated surplus land and helped cobble together innovative partnerships. We’ve exceeded our jurisdiction, but we had to in the face of a real crisis. But, this is a national issue requiring national action.
Today, we saw that real and meaningful action thanks to strong leadership on this file from Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Duclos. As a result, big city mayors across the country are celebrating the federal government’s bold re-engagement in housing after decades of inaction.
The main motivation I had in taking on the role of Chair of the Big City Mayor’s Caucus was to make progress on these housing issues. Our vision for an uplifting and inclusive city depends on safe, affordable housing as a cornerstone. This same thought is shared by mayors from St. John’s to Yellowknife and from Montreal to Edmonton. Thanks to the solidarity of mayors and councillors and housing advocates across this country, we can now all be incredibly pleased with today’s National Housing Strategy Announcement.
There is more work to do on implementation details, but it genuinely feels like local leaders have a seat at the table in Ottawa now, and that we are true partners, bringing local solutions to national challenges.
Here are some of the key highlights from this announcement:
- A commitment to investing in social housing repair
- A portable housing benefit allowing people to stay in housing longer without risk of losing their homes
- Stable operating grant supports for existing social housing projects
- Progress on Indigenous housing, with a specific focus on Urban Indigenous populations
Access to adequate housing is not just something that our citizens simply want or desire, but it is a fundamental need — a human right, even — and I believe that this announcement is the start of treating it as such.
The National Housing Strategy opens doors to a Canada where everyone can find a safe, decent, affordable home. It will help shape our housing approach for years to come and have a meaningful impact for our most vulnerable citizens.
Housing security for more Canadians also means savings for provinces (and taxpayers) on health and welfare and justice costs, and it supports more stable participation in the workforce, which is good for productivity and the economy. In other words, these big investments in housing will have very positive paybacks at all levels.