The Canadian Housing and Renewal Association (CHRA) is the voice of the affordable housing sector in Canada. Our members include social and non-profit housing providers, homelessness organizations, co-ops, provincial and territorial housing departments, and supportive municipalities, individuals, businesses, and non-profit associations. CHRA’s mission is to ensure that all Canadians have an affordable, secure and decent place to call home.
There are approximately 600,000 social and affordable housing units in Canada, which provide housing needs to over a million Canadians. These social housing units offer the opportunity for individuals and families to live, work, and play in homes that they may not otherwise be able to afford. Despite the investments in Budget 2016 and 2017, the declining federal support for social housing since the mid-1990s, has led to concern over whether the sector can meet the growing needs for our tenants. A snapshot of some of the relevant data points include:
What is even more troubling is the housing situation facing Indigenous peoples, particularly those living in urban and rural settings. Among the challenges facing Indigenous peoples living in urban and rural settings:
Although the federal government confirmed in Budget 2017 that a National Housing Strategy will be unveiled in fall 2017, CHRA strongly believes that there can be no National Strategy without an Indigenous Housing Strategy, that has at its core a goal to raise the standard of Indigenous housing to that of the non-Indigenous population.
CHRA has been a strong advocate for federal leadership in the affordable housing sector; over the past two years, our efforts have focused on the development of the National Housing Strategy policy framework. In October 2016, following the announcement in June 2016 by Minister Jean-Yves Duclos of a national consultation on a National Housing Strategy, CHRA worked with its members, its Indigenous Caucus, and other national housing stakeholders to produce a vision and response to guide the development of the National Housing Strategy. The response, entitled, “Housing At a Crossroads: CHRA’s Vision for the Next Generation of Housing Policy in Canada” contained recommendations to improve national housing policy in Canada in a number of key areas.
In the 2017 federal Budget, the Government of Canada announced $11.2 billion in new funding over 11 years for social and affordable housing – the largest single investment in Budget 2017. In addition, the Budget committed to reinvesting within the housing sector the funds that would otherwise have disappeared upon Expiry of Operating Agreements, which some estimates have suggested represents between $4.5 – $5 billion. Although many of the announcements in social and affordable housing contained in the 2017 Budget closely aligned with CHRA’s own recommendations; there were a number of programs and announcements for which details will not be unveiled until the release of the National Housing Strategy, expected in fall 2017.
In June 2017, CHRA released two submissions on the National Housing Strategy to provide the federal government with recommendations on how to implement these programs. The first document contained recommendations related to the housing-related programs and announcements in the 2017 Budget; while, the second document was intended to serve as a policy framework for a distinct urban and rural Indigenous housing strategy, and was produced with the input and oversight of the CHRA Indigenous Caucus.
CHRA would like to reiterate to the House of Commons Finance Committee a number of the recommendations we included in our June 2017 submissions. Although several of these recommendations are linked to the measures contained in Budget 2017 and the forthcoming National Housing Strategy, they also apply to the development of the 2018 Budget:
The commitment made in the 2017 Budget to maintain baseline funding related to Expiry of Operating Agreements, valued at approximately $4-$5 billion over 11 years, should be used to finance the above three programs; however, given the need across Canada, CHRA is recommending that Budget 2018 augment the funds for these programs over and above the levels initially announced in Budget 2017.
The 2017 Budget committed $225 million over 11 years for housing providers “serving Indigenous Peoples not living on-reserve”, which was a key recommendation in CHRA’s submission to the National Housing Strategy consultation. Although welcome, this investment amounts to little more than $20 million per year, which is insufficient to address the pressing and unique challenges facing the urban and rural Indigenous housing sector. CHRA repeats the policy recommendations introduced in our June 2017 submission that a National Indigenous Housing Strategy be unveiled in conjunction with that National Housing Strategy, and that its funding be significantly increased. Among the policy elements that CHRA has identified as part of a National Indigenous Housing Strategy include the following:
CHRA appreciates this opportunity to share its recommendations with the Standing Committee on Finance. CHRA welcomes and applauds the federal government’s interest in strengthening the non-profit, affordable, and social housing sector in Canada, and will continue to work with federal officials to properly implement the Budget 2017 measures and those contained in the forthcoming National Housing Strategy. Budget 2018 represents an opportunity to build on those previous investments included in prior Budgets.
CHRA believes that the federal government has an opportunity through continued investment to achieve the objective of every person living in Canada having access to safe, affordable and sustainable housing by 2035; and that the enactment of a National Housing Strategy and an Indigenous Housing Strategy has the potential to address a number of longer-term and structural concerns facing housing providers, and most importantly, their tenants. As such, CHRA looks forward to continue sharing and discussing with the Committee those longer-term strategies once finalized.