By Dominika Krzeminska, Director, Programs and Strategic Initiatives, Canadian Housing and Renewal Association
On November 22, 2017 the federal government released the National Housing Strategy (NHS), a $40 billion plan with an aim to help ensure that all Canadians have access to housing that meets their needs and that they can afford.
Chapter 1 of the NHS, Housing Rights are Human Rights announced that the federal government is taking “additional steps to progressively implement the right of every Canadian to access adequate housing” - a long-awaited action years after Canada had signed onto multiple international treaties, including the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which recognize housing as a human right.
Since the November announcement, the federal government handed over the task of bringing to life the rights-based approach to housing to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). Since March 2018, CMHC has undertaken consultations with stakeholders on what the rights-based approach to housing should look like.
Prior to the release of the NHS in 2017, CHRA was among the leading organizations calling for a rights based approach to housing. CHRA has provided its input to the federal government by letter, face-to-face meetings with Minister Duclos and other senior officials, and listening to our members. Two weeks ago, we sent in our formal submission in response to the National Consultation on a Human Rights-Based Approach to Housing.
Among the recommendations to the federal government made by CHRA include:
- Any right to housing legislation must acknowledge a distinct right to housing for Canada’s Indigenous peoples, including Indigenous peoples living in urban, rural, metropolitan and northern settings.
- An Indigenous lens needs to be applied to every component of the legislative content.
- The legislation should explicitly affirm the right of every Canadian to access adequate housing as it has been committed to under international human rights law, and reference the existing international commitments to define the obligations of the whole of government in Canada in progressively realizing the right to housing.
- The legislation should clearly state the government’s overall intentions for the NHS – that every person living in Canada has access to safe, affordable housing through the elimination of homelessness, the increase of social and affordable housing, and the removal of households from housing needs.
- The legislation should require the federal government to report on housing targets and outcomes annually; with reporting requirements being developed together with provinces/territories, housing providers, Indigenous housing providers, municipalities and other key stakeholders.
- The federal Housing Advocate should report directly to Parliament, and along with the Housing Council serve as a key accountability mechanism to ensure that federal government is maintaining its overall commitments contained in the NHS.
- All Canadians must be able to use the office of the Advocate as a quasi-ombudsman, whereby systemic housing barriers or gaps and other issues that impede the right to housing can be brought to light and acted upon.
- Following the release of every report or recommendation by the Advocate, the federal government should be required to issue a public response, which should include: rationale for the decision to either accept or reject the recommendations; and how the recommendations will be acted upon.
- The federal government needs to ensure that the rights-based approach to housing is comprehensive and does not become the responsibility of one department, but rather that the whole of government complies with and is engaged in the right to housing.
Legislating the right to housing should progressively ensure that every person living in Canada has access to safe, affordable housing. It will hold the federal government accountable for the safeguarding and implementation of a national housing strategy, and provide Canadians with the tools to see real results in addressing systemic barriers to accessing safe and affordable housing.
More details on CHRA’s submission to the consultations.
More details on CMHC’s process with the rights-based approach to housing.
We look forward to hearing your views on this topic. Let us know what you think by sending an email to Dominika at firstname.lastname@example.org..