Federal budget 2011: Nothing to reverse erosion in national housing / homelessness investments

The 2011 federal budget – released earlier this afternoon – does nothing to reverse the two decades of erosion in federal affordable housing investments (as set out in the Wellesley Institute’s Precarious Housing in Canada 2010). The latest federal budget, which may not be implemented as all three opposition parties have indicated that they do not support it, offers no new investments in housing or homelessness. The latest federal spending estimates set out a 39% cut in housing spending in the coming year, an 11% cut in federal homelessness spending and a 70% cut in federal homelessness research funding.  The latest corporate plan from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the federal government’s housing agency, show a 24% cut in housing program spending by the year 2015 and a 10.4% cut in the number of households receiving federal assistance.

Federal budget 2011 does include a list of national housing investments from previous years. These include an uptick in 2006 when the federal government allocated $1.4 billion in affordable housing investments authorized by the 2005 Parliament, and another uptick in 2009 when the “stimulus” budget allocated about $2 billion to affordable housing investments. In its latest report to Canadians on the 2009 budget, the federal government notes that housing investments deliver a powerful economic and job impact – five times greater than corporate tax cuts.

Both allocations were short-term and the overall trend in federal housing investments has been downward, including cuts in funding for new homes in 1993 and downloading of existing federal housing programs to most provinces and territories starting in 1996. That same year, the federal government set in place an automatic ‘step-out’ in federal housing investments that is reflected in the CMHC corporate plan projections.

The word ‘homeless’ only appears once, on page 122, in the entire 352-budget document. In that section, the federal government acknowledges the ‘complex and continual social challenges’ facing people who are homeless and others, and promises to “take steps to complement community efforts by encouraging the development of government / community partnerships, enabling communities to tackle local challenges and testing new approaches to improve performance”. The federal budget says that details will be announced “over the coming months”.