Federal, provincial and territorial housing ministers are set to meet on Wednesday for the first time in more than two and one-half years, according to several reports. Provincial and territorial housing ministers met in early February in Vancouver, and had invited federal housing minister Monte Solberg to join them. Minister Solberg decided to boycott that meeting, but in the face of strong pressure, send a message to his provincial and territorial counterparts promising to meet within 60 days.
The Wednesday meeting comes at the last minute – just days before Minister Solberg’s promise was due to expire. One report suggests that the meeting will only last 30 minutes – not exactly the day-long, detailed sessions that federal, provincial and territorial housing ministers have attended in the past.
In late January, the Wellesley Institute released its national housing report card which documents the deterioration in housing spending at the national level, and in many provinces and territories.
The one-in-five Canadians living in insecure, unsafe, overcrowded and/or unaffordable homes, along with housing advocates, will look to the housing ministers to make substantial progress in their long overdue Wednesday meeting on two critical issues:
First, the renewal and extension of the three national housing and homelessness programs that are all due to expire in fiscal 2008.
Second, the funding and launch of a comprehensive Canadian Housing Framework – promised by the housing ministers at their last national housing summit in September of 2005, but not delivered as yet.
The three national housing / homelessness programs that are due to expire this year (in annual dollars) are:
* $700 million for the affordable housing (a two-year allocation of $1.4 billion from Bill C-48 that was authorized by Parliament in 2005 and allocated in 2006; Ontario has managed to “re-profile” the funding, which means that it gets longer to figure out how to spend the money);
* $128 million for the housing repairs through the Residential Rehabilitation and Assistance Program; and,
* $135 million for homelessness through the National Homelessness Initiative.