The mayors of Canada’s biggest cities have issued a powerful call for a new national housing strategy in Canada. “We need to start working with the federal government and our provincial governments on a national view of housing,” says Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, speaking on behalf of the Big City Mayor’s Caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
The mayors noted that Canada’s ownership housing market is increasingly out of reach for many Canadians, and there has been very little construction of new rental housing. Add in deep and persistent homelessness and long waiting lists for social / affordable housing, and the nation-wide housing crisis is devastating most parts of the country.
The most recent federal budget included three specific measures on housing and homelessness but the long-term trend over the past two decades has been erosion in funding and cuts in government housing programs. The Wellesley Institute’s Precarious Housing report documents the policy landscape at the federal and provincial levels.
The latest corporate plan from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the federal government’s national housing agency, sets out an increasing number of housing cuts over the next few years. Among the cuts:
- The national housing program (which mainly supports existing affordable housing initiatives across the country) is scheduled to be cut from $1.988 billion in 2013 to $1.679 billion in 2017 (that’s a cut of $309 million – or 16%).
- The federal government’s affordable housing program is planned to be cut from $257.8 million in 2013 to $2 million in 2017 (that’s a cut of $255.8 million – or almost 100%).
- The federal government’s national housing repair program (to assist low-income households with necessary renovations) is scheduled to be curt from 1,279 renovated homes in 2013 to 523 renovated homes in 2017.
- Overall, the amount of affordable housing that is supported by the federal government is estimated at 585,800 households in 2013 and is scheduled to be cut to 492,500 households by 2017 (a loss of 93,300 affordable homes at a time of rising housing need).
- And the federal government’s new commitments for on-reserve Aboriginal housing will be cut from 465 homes in 2013 to 389 by 2017.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who rarely attends national municipal events, did not attend the Vancouver Big City Mayor’s event, although other mayors, including Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi and Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson, were among the municipal leaders at the housing summit.