OTTAWA — The Liberals will create a new housing benefit to go directly to low-income tenants, spend billions to repair existing affordable housing units and find a way to build 100,000 more units as part of a housing strategy announced today.
The government says the portable housing benefit could help 300,000 households cumulatively between 2021 — when the money is to start flowing — and 2028.
A new financing program will be created for housing providers to help them repair aging units and use their assets to leverage additional cash to build new apartments and homes.
The $15.9 billion housing fund will create 60,000 new affordable housing units, repair 240,000 more through grants and loans and prioritize mixed-income developments.
The document also says the government plans to create a federal housing advocate and legislate a right to housing, which will require regular reports to Parliament on federal efforts to ease the housing burden for hundreds of thousands of families.
Although the Liberals are touting some $40 billion in spending over the next decade, the math includes almost $10 billion in planned spending, repurposes $4.8 billion and then relies heavily on provinces and territories adding billions in matching fund.
The housing benefit, for instance, is supposed to be $4 billion over eight years, but that figure includes $2 billion from provinces and territories.
If any province or territory balks, the benefit won’t flow to their jurisdiction.
That means the Liberals will need months to negotiate funding deals with provinces and three years in the case of the housing benefit.
Federal funds won’t start to flow until next April. It’s also unclear how much will be spent annually.
While the Liberals are touting a renewed federal investment, housing advocates say the document marks the start of more work to ensure the money actually makes a difference.
Recently released census data found that 1.7 million households were in “core housing need” in 2016, meaning they spent more than one-third of their before-tax income on housing that may be substandard or does not meet their needs.
The government hopes that building 100,000 new affordable housing units, along with billions more in spending over the next decade, will lift 530,000 of those families out of core housing need and help 385,000 avoid losing their homes or help 50,000 more get out of homelessness.
The Liberals laid the financial backbone for the plan in this year’s federal budget, promising $11.2 billion over a decade in new spending. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., is expected to turn about $5 billion of that money into $15 billion by leveraging private investment.
Still, most of the money won’t be spent until after the next election in 2019, which concerns anti-poverty groups. Those groups were to demonstrate in multiple cities today, demanding the Liberals spend the full $11.2 billion before the next election.
Jordan Press, The Canadian Press