Budget will build up affordable housing, sources say
A homeless woman sleeps at a tent city at Oppenheimer Park in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, March 18, 2016 4:06PM EDT
OTTAWA -- Housing and anti-poverty advocates say the coming federal budget will see an increase in funding for affordable housing, with short-term investments buying time for the government to build a long-term plan.
Just how much money the government will set aside is unclear.
Sources say the money is expected to flow through an existing program, likely the Homelessness Partnering Strategy that doles out $105 million to cities annually.
The first two years of the increased funding are expected to target renovations to the existing stock of social housing that is aging and in need of repair.
Sources say the government has signalled its intention to use that time to craft a national housing strategy that will look at a broad range of measures, including more social housing and help in building more affordable rental units.
"It's not a matter of let's wait until the strategy is in place before we have investment," said Mark Rodgers, president of Habitat for Humanity Canada.
"It's, let's invest in the most significant things that are going to move the needle in terms of helping families find affordable housing now and then let's develop a greater strategy to pull housing providers from across the country together in partnership with the government to address this on a more national level for the sake of the future."
Rodgers said he has had what he called encouraging conversations with cabinet ministers, including Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, that make him and others in the sector optimistic for Tuesday's budget.
During the last election, the Liberals promised a national housing strategy which would eliminate the GST on all new rental builds and provide up to $125 million a year to landlords who renovate aging rental units.
The party also promised to give cities the money they needed under the "Housing First" program to move homeless people into permanent housing and then provide them services to help with issues like addictions.
Much of that money already flows through the Homelessness Partnering Strategy, which hasn't seen an increase in funding for years. Sources say that the government estimates that it would need to add $30 million to the fund just to catch up with inflation.
Even then, the money would be enough to help Alberta alone, based on some projections, which is why advocates are hoping for at least a doubling of the program next week.
Anti-poverty advocates came out in early February with a request for $1.7 billion annually so housing providers and cities could update the country's 600,000 affordable housing units. They also asked for a further $1.5 billion to build 100,000 new affordable housing units to reduce wait lists in the largest cities.