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Billions in Housing Investments Announced To Address Canada’s Housing Crisis

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Winnipeg this past Thursday. He has been touring the country, revealing housing investments ahead of the budget, which will be released on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. 

Part of the announcement included setting aside an additional $15 billion for the Apartment Construction Loan Program. The federal government obtains a low borrowing rate and passes that borrowing onto Home builders. Build more homes to bring prices down over time. They can offer a certain number of units based on the housing market’s median income level. For example, 30 per cent of the median income in a given housing market can be charged for rent on a certain proportion of the units. The hope is that this will bring rent down over time by offering places below market levels. 

The Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Housing, Infrastructure, and Communities, said a broader plan to address Canada’s growing housing crisis will be announced ahead of the 2024 budget. 

“There are three main things we’re trying to do with the plan. The first is to build more homes to address the supply gap. The second is to support the most vulnerable Canadians and the tired to make it easier to rent or buy a home.”

Other programs which are working to address housing in Canada:

  • The Affordable Housing Fund is a $14 plus billion initiative that supports the creation of new-market and below-market rental housing and repairing and renewing existing housing. It is designed to attract partnerships and investments to develop projects that meet a broad spectrum of housing needs, from shelters to affordable homeownership. As of December 31, 2023, the Fund has committed $8 plus billion to repair or renew over 150,000 homes and support the construction of more than 32,000 new homes.
  • The Housing Accelerator Fund is a $4 billion initiative topped up with an additional $400 million in Budget 2024 to encourage municipalities to incentivize building by making transformative changes, such as removing prohibitive zoning barriers. To date, the federal government has signed 179 Housing Accelerator Fund agreements, which will fast-track an estimated total of over 750,000 housing units across the country over the next decade.
  • The Rapid Housing Initiative, a $4 billion fund, is fast-tracking the construction of 15,500 new affordable homes for people experiencing homelessness or in severe housing need by 2026. The Rapid Housing Initiative also supports the acquisition of existing buildings for rehabilitation or conversion to permanent affordable housing units, focusing on the housing needs of the most vulnerable, including people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, women fleeing domestic violence, seniors, Indigenous Peoples, and persons with disabilities.

According to Statistics Canada, the COVID-19 pandemic led to massive upheaval in the housing market and the housing needs of Canadians. The 2021 Canadian Housing Survey reported that the growth of renter households outpaced the growth of owner households, pushing down the homeownership rate in Canada. Over the past few years, from 2019 to 2023, housing prices have increased by 26.4 per cent.

In a report from Infrastructure Canada, over 40,000 people were documented as experiencing homelessness across 72 communities and regions. Among 67 communities and regions that conducted counts in 2018 and 2020-2022, the overall number of people experiencing homelessness increased by 20 per cent.

“It’s not fair for a generation of young people who see their parents and grandparents who bought into a housing market when it was very affordable to do so, who will have a lot of wealth that’s been built up in that equity and never have that opportunity for themselves,” said Minister Fraser. Minister Fraser said part of the focus of this plan is to give people, predominantly young people, the ability to “rent if they choose to and buy if they want.” 

The federal government will be launching Canada Builds, an initiative to partner with provinces and territories to build more rental housing across the country. The federal government will leverage its $55 billion Apartment Construction Loan Program by making it available to support partnerships with provinces and territories that launch housing plans, similar to the BC Builds initiative, which Minister Fraser believes is “leading the country” on housing policy. 

“If you live in this country, you should be able to afford a home. You should be able to own a home in the community you grew up.”

According to Minister Fraser, these conversations will include commitments to additional flexibility in terms of affordability, energy efficiency, and accessibility requirements. It will also include the Home Buyers and Renters Bill of Rights, a national standard lease agreement that requires landlords to disclose a unit’s pricing history to allow tenants to negotiate their rent. The goal of this is to crack down on “renovictions,” where a landlord evicts a tenant to perform renovations on the rental property or suite and then increase the rent. 

“The standard form lease puts a floor under for everyone who rents in this country to ensure everyone has access to basic protections,” said Minister Fraser. “We have to work with provinces because they are within provincial jurisdiction, but we want to create an incentive to adopt these practices on a local level.”

Minister Fraser added that if provinces are reticent, the federal government will work with the most ambitious cities in Canada and park their money there if they can achieve a greater return on investment. 

Voters will be paying close attention to these programs as the federal budget approaches, watching to see how these and future announcements will manage the growing housing crisis in Canada.

– Ryan Funk, U Multicultural

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