Canada finally has its first National Housing Strategy after a very long wait of more than 25 years, when the Federal Government exited the Housing stage. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement on National Housing Day, November 22nd, on the redevelopment site of Lawrence Heights. Though it was a bitter cold day and our feet were frozen, those of us fortunate enough to be invited to attend had warm hearts after hearing the rollout and priorities of the Strategy. MP Adam Vaughan has tirelessly worked on the Strategy, consulting Canadians from coast to coast since being elected and given this assignment; it is his proudest political achievement to date.
Criticisms of the Strategy include the budget being too low and the ten-year roll-out with no flow of funds until after the next election being too long. But now Canada has officially recognized affordable housing as a basic human right, and this was formally applauded by the United Nations. A National Housing Advocate will be appointed to oversee its implementation.
There are funds allocated to construction of new units, repair, and continued rent subsidies for existing social housing stock, a target to reduce homeless by 50 percent, access to loans and capital, portable shelter allowances, and assistance for home ownership. The Provinces have to come up with matching funds for many of the programs. In total, all the Strategy prongs will assist more than 500,000 Canadian households over the next decade.
The announcement of the portable housing allowance with the goal of assisting 300,000 households by the final year of the Strategy resonated the most for the Kehilla Residential Programme. Kehilla started its private rent assistance program, supported by private donors and the real estate community, as an all-out annual campaign more than three years ago. We recognized that vulnerable households in our community needed immediate help with paying their rent. Starting with 16 households in year one with monthly assistance of up to $300, and increasing to 60 households in year two. Three years later, Kehilla is privileged to assist 134 households, a number that will increase to 170 in January 2018. This number will include 70 Holocaust Survivors thanks to Azrieli Foundation funding. Compare this to a new non-profit building, which would cost millions of dollars, take years to build, and would still need rent subsidies to be affordable to lower-income households. New housing supply is still a necessity, and we intend to partner with developers to provide rent subsidies to a targeted number of new units.
What is most significant to the affordable housing sector is that while a cheque will not be written tomorrow, we now have a long-term Strategy that will be legislated, not driven by short-term political cycles and changes in government party stripes.
It may not solve affordable housing issues in Canada and eradicate poverty but it is a great start in the right direction.