Cullen critical of federal housing strategy

 

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen

BY BILL PHILLIPS

bill@pgdailynews.ca

Ottawa’s new housing strategy is being panned by Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen.

“Boasting about billions of dollars to dig Canada out of a 20-year national housing crisis but spreading the spending over 10 years is bizarre,” said Cullen, in a press release. “The Liberals call this a crisis but they aren’t willing to start spending until after they are safely re-elected.”

Ottawa announced the 10-year, $40 billion National Housing Strategy last week, claiming it will “help reduce homelessness and improve the availability and quality of housing for Canadians in need.”

The strategy has set goals of:

  • reducing chronic homelessness by 50 per cent;
  • removing more than 530,000 households from housing need;
  • creating four times as many new housing units as built under federal programs from 2005 to 2015;
  • repairing three times as many existing housing units as repaired under federal programs from 2005 to 2015; and
  • protecting an additional 385,000 households from losing an affordable place to live.

“Our government is establishing a federal leadership role in housing,” said Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister Responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. “The National Housing Strategy will create a new generation of housing in Canada. It will promote diverse communities and will build housing that is sustainable, accessible, mixed-income and mixed-use that will be located near transit, work and public services.”
The federal government will work with provinces and territories to develop a $4 billion Canada Housing Benefit, which will be launched in 2020 to respond to local housing needs and priorities. This, said Duclos, is a tool to address challenges of housing affordability in communities across the country. It will provide an estimated average of $2,500 per year to each household recipient, assisting at least 300,000 families when fully implemented. The benefit is delivered directly to individuals as a portable benefit they can use to help with the costs of housing.

Within the next year, legislation will be introduced and will obligate the federal government to maintain a National Housing Strategy and report to Parliament on housing targets and outcomes.

Ottawa is also working with Indigenous leaders to co-develop distinctions-based housing strategies with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation that will be founded on the principles of self-determination, reconciliation, respect, and cooperation, according to the announcement.

Cullen countered that Indigenous communities will be especially disappointed in the announcement, which, he added, dismisses Indigenous homelessness as ‘the next chapter’ and an ‘additional conversation’ that must wait for a targeted housing strategy.

Cullen noted today’s promise of $40 billion for housing is fiction and that the government should be straight with Canadians who desperately need help.

“Dressing this up as $40 billion in new federal spending is shameful,” he said.  “These funds include $11 billion announced eight months ago, and also matching money the private sector and provinces will be expected to provide.”

Cullen said constituents and municipalities in his riding were hoping for more than just platitudes and future promises today.  Lack of affordable housing is one of the most common concerns that constituents now raise with him.

“The face of homelessness and affordable housing has changed completely over 20 years; we’re seeing tent cities pop up everywhere from Prince Rupert to Toronto.”

Cullen applauded the prime minister’s promise to introduce legislation recognizing housing as a fundamental right.

“We welcome this change of heart but it seems strange coming just two weeks after the Liberals voted against an NDP private member’s bill to do exactly that.”

The United Nations estimates three million Canadians cannot access affordable housing and 235,000 people experience homelessness each year.