Budget 2017 provides welcome funding to address critical housing and homelessness needs.
Budget 2017 delivers good news for vulnerable Canadians and those working to alleviate the impacts of poverty and homelessness on Canadians. With a proposed investment of $2.1 billion over the next 11 years to expand and extend funding for the Homelessness Partnering Strategy beyond 2018-19, and an $11.2 billion over 11 years investment for affordable housing, including a National Housing Strategy, this budget reaffirms the Liberal government’s commitment to improving the health and well-being, living conditions and employment opportunities for all Canadians including our most vulnerable citizens.
Homelessness is a complex issue that impacts the lives of an estimated 235,000 Canadians each year. On any given night in Canada approximately 35,000 Canadians experience homelessness. In Calgary, the October 19, 2016 Point-in-Time Count of Homelessness found 3,222 individuals experiencing homelessness that night. Calgary remains the epicentre of homelessness in Alberta accounting for 60% of the 5,367 people counted province-wide.
“We are pleased by the federal government’s commitment to funding for homelessness supports, affordable housing, Indigenous Peoples and mental health and addictions,” says Diana Krecsy, President and CEO, Calgary Homeless Foundation. “The need is great. Homelessness is a complex issue that impacts both the physical and mental well-being of everyone who experiences it. Long-term funding for housing, supports, mental health and addictions services will help us meet the most pressing needs of vulnerable and homeless Indigenous Peoples, seniors, youth, families and adults.”
Along with investment in affordable housing and supports, Budget 2017 allocates $225 million over the next 11 years to support housing providers serving Indigenous Peoples not living on-reserve. This housing is critical. As in other cities across Canada, Indigenous peoples experiencing homelessness are over-represented. Although only representing 3% of Calgary’s population, Indigenous Peoples account for 20% of people experiencing homelessness.
“We must continue to make advancements on the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations,” says Krecsy. “These funds will ensure Indigenous Peoples have access to affordable housing that is culturally inclusive and appropriate for their needs.”
Budget 2017 delivers good news for affordable housing providers. Along with the $11.28 billion to build, renew and repair social housing, this budget also provides for:
- An 11 year $5 billion investment in the National Housing Fund to be administered through CMHC.
- A renewed Federal-Provincial-Territorial Partnership in Housing totalling $3.2 billion to replace the existing Affordable Housing initiative, which is set to expire at the end of 2018-19, will help:
- Ensure that the unique needs of communities across Canada can be met based on the key priorities of affordable housing specific to each jurisdiction.
- Provide measures like rent subsidies to make housing more affordable for vulnerable Canadians to ensure seniors, persons with disabilities and other individuals requiring accessibility modifications have access to safe, secure housing to meet their specific needs.
- $202 million over 11 years to make surplus government owned lands and buildings available to affordable housing development.
- $5 billion over 20 years to support mental health initiatives (dependent upon agreement with provinces and territories).
People experiencing mental illness are at greater risk of homelessness and the experience of homelessness, “in turn, amplifies poor mental health.” While the budget lacks details on where these funds will be directed, we are hopeful that the anticipated Advisory Council on Homelessness will be consulted to provide oversight on how the funds will flow through to mental health and addictions supports for the homeless-serving sector.
Overall, Budget 2017 provides much needed investment in affordable housing and homelessness supports. It should be noted however, that the need is immediate and much of this funding does not flow until 2018-19. As much of the existing affordable housing in Canada is in dire need of upgrades and the development time from land acquisition to completion for new building takes anywhere from one to three years, families and adults in need of affordable housing will continue to experience instability and uncertainty in their housing for the foreseeable future.
“Along with our partners across Canada who are working diligently to build more affordable housing and house more people experiencing homelessness, we will continue to advocate for more investment in affordable housing and homelessness supports,” says Krecsy. “We have built significant momentum and made remarkable progress on our vision of ending homelessness. With over 8,000 people housed since launching Canada’s first Plan to End Homelessness, Calgary is a centre of excellence for program delivery, system planning and homelessness research. Budget 2017 represents another significant step forward in addressing the pressing needs of vulnerable Canadians. However, we can do more. We welcome the opportunity to work with the Advisory Committee on Homelessness and to contributing our knowledge and expertise to Canada’s National Housing Strategy.”
 Homeless Hub. (n.d.) Mental Health, [online]. Available at: http://homelesshub.ca/about-homelessness/topics/mental-health [Accessed 16 Mar. 2017].
Photo Credit: National Post, http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/canadian-politics/federal-budget-2017.