Advocates say while the focus on housing affordability in the federal budget is promising, its measures could go further to help people in the direst need.
Emilie Coyle, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, said the promise of money for housing is welcome but she wants to make sure it gets into the right hands.
“If you are going to really address housing as an issue, you have to start with the people for whom it is the most difficult to find housing,” Coyle said.
Kaitlin Schwan, national director of the Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network, said the budget measures don’t reflect the gendered nature of the housing crisis, with low-income, women-led households facing the greatest need.
Data from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation shows 26 per cent of single female-led households are in core housing need, compared to 16 per cent of single male-led households.
The numbers are also high for racialized people and people with disabilities, said Schwan.
The budget promised $1.5 billion in funding for the rapid housing initiative, which helps build homes quickly for vulnerable people. At least a quarter of that is set aside for women-focused projects.
This kind of targeting could be expanded to all of the housing programs, said Sahar Raza, project manager of the National Right to Housing Network.
These programs also need to be easier and more flexible so that high-need groups can access them, Coyle said.
“Women and gender diverse people experience chronic homelessness in a way that doesn’t meet the definition of chronic homelessness,” she said, noting it can look like exchanging sexual favours for housing. The numbers also don’t capture women who want to leave intimate partner violence but have nowhere to go.
The Liberal budget also announced more than $10 billion in funding to speed up home construction and repairs, along with measures to cool the market and help those trying to buy their first home.
“One of the biggest disappointments in the budget was the lack of urban Indigenous housing strategy,” said Tim Richter, CEO of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.
Richter said this is one of the biggest gaps in the national housing strategy, since Indigenous Peoples are disproportionately affected by housing insecurity and homelessness.
About 5 per cent of Canada’s population is Indigenous, but Indigenous people make up around 30 per cent of those who use homeless shelters according to documents obtained by The Canadian Press under Access-to-Information legislation.
“When we fail to invest in deep affordable housing, what we’re doing is failing to invest equitably in Canada,” Schwan of the Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network said.
A spokeswoman for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said the budget includes $300 million in funding as a down payment to co-develop an urban, rural and northern Indigenous housing strategy.
Adrienne Vaupshas said the government is investing in rapid housing initiative and $4 billion over seven years for Indigenous housing to respond to calls for action from affordable housing and homelessness advocates.
She said the new funding announcements reflect the government’s commitment to addressing the housing gaps since more work is needed to close them.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2022.