Feds unlock public properties to build homes, say 29,200 units to be built by 2029

Feds unlock public properties to build homes, say 29,200 units to be built by 2029
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland and President of the Treasury Board Anita Anand look on as Public Services and Procurement Minister Jean-Yves Duclos speaks during a news conference, Tuesday, November 7, 2023 in Ottawa.

As the federal government faces mounting pressure to address a national housing crisis, it announced on Tuesday that it would build more than 2,800 homes on its properties in cities across the country.

The latest announcement, which also comes as Liberals face a major dip in the polls, puts the government on track to build about 29,200 homes on public lands by 2029.

Procurement Minister Jean-Yves Duclos also said Tuesday the Canada Lands Co., a Crown corporation, is setting a new target to include at least 20 per cent affordable housing across its projects.

“This will mean around 5,300 affordable homes in the next five years, which is twice as many as in the last 30 years,” Duclos said at a news conference in Ottawa.

“This is a significant acceleration of providing affordable homes to Canadians but we think — and we know — there is more we can do.”

Duclos said that the Crown corporation, through agreements with developers, will be unlocking 2,800 additional units by March 2024 in Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and St. John’s. A minimum of 300 of the units will be set aside for affordable housing.

Asked whether the federal government will sell off these properties or keep them on its books, Duclos said a mix of strategies may be used.

Tuesday’s announcement is the latest effort by the federal government to address the national housing crisis by boosting housing supply in the country.

The federal Liberals’ attempt to get ahead on the housing file comes as the government faces attacks from opposition parties over the affordability crisis.

Conservatives have seen their support in polling surge since the summer as the party’s leader, Pierre Poilievre, pins the blame for the housing crisis on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Among Poilievre’s proposed solutions to the crisis is selling off 15 per cent of federal buildings and lands for housing development.

The NDP has also criticized the federal government for its handling of housing policy, calling for more targeted investments in affordable housing, in particular.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, who was present at the news conference, said this announcement “is just the beginning of a much more aggressive approach to using federal lands.”

Housing experts have been calling on the federal government to leverage its real-estate portfolio to get more homes built, particularly ones that would be affordable for lower-income Canadians.

Freeland is expected to present the fall economic statement in the coming weeks and has promised that the mini-budget would focus on housing and affordability.

Nojoud Al Mallees, The Canadian Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 7, 2023.

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