Liberals to put billions into affordable housing, including individual benefits


WATCH: Ottawa unveiled its $40 billion housing strategy. Its main focus is affordable housing. As Mary Griffin reports, the Liberals are promising to help those struggling to join the middle class. 

The Liberal government has announced a new 10-year national housing strategy that includes a new housing benefit that will go directly to low-income tenants, spending billions to repair existing affordable housing units and building 100,000 more units.

According to the government, the portable housing benefit could help 300,000 households cumulatively between 2021 and 2028. The money would start flowing in 2021.

The strategy also includes a new financing program for housing providers to help them repair ageing units and use their assets to leverage additional cash to build new apartments and homes.

The $15.9 billion housing fund would be used for creating 60,000 new affordable housing units, repairing 240,000 more through grants and loans and prioritizing mixed-income developments.

The documents also said the government plans to create a federal housing advocate and legislate a right to housing. This will require regular reports to Parliament on federal efforts to ease the housing burden.

While part of the strategy includes $40 billion in spending over the next decade, $10 billion is planned spending and another $4.8 billion will be repurposed. The federal government will rely on provinces and territories to add billions in matching funds.

For example, the housing benefit is expected to be $4 billion over eight years, but the figure includes $2 billion from provinces and territories.

If any province or territory balks, the benefit won’t flow to their jurisdictions. The Liberals will need months to negotiate funding deals with provinces and three years in the case of the housing benefit.

Federal funds won’t start to flow until next April. It’s also unclear how much will be spent annually.

And housing advocates say the document marks the start of more work to ensure the money actually makes a difference.

Recently released census data found that 1.7 million households were in “core housing need” in 2016, meaning they spent more than one-third of their before-tax income on housing that may be substandard or does not meet their needs.

The government hopes that building 100,000 new affordable housing units, along with billions more in spending over the next decade, will lift 530,000 of those families out of core housing need and help 385,000 avoid losing their homes or help 50,000 more get out of homelessness.

The Liberals laid the financial backbone for the plan in this year’s federal budget, promising $11.2 billion over a decade in new spending. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., is expected to turn about $5 billion of that money into $15 billion by leveraging private investment.

The exception is the $4 billion Canada Housing Benefit. The federal government said families will get an average rent subsidy of $2,500 annually beginning in April 2020 and concluding in 2028. This means the housing benefit won’t kick in until after the next federal election.

With files from The Canadian Press

Ottawa is releasing its housing plan Wednesday. Photo courtesy CBC.

Ottawa is releasing its housing plan Wednesday. Photo courtesy CBC.

Alexa HuffmanAlexa Huffman

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