Affordable Housing: What the Federal Government could do in the next budget to improve the situation

The spring budget

In 2005, the City of Vancouver (CoV) passed its Homeless Action Plan, which had 87 recommendations for all levels of government. The plan was updated in 2008 with specific policy recommendations for the Federal Government to create more affordable housing including the recommendation to develop a national housing plan. The CoV also made the following 3 recommendations:

1. Provide additional block funding through the Federal-Provincial-Territorial
(FPT) Affordable Housing Initiative for the development of new social and
supportive housing.

2. Implement changes to the income tax system to encourage the private
sector to build rental housing.

3. Continue to fund federal homelessness programs and the Residential
Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP).

More recently the Mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson in his capacity as the Chair of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). stated that he was “calling on the Federal Government to use its spring budget to introduce cost-effective market incentives to encourage private-sector investment in rental housing.”

The FCM request to the spring budget include:

• Low-interest loans underwritten by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to finance new rental construction.
• Tax reform to encourage owners to renovate and retain rental properties, providing an incentive to preserve affordable rental housing.
• Help for landlords to make rental housing more energy efficient, reducing costs and easing pressure on rents.

Mayor Robertson further stated:

“Each of these measures is designed to encourage private investment where it’s needed the most. While each has costs, they will generate enough direct economic activity and indirect long-term economic growth to offset these costs.

Under Canada’s Economic Action Plan, federal, municipal and provincial/territorial governments worked together to create jobs, fight the recession and build our cities. Now that stimulus spending is over, we must keep the economic recovery on-track. An important first step is building a strong, sustainable rental housing market that creates jobs and meets the housing needs of Canadians.”

It’s not hard to imagine how much money would be put into the economy if the Canadian government would investing capital dollars in housing and by encouraging private investment in developing purpose-built housing. While there is much that the CoV can do to create more affordable housing and it will be interesting to see what the Mayor’s “Task Force on Affordable Housing” will suggest, the Canada Government could have a critical impact on the whole issue. We should all write our MPs and encourage them to advocate for more funding for housing in the spring budget.

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