Liberals poised to make housing a right in new homelessness strategy

By , on September 19, 2017


OTTAWA— The federal Liberals’ are sending signals that they are ready to make a right to housing part of its national housing strategy.

The declaration appears largely aspirational in nature at this point, as sources with knowledge of the government’s thinking said there won’t be any legislated specifics tied to the promise unlike the detailed benchmarks on other parts of the plan to measure progress.

Government officials have told housing and homeless advocates to expect a declaration in the plan set to be released this fall, and have it put into legislation to make a bold statement that would be difficult for a future government to ignore or reverse.

A spokesman for Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the government couldn’t yet speak definitively to the details of the strategy.

The UN special rapporteur on adequate housing said declaring a right to housing in Canada would be a huge step forward for the country as it looks to curb homelessness and poverty.

“This country has been very slow to embrace all social and economic rights, including the right the housing,” said Leilani Farha, who is also executive director of Canada Without Poverty.

“They’re being pretty bold and creative in their thinking. I don’t know how that thinking translates into strategy.”

Federal coffers will dole out $11.2 billion over the next decade on the housing strategy, which is being billed as a plan to ensure everyone in the country can find housing that is affordable and meets their needs.

The government will flow $5 billion of that money to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. to stimulate private sector investments and hopefully create an extra $10.9 billion in funding over 11 years.

Officials are putting the final touches on the plan that is scheduled to be released this fall.

Sources say the Liberals are looking to create specific strategies each for First Nations, Metis, and Inuit, instead of a singular Aboriginal housing strategy. The 2017 federal budget included $300 million for housing in the North and $225 million to support programs that provide units to Indigenous Peoples off-reserve.

The depth of Canada’s housing needs will be fully revealed at the end of October when Statistics Canada releases the data gleaned from the return of the mandatory, long-form census.

The most recent data available suggests there are 1.6 million households in “core housing need” those who spend more than one-third of their before-tax income on housing that may be substandard or doesn’t meet their needs.

Census data released earlier this month showed that there were 4.8 million Canadians living below the poverty line, including 1.2 million children.