2. Party Platforms

2. Party Platforms

The following section provides a non-partisan, independent, research-based analysis of the housing/homelessness platforms of the four major parties for the 2015 federal election in Canada. This analysis is based on the recommendations stemming from the State of Homelessness in Canada (SOHC) 2014 report.

While we are providing an analysis of the platforms, we are not providing an endorsement of any party. Instead, we encourage voters to read through each analysis, as well as the summary of demands and questions to ask candidates, in order to inform their decision about who to vote for.

How Did We Gather the Data?

  • We emailed MPs responsible for housing (either as Minister or Housing Critics);
  • We also emailed and phoned each national party; if we received no responses or insufficient responses, we used Twitter and Facebook to reach out to the parties, and;
  • We examined recent social media posts, campaign announcements, website platforms and mentions in Hansard.
  • COH staff completed the Canadian Association of Community Health Centres (CACHC) petition and gathered the replies that were sent by parties.
  • We examined the replies from the federal parties to the survey sent by the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO). A full comprehensive report card is available from ACTO including rating of responses and detailed answers.

Please note: This section will be revised on an ongoing basis leading up to the October 19th, 2015 election to reflect new announcements and changes to party platforms.

Conservative Party of Canada Platform
Media Folder: 
  • Party Website
  • Election Platform
  • Leader – PM Stephen Harper
  • Minister of State for Social Development - Candice Bergen
  • Minister of Employment and Social Development - Jason Kenney
  • As the incumbent government, we are able to conduct an analysis using both announcements from the election trail and also existing government policies and funding (in particular those that are projected to continue for a few years after the election).

Responses to Communication:

The Conservative Party, through MP Candice Bergen (who had oversight on homelessness issues during the last term), replied to the petition signed by COH staff from the Canadian Association of Community Health Centres. With the exception of one tweet reply from MP Bergen, the Conservative Party has not responded to phone calls, emails, contact forms, Facebook posts and Twitter requests for more information.

Party Announcements:

Only one housing-related announcement has been made by the Conservative Party, and is related to home ownership. The Conservatives have pledged to introduce a “Home Renovation Tax Credit”, a permanent program modelled after the temporary program it introduced in 2009. This tax credit will fund “substantial home renovation expenses” between $1,000 and $5,000 annually. Depending upon the criteria for the program it might be useful for the development of basements and in-home rental suites, but that has yet to be determined.

This is similar to the “Home Accessibility Tax Credit” introduced in the 2015 Economic Action Plan which provides a 15% non-refundable income tax credit on home renovations aimed at helping a senior or person with disabilities to stay in their home. Both of these initiatives apply to homeowners only, so may help prevent homelessness but will not address the needs of people who are currently homeless.

This will be updated as more information becomes available.

1. Develop a new federal, provincial and territorial affordable housing framework agreement

This recommendation includes many components. The Conservatives have addressed some of these components but not others.

Affordable Housing Framework

There is no current affordable housing framework. 153 members of the Conservative Party voted against Bill C-400 in February 2013, citing instead, in the debate speeches, their record of building housing and supporting homelessness through the Investment in Affordable Housing Initiative and the Homelessness Partnering Strategy.

Plan to End Homelessness

The Conservative Party has required all municipalities who are identified as designated communities to develop a plan to end homelessness, but has no such requirement for the provinces and territories. The 61 designated communities are the front-line in the battle against homelessness because of the concentration of people experiencing homelessness that can be found there. Requiring plans in these communities is a good first step.

Data Management

The Conservatives have implemented the National Homeless Information System (NHIS) as a component of the HPS. It is “designed to facilitate the collection of data from homeless service providers in support of creating a national portrait of homelessness. The NHIS Initiative aims to prevent and reduce homelessness by increasing knowledge and understanding of homelessness issues across Canada. The NHIS funding stream supports the implementation and deployment of the Homeless Individuals and Families Information System (HIFIS) software, HIFIS training at the community level, and projects related to community shelter data coordination” (NHIS website). Communities are not allowed to spend HPS funds on any software program or hardware that duplicates HIFIS or is not compatible with HIFIS.

Point-in-Time Counts

Communities are encouraged to spend HPS funds on data management, collection and evaluation. While Point-in-Time (PiT) counts have not been made mandatory, they are “highly encouraged” and the Conservatives are supporting a national Point-in-Time count during the first two months of 2016. HPS funds can be used to cover the costs of conducting a count and additional funding is being made available to those communities that carry out their count in the first two months of 2016. HPS has developed a PiT Count Guide and has funded the COH to develop a methodology and toolkit.

Housing First

The Conservatives have been strong supporters and advocates of Housing First for the past few years. In the 2013 Economic Action Plan, the government announced the renewal of the Homelessness Partnering Strategy including a new focus on Housing First. The Housing First approach is currently in the implementation phase. The largest 10 designated communities were required to start investing 65% of their funding into Housing First Activities as of April 1st 2015. All designated communities receiving $200,000 or more in HPS funding are required to invest at least 40% of these funds into Housing First starting April 1st 2016. This is also true for communities receiving $200,000 or more through HPS Aboriginal Homelessness funding. Communities that receive less than $200,000 and those located in the North are encouraged but not required to implement Housing First.

The federal government also funded the Canadian Mental Health Commission in the amount of $110 million to conduct the At Home/Chez Soi program, which can be considered the largest direct research-based intervention in Housing First in the world. Research into the At Home/Chez Soi program has established Housing First very definitively as a best practice in ending homelessness.

2. Target investments to chronically and episodically homeless people

Directive 1 of the current Homelessness Partnering Strategy speaks to the issues of addressing chronic and episodic homelessness. This directive is connected to the overall Housing First approach of the federal Conservative party in its role as government. Communities must house 90% of its chronically and episodically homeless populations before it may focus Housing First interventions on other groups. The threshold for this definition of chronic or episodic homelessness is fairly low but may still exclude youth and families.

In the 2013 Economic Action Plan, the Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) was renewed for a five year period (up to March 2019) in the amount of nearly $600 million over the five years. This works out to approximately $119 million per year. This direction was affirmed in the 2014 Economic Action Plan.

The Conservative Party also renewed the Investment in Affordable Housing Initiative (IAH) for five years in the 2013 Economic Action Plan. When asked on Twitter to provide details about the housing platform, MP Candice Bergen emphasized the existing investments in HPS and IAH.

Candice Bergen account ‏@CandiceBergenMP: @TanyaMGulliver Our Homelessness Partnering Strategy ($600 mil) w focus on #housingfirst for homeless & IAH( $1.25 billion) for housing

As outlined in the SOHC 2014, while useful and necessary programs, both HPS and IAH need significantly more investment in order to end homelessness. For example, SOHC 2014 recommends that combined spending of $372 million projected for 2016-17 be increased to $624 million. Both HPS and IAH are also currently set to expire in March 2019 and Conservatives have not announced whether they will be renewed if re-elected. SOHC 2014 recommends an extension to these funding programs.

3. Invest directly in affordable housing programs

As discussed in #2, The Conservative Party has funded the Investment in Affordable Housing Initiative (IAH) and other similar programs. Current funding is projected to end in March 2019 and sits at $372 million per year (a $1.25 billion contribution over five years). While one of the goals is to increase the supply of affordable housing, the SOHC 2014 shows that many communities are using the funds to repair or renovate existing housing stock and very little growth in supply is occurring. The Conservative Party states that the IAH has helped 205,000 people. The Conservative Party has not announced any plans to increase the supply of affordable housing besides through the IAH.

The Conservative Party has been decreasing its investment in co-ops and social housing and has not announced any plans to restore or expand the funds stemming from the expiration of operating agreements. However, they have taken small steps to assist co-ops and social housing providers. In a letter from MP Bergen to COH staff she said,

 “In 2013, to assist housing providers, the federal government took steps to create more flexibility in some of its programs, giving eligible housing providers access to funding for capital repairs and renovations by removing some restrictions of prepayment of closed mortgages and extending the access to surplus funds beyond the end of their operating agreements.”

Additionally, MP Bergen wrote that,

“as announced in the Economic Action Plan 2015, our Government proposes to provide $150 million over four years, starting in 2016-2017, to further support social housing in Canada by allowing co-operative and non-profit social housing providers to prepay their long-term, non-renewable mortgages without penalty. This has been called for by the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada and we are proud to have worked with them collaboratively.”

This is a good initial step, however, falls short of the amount of money required per SOHC 2014, which calls for increased investment into Canada and Mortgage Housing Corporation to reinvest spending as operating agreements expire. The forecasted government expenditures over a 10-year period beginning April 2015 were $9.792 billion and SOHC 2014 calls for 10 year spending of $13.840 billion. Adding $150 million over four years is helpful for qualifying housing providers but does not address the overall problems addressed in SOHC 2014.

4. Implement a housing benefit – a new program to assist those who face a severe affordability problem in their current accommodation

The Conservatives have not announced any plans related to a Housing Benefit.

5. Create an affordable housing tax credit

The Conservatives have not announced any plans related to an Affordable Housing Tax Credit.

6. Review and expand investment in Aboriginal housing both on and off reserve

No Aboriginal homelessness specific platforms have been announced by the Conservatives. As part of HPS funding, “across Canada, 41 communities and Community Entities receive ongoing support through the Aboriginal Homelessness funding stream to address off-reserve Aboriginal homelessness issues” (ESDC website).

Liberal Party of Canada

“Safe, adequate, and affordable housing is essential to building strong families, strong communities, and a strong economy. We have a plan to make housing more affordable for those who need it most – seniors, persons with disabilities, lower-income families, and Canadians working hard to join the middle class”, Justin Trudeau, Liberal Leader, on release of the Liberal Housing platform.

The Liberals released their housing/homelessness election platform “Affordable Housing for Canadians”  on September 9th 2015. It builds upon their housing platform framework that was previously shared verbally with COH by Liberal Housing Critic MP Adam Vaughan. He says that while “lots of people will say that housing isn’t a federal responsibility, it is linked to a whole range of federal issues on so many files. The federal government needs to be pro-active and get out in front of this issue.” This  analysis is based on an interview with MP Vaughan, the published housing platform, public statements, a speech by party leader Justin Trudeau, news coverage and policy recommendations (listed below).

A Three Pronged Approach

According to MP Vaughan, the Liberal platform includes a three pronged – or three story – approach to solving the housing crisis:

First Story – Supportive Housing:

This will include a variety of types of supportive housing as it is known by different names in different areas but will include: supportive housing, clinical housing, second stage housing, transitional housing etc. This will include partnering with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) to develop area-specific “pilot” projects that could become permanent ways of addressing new and emerging issues. MP Vaughan says that FCM is well-placed to help the Liberals determine which communities but it will include a mix of large, urban cities and smaller or rural communities. MP Vaughan says “you’re not doing people any favours if you just put them into housing without supports.”

Second Story – Public Housing:

This will involve working directly with the provinces/territories to renew investment in public housing. This includes halting the reduction of funding caused by the expiration of operating agreements and increasing investments into both renovation of existing housing stock and building of new public housing. MP Vaughan explained the “money has to arrive so that it can be used flexibly” and explained the provinces/territories could decide how the money could be used including rehabilitation of existing housing stock, acquiring new housing stock and rehabilitating it or running it if no repairs were needed, as well as building new housing stock as needed. The goal is to be building 25,000 units of housing per year by the end of the decade. MP Vaughan says, “We’re not going to end homelessness with anything less than 25,000 units per year. Anything less than that and we’re just treading water.”

Third Story – Private Housing:

In this area the Liberals are intending to address sustainability and affordability. MP Vaughan says this includes both private rental and home ownership initiatives and is a way of stimulating the economy through federal investments. MP Vaughan says that this story also includes re-mandating the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to get it back in the business of regulating mortgages, as well as looking at the ways in which GST is charged, how mortgages are amortized etc. The Liberals will be using an across the board approach at a federal level that eliminates the need to renegotiate agreements with provinces/territories (because these are federal issues and mandates). MP Vaughan says this is also part of the overall urban infrastructure renewal plan of the Liberals. He explains that when a municipality comes seeking funding for a bridge they will need to show how public housing issues are being addressed in their community if they want to obtain funding for the bridge.

“Canada faces a stark shortage of affordable housing – making it harder for Canadian families to make ends meet. But we need more than just affordable housing. We need housing that is accessible and available to the people who need it. Liberals are ready to make the investments needed to meet that challenge.” – Mark Calderaro, Operations, Liberal Party of Canada

In a speech to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau explained that affordable housing will be one of the four key areas in the upcoming infrastructure platform.

“[Housing is] one of the most important challenges, because it really has to do with our sense of home and place. Today, Canadians from all across the economic spectrum are finding affordable housing in short supply. Our platform will include measures to encourage the construction of new, affordable, purpose-built rental housing. It will outline what we see as a renewed federal role in housing. It will include investments in innovative programs for supportive housing, as well as predictable and sustained new funding for affordable housing.”

There are also two policy recommendations that have been adopted by the Liberal Party of Canada related to housing/homelessness. While neither constitute an official platform, they do indicate the direction of the party. The full text for these is found in supporting documents or in the links below:

1. A new federal, provincial and territorial affordable housing framework agreement

Affordable Housing Framework

The three-story Liberal platform is an affordable housing framework and their platform calls for a National Housing Strategy that will address key components of the housing and homelessness crisis. The target of 25,000 units of housing per year by the end of the decade is actually higher than the recommendations from the SOHC 2014 report, which calls for 8,800 units per year.

The election housing platform states, “A Liberal government will invest in a National Housing Strategy that makes direct investments in affordable housing, provides tax incentives to expand affordable rental housing, improves data collection, reviews policies on housing in high-priced markets, and offers more flexibility for new home buyers…This investment will renew federal leadership in housing, help build more housing units and refurbish existing ones, renew current co-operative agreements, and provide operational funding support for municipalities, including renewing support for Housing First initiatives that help homeless Canadians find stable housing.”

Plans to End Homelessness

The Liberals have not announced any information about mandating provincial, territorial or municipal plans. In the interview with MP Vaughan he did state that municipal infrastructure plans would require information about how social housing issues will be addressed, but this is not equivalent to a Plan to End Homelessness.

Housing First

The Liberal platform says that it intends to renew “support for Housing First initiatives that help homeless Canadians find stable housing”MP Adam Vaughan says the focus on supportive housing in the first story of the Liberal housing plan “is built on the Housing First model but expands the definition”. He says the role of the federal government will be to provide capital and maintenance dollars but communities will have to show a service plan. Vaughan says that it is not enough to give people a roof over their heads and a key but rather “supportive housing is a critical component of any national housing program.”

Data Management

While the Liberals have not specified in detail how they will improve homelessness data collection although they have provided an outline of commitments to evidence-based policy and data-driven decision-making. In the Housing Platform they indicate they will be making Statistics Canada “fully independent with a mandate to collect data needed by the private sector, other orders of government, not-for-profits, and researchers. We will also immediately restore the mandatory long-form census to ensure data-driven decision making, including on housing.” MP Vaughan says that part of the renewal and re-mandating of the CMHC is to get it “back into the research game. We need to understand where housing markets are going so we can generate the housing.” Additionally, MP Vaughan says that the Liberal plan includes talking with partners and assessing best practices.

2. Target investments to chronically and episodically homeless people

In the first story of the Liberal housing platform, the focus on supportive housing addresses people who are chronically or episodically homeless, but as with Housing First the definition is expanded to include a focus on other groups as well. Additionally, Policy Recommendation 51 mentions people with mental health and/or addictions issues (as did MP Vaughan). In particular, MP Vaughan was clear that there needed to be room to develop regional responses rather than one-size-fits-all models.

The first and second stories of the Liberal Platform could be considered as equivalents to HPS and the Investment in Affordable Housing Initiative according to MP Vaughan. One addresses the need for housing to address homelessness as determined by the municipalities and the other addresses the ability of the provinces and municipalities to solve housing needs in a variety of ways.

3. Invest directly in affordable housing programs

As mentioned above, there is a clear commitment in the Liberal platform to increasing the amount of affordable housing available, as well as making housing more affordable. The official housing platform lumps housing spending in with social infrastructure investments which also include child care, early learning, seniors facilities, cultural and recreational infrastructure. While a specific dollar amount is not specified for housing alone, the investment in social infrastructure of which housing is a key component is $6 billion over four years, $20 billion over 10 years.  The Liberals’ federal infrastructure investment document states, “Our plan will renew federal leadership in affordable housing, help build more housing units, refurbish existing ones, renew existing co-operative agreements, and provide operational funding support for municipalities.” 

“We don’t just have an affordable housing crisis, we also have a crisis in housing affordability.” - Liberal Member of Parliament for Trinity-Spadina, Adam Vaughan.

In various forms including the election platform, Trudeau’s speech and in MP Vaughan’s interview there is distinct clarity that the current planned elimination of rent-geared-to-income subsidies for co-op housing would not occur. Additionally, the election platform indicates that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and a new Canada Infrastructure Bank will be direction to “provide financing to support construction by the private sector, social enterprises,  co-ops,  and  the  not-for-profit sector of new, affordable rental housing for middle- and low-income Canadians”.

Furthermore, the Liberals indicate in their housing platform that they will work to make federal buildings and lands available at low cost for re-purposing into affordable housing.

4. Implement a housing benefit – a new program to assist those who face a severe affordability problem in their current accommodation

The Liberals have not announced any plans for a Housing Benefit. However, the first and second stories do address affordability issues. In their housing election platform, the Liberals do indicate their intent to assist Canadians to purchase homes and to use RRSPs without penalty to buy a house for those impacted by a variety of life circumstances (not just first time home buyers). 

5. Create an affordable housing tax credit

The third story of the Liberal housing framework  includes incentives for developers to build private housing that is affordable. In the election platform, the Liberals specify their intentions to eliminate “all GST on new capital investments in affordable rental housing. This will end the tax penalty on developers interested in building new, modestly priced rental properties, as well as provide $125 million per year in tax incentives to increase and substantially renovate the supply of rental housing across Canada”.

6. Review and expand investment in Aboriginal housing both on and off reserve

MP Vaughan explains that partnerships with Aboriginal communities will address a variety of housing needs and issues including on-reserve/traditional territory and off-reserve/traditional territory housing programs. In particular, he said that Aboriginal housing development will not be restricted to a specific geographic area so that communities where there is a high number of homeless Aboriginal Peoples may partner with housing providers from, as an example, a nearby reserve.

New Democratic Party of Canada

The NDP has not released their full housing platform but expect to do that in the coming days. They have however, made several housing announcements beginning in June with a speech given by leader Tom Mulcair to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.  They have also included housing issues in a news brief  about affordable housing and a report on fiscal spending commitments released mid-September  called “A Balanced Fiscal Plan with Tom Mulcair”.

Homelessness and housing issues have also been mentioned in other plans, speeches, electoral debates and in the past. Their initial platform material also mentions housing in connection with overall infrastructure.

The NDP provided COH with the table below to help us understand the various announcements. They say, “This table will help you piece together what we have said and how various local campaigns, housing websites, and stakeholders have added up the numbers in different ways. At the FCM we had included homelessness partnerships with housing agreements giving a total of $2.2 billion. Adding rental housing makes the total $2.725 billion. The Shelter Enhancement program funding was announced in Saskatoon in August as part of a commitment to advance gender equality.”

This is all new funding over and above existing commitments made by the current government.

Commitment in millions 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 Total
Restore and Reinvest in Housing Agreements $430 $500 $575 $640 $2,145
Homelessness Partnerships $10 $10 $10 $10 $40
Rental Housing Grants and Loans $500 - - - $500
Shelter Enhancement Program $10 $10 $10 $10 $40
More to come with the platform - - - - -

During the leaders’ debate on the economy on September 17th, Tom Mulcair said, “The last time the Liberals were in power, they cancelled Canada's National Housing Strategy. It's also worth noting there are 35,000 homeless people in Canada right now…We would put more money in people’s pockets with quality, affordable child care and to the hundred thousand people that we would give a raise with a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour. Somebody who works full-time shouldn't be living in poverty.”

This analysis is based on a review of past actions in the House of Commons, responses to the CACHC and ACTO surveys, current election announcements and answers to questions provided by an NDP staff policy analyst.

1. Develop a new federal, provincial and territorial affordable housing framework agreement

The NDP pledges to “Introduce the NDP Affordable Housing Act.  The  bill  will  recognize  housing  as  a  right  and  lead  to  the development of a national housing strategy that will prioritize housing for the most vulnerable in our society”. The NDP has said that they will “bring federal leadership back to affordable housing”.

In the response to ACTO, and in the  letter sent to COH staff in response to the CACHC petition the NDP  points to Bill C-400, which was sponsored by MP Marie-Claude Morin and failed to get support to move to committee on February 27th 2013. The bill was defeated by a vote of 153 against (all Conservatives voting) and 129 in favour (all Liberals, NDP, Green and Independent candidates voting). That bill calls for the development of a national housing strategy after consultation with all levels of government (including Aboriginal) as well as housing providers and community organizations.

MP Boutin-Sweet also points out that Bill C-241 was tabled to “amend the Canadian Bill of Rights to include the right to proper housing, at a reasonable cost and free of unreasonable barriers. [Also] I introduced Motion M-450, calling on the federal government to work with the provinces, territories, municipalities and community partners to maintain and expand, in line with Canada’s obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the federal investment in social housing, including the renewal of the current budget envelope for long-term social housing operating agreements, in order to preserve rent subsidies and provide funds for necessary renovations”.

The Housing First initiative will be reexamined by an NDP government. The party told COH “We understand that the Housing First approach may not be appropriate for all jurisdictions and we are absolutely committed to working with housing groups to make sure funding is allocated in a way that recognizes their concerns.”

2. Target investments to chronically and episodically homeless people

The NDP says it will prioritize “housing for the most vulnerable in our society” but that this prioritization will be developed according to consultations with local communities.

In terms of HPS, the Vote Housing document indicates that the NDP will “Boost funding for the Homelessness Partnering Strategy and ensure that the full range of necessary services”. This will result in an additional $10 million per year ($40 million between 2016-2020) being invested into HPS above what has already been committed by the sitting government.

The only two groups that have been named specifically in press and policy statements are Aboriginal Peoples and women (with or without children) fleeing violence. Both groups are named in a press release committing to the development of an Action Plan on Violence Against Women. Within that document, the NDP pledges to “restore the Shelter Enhancement Program ended by the Conservatives in order to expand access to shelter and transition resources for women and girls needing support so that no woman in need is ever turned away”. This is a funding pool of $10 million per year, $40 million between 2016-2020.

3. Invest directly in affordable housing programs

The NDP is creating a $500 million fund to be managed by CMHC in 2016-2017 (shown in the chart above as Rental Housing Grants and Loans). This money will be allocated through CMHC to communities. When loans are repaid, the funding will be reinvested which means there will be some level of ongoing funding but it all appears in the 2016-2017 budget as that is when the fund is capitalized.  The NDP has pledged to create 10, 000 units of housing although as money is reinvested into the CMHC fund more housing could be created. In SOHC 2014 we call for 8,800 units of housing per year, for a total of 88,000 units over ten years. The NDP’s 10,000 units pledge is insufficient to meet total need and must be dramatically increased.

In the fiscal plan released on September 17th housing is mentioned in the category “Help Where It’s Needed Most” which includes a number of areas including “retirement security, poverty reduction, housing support, and other measures to help children and families, including a plan to work to end violence against women.” The funding for this line item is $572 million in 2016-17, $635M in 2017-18, $747M in 2018-19 and $956m in 2019-20 (although not all will go to housing).

The NDP  has made a clear commitment to restoring funding to co-ops and social housing and this was emphasized in both Mulcair and MP Boutin-Sweet’s letters. The initial plan has a detailed cost projection for the next four fiscal years that lays out a budget of:

  • $430 million in 2016-17
  • $500 million in 2017-18
  • $575 million in 2018-19
  • $640 million in 2019-20

These amounts are increases to the current spending levels and are designed to increase in relation to when housing agreements are set to expire. The NDP based their funding allocations on the FCM document “Built to Last: Strengthening the Foundations of Housing in Canada” and the amounts are in line with SOHC 2014.

In terms of IAH no information has been released about funding, except that MP Boutin-Sweet’s letter refers to funding for new housing and housing repairs.

 

4. Implement a housing benefit – a new program to assist those who face a severe affordability problem in their current accommodation

While the NDP has not announced a housing benefit they have two income-related initiatives that are relevant in terms of making housing more affordable including a $15/hour minimum wage and $15/day childcare. Funding for the “Helping Families Get Ahead” ranges from $694 million in 2016-2017 to $2.6 billion in 2019-2020.

5. Create an affordable housing tax credit

While the NDP have not released specific plans related to an affordable housing tax credit in a June 2015 speech to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Tom Mulcair indicated that the government would:

  • Bring in a tax break to encourage construction of 10,000 rental housing over the next ten years.
  • Create an income tax incentive to allow people investing in rental housing units.

The NDP told CPH that “The speech in June refers to reviewing tax measures that could make it easier for rental developers to reinvest their capital gains into creating more rental housing. It would require careful analysis and consultation before being implemented, but it is an option for a future government to explore as a potential additional measure to increase housing supply. It is not a part of that $500 million” that has been allocated for new housing. If the NDP acts quickly on this it could dramatically increase the number of units that will be provided.

6. Review and expand investment in Aboriginal housing both on and off reserve

In the recent fiscal spending summary, the NDP includes funding for a category called “Supporting Indigenous Communities” which is described as “support for infrastructure, education and other measures.” The funding is estimated as $604 million in 2016-2017, $579M in 2017-18, $529M in 2018-19 and $594M in 2019-2020. Current spending on Aboriginal housing is $300 million and the SOHC: 2014 indicated that much more money was needed. This is a good start but nowhere sufficient in terms of funding, although the NDP tells us that “there are more details to come for First Nations, Inuit and Métis which will include a housing element. Stay tuned.”

MP Boutin-Sweet’s letter refers to the NDP’s intention to “place special emphasis on the needs of First Nations communities, who are experiencing a severe housing crisis.” In their affordable housing news brief, the NDP states “An NDP government will work with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities to improve housing in remote areas.”

Additionally, the NDP says that there are some agreements for aboriginal housing off-reserved but it is difficult to determine the exact proportion within the overall federal housing agreements pool. They say, “We are restoring funding that has expired and disappeared from federal housing and it would be our priority in negotiations with provinces and municipalities to create new agreements targeted to improving housing options for Indigenous Canadians”.

Green Party of Canada

The Green Party of Canada released its housing platform for the 2015 federal election on August 25th 2015. This analysis is based on that platform, press releases, a June 23rd policy backgrounder, as well as questions sent by email responded to by the national party.

The Green Party National Housing Strategy outlines a very clear and comprehensive housing platform that aligns very closely with the State of Homelessness: 2014 report.

“We will unleash an army of carpenters, contractors, and electricians to increase home energy efficiency, saving Canadians money on their heating and electricity bills…It’s time the federal government gets back into the business of investing in social housing, instead of offloading its responsibilities onto cash-strapped municipalities,” - Elizabeth May, Green Party Leader.

The press release announcement of the plan summarizes it in this way: 

The Green Party will create and implement a National Housing Plan to provide every Canadian with a place to call home. The Green Party’s plan is to:

  • Develop a National Housing Strategy through the Council of Canadian Governments. Canada is the only country in the OECD without a housing strategy. Any coherent plan must include concrete steps for a seniors’ housing plan, a First Nations plan, a plan for social housing, and for affordable market housing;
  • Create a Housing First Approach, a one-on-one outreach initiative that houses chronically homeless people and provides immediate support;
  • Dedicate funding to the co-operative housing sector to enable more new affordable housing projects to proceed, while extending funding for co-ops whose contracts with the federal government are expiring;
  • Retrofit all Canadian homes by 2030 to increase energy efficiency, cut heating and electricity bills, and reduce 80% of building emissions by 2040;
  • Implement a Guaranteed Livable Income to help low-income Canadians and youth reach their dream of affording a home;
  • Eliminate Stephen Harper’s Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Pilot Program, which currently allows foreign investors to purchase Canadian properties and can drive housing prices up for Canadian families beyond their reach;
  • Increase access to social housing for First Nations on and off-reserve, while strengthening enforcement of living and maintenance standards through our proposed Council of Canadian Governments; and
  • Ensure a percentage of all newly built units are reserved for affordable housing.

The June policy backgrounder includes a comprehensive statement on housing raises several key points related to housing:

  • The federal government has to get back into the business of social housing. The Green Party supports increased and sustained federal funding for social housing. We have to do better to deliver a system that allows Canadians of all circumstances to access decent housing at a manageable cost.
  • Housing shortages remain critical. An essential component of a strategy to mitigate poverty and inequality is to ensure access to a sufficient stock of affordable housing and to take aggressive steps to eliminate homelessness. 
  • The Green Party supports increased and sustained federal funding for social housing and a greater commitment to building on the innovative Housing First outreach initiative “At Home/Chez Soi” for homeless Canadians.
  • In order to really make progress on eliminating homelessness, however, it will require much more investment in affordable housing. This means both maintaining and substantially increasing federal spending for social housing from its allocated fiscal base of $1.6 billion today. 
  • Expanding the actual stock of affordable housing has to focus on rental housing, however desirable the goal of promoting home ownership may be. The tax system should restore the favourable treatment once in place for purpose-built rental housing. To expand affordable rental housing, consideration should be given to a low income housing tax credit.  

"For too long, housing advocates, activists, researchers and others across Canada have drawn attention to the fact that we are the only G8 country without a National Housing Strategy. It is well past time for action. As the Green Party's Critic for Urban Affairs and Housing, I feel the case for a National Housing Strategy is rooted in the moral obligation of responsible government to be just that, responsible. Responsible for providing those basic things that the market can't, like affordable housing, education and healthcare. But there is also an economic case. As recent studies here and examples around the world have shown, it costs taxpayers just as much to 'manage' homelessness by relying on first responders, hospitals, and other public services, as it does to adequately house someone who has suffered through the plight of chronic homelessness. The Housing First approach works." - Green Party's Urban Affairs and Housing Critic Wes Regan

1. Develop a new federal, provincial and territorial affordable housing framework agreement

“The federal government continues to retreat from addressing the growing housing needs in Canadian cities. This lack of responsibility and vision is contributing to a crisis of housing affordability,” said Wes Regan, Green Party Urban Affairs and Housing Critic (Vancouver East). “I believe every Canadian has the right to affordable and safe housing. This is why Green MPs will work across party lines in the next minority parliament to make a National Housing Strategy a priority.” Wes Regan also indicated the need of all levels of government to work together: 

"We need a federal government that is willing to see housing as a broad national priority and not some challenge to be offloaded to Provinces and municipalities. Policy coherence and cooperation between all levels of government, through a Council of Canadian Governments, will ensure that local needs in different regions, and different segments of our housing continuum, are being equitably resourced and that public funds are being put to use in the smartest and most effective ways. It's time to think like a country again, and that means creating things like a National Housing Strategy to meet the challenges and opportunities of a 21st Century Canada."

The Greens indicate that they will develop a National Housing Strategy as a priority. It will be based on Housing First principles and targeting individuals experiencing chronic and episodic homelessness. The Green Party will create a “Council of Canadian Governments” that would consult relevant stakeholders and draft the initial policy. They describe this Council as “A Council of Canadian Governments, chaired by the Prime Minister, would include provincial Premiers, territorial leaders, representatives of the municipal order of government, and representatives of Indigenous leadership. It would not be a formal part of the legislative process, nor would it have any governmental powers or constitutional status; instead, it would supplement First Ministers’ Conferences. The Council’s role would be to initiate, develop, and monitor the implementation of policy reforms that are of national significance and require action by all Canadian governments.”

The Green Party’s Housing platform states “Canada is the only country in the OECD without a Housing Strategy. A key commitment of the Green Party of Canada is to develop a National Housing Strategy through the Council of Canadian Governments. Any coherent plan must include concrete steps for a seniors housing plan, a First Nations plan, a plan for social housing, and for affordable market housing.”

There is nothing listed in the plan about Point-in-Time counts, mandating Ten Year Plans to End Homelessness or data collection/management.

2. Target investments to chronically and episodically homeless people

The Greens plan states that it will target chronically and episodically homeless individuals, using a Housing First Approach. In their platform they point to the successes of various Housing First programs and indicate that their plan includes an “increased commitment to building on the innovative Housing First outreach initiative ‘At Home/Chez Soi’ for homeless Canadians.” Their plan outlines the success of At Home/Chez Soi, Alberta’s investments in Housing First and Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness as models to be followed. The plan states “It is important to adequately support and fund these and other initiatives with a proven track record of helping homeless Canadians, both chronic and in temporary need…”

Additionally, when asked about how homelessness amongst other populations would be addressed the Green Party indicated, “A key stage in the development of a National Housing Strategy will be to consult with stakeholders. There is no one size fits all solution to our housing crisis. Youth, Indigenous communities, women fleeing violence, and many other groups are experiencing both chronic and episodic homelessness. Housing is simply out of reach for too many. The causes are not the same for each group, nor can the solutions be. We need to consult with each group experiencing issues with housing and work on an appropriate, timely and meaningful solution. Housing First interventions have proven successful with people experiencing chronic homelessness and we would similarly pursue the best available practices for those who face episodic homelessness in consultation with experts and stakeholders. The Green Party is committed to the principle that housing is a human right and we will fight to ensure that no one is denied this right.”

3. Invest directly in affordable housing programs

The Greens’ housing platform states “The federal government has to get back in the business of social housing. The Green Party supports greater and sustained federal funding for social and co-operative housing. We have to do better to deliver a system that allows Canadians of all situations to access decent housing at a manageable cost. To really make progress on eliminating homelessness, however, requires much more investment in affordable housing. This means maintaining and substantially increasing the federal operating spending for social housing from its base of $1.6 billion today.”

The Green Party supports increasing subsidies for social housing and will not continue the planned eliminated of subsidies for social and co-op housing. The Green Party told COH that their, “housing target is 20,000 new and 8,000 rehabilitated affordable units per year for the next ten years. Over the next five years, Green spending on affordable housing will begin at $400 million per year and increase to $1.397 billion.” In the response to ACTO, the Green Party said they would build 20,000 new and 10,000 rehabilitated properties per year, a slight increase. These numbers are significantly above the recommended numbers from SOHC: 2014 and would go far to address the homelessness crisis.

As outlined in SOHC: 2014 the tax system currently favours building units for home ownership rather than rental housing.  The Green Party wants to “restore the favourable treatment once in place for purpose-built rental housing.”

The Green Party also proposes a Seniors’ Housing Strategy and a Home Energy Retrofit. The Seniors’ Housing Strategy comes from CARP (a seniors advocacy group) and is aimed at helping seniors stay in their own home and/or develop cooperative housing models. “[The] Greens join CARP in envisioning small groups of seniors living together in a home they jointly own, with the support of a housekeeper. Seniors with similar lifestyles should be matched together, so they can share the costs of homemaking, medicine, and staffing support.”

The Home Energy Retrofit program might align with the existing IAH. While the focus is on energy retrofits, the Greens mention targeting social housing improvements as one of the first areas of priority. 

4. Implement a housing benefit – a new program to assist those who face a severe affordability problem in their current accommodation

The Green Party supports a housing benefit as part of an overhauled financial assistance framework that they have termed “Guaranteed Liveable Income (GIL)”. Rather than just implementing a housing benefit, when asked for details they point to more “transformative approach that is discussed in Renewing Canada’s Social Architecturewhich states: “Unlike income support programs that are available to anyone who qualifies, the limited supply of subsidized housing leads to long wait lists and inconsistent, inequitable treatment. A shift to an income-side approach to assisting people who can’t afford decent housing would allow policymakers to turn this issue on its head. An income-tested housing benefit model could ultimately be part of a streamlined and integrated income support program such as a Guaranteed Annual Income model.”

The Green Party’s GIL proposal is to combine various federal and provincial/territorial income support programs such disability, Old Age Supplement, Working Income Tax Benefit, social assistance, Guaranteed Income Supplement, Canadian Child Tax Benefit and National Child Benefit Supplement. It would “provide a regular payment to every Canadian, at a level above the poverty line, to meet Canadians’ basic needs, including housing. A GLI would empower those living in poverty and free service providers to focus on the root causes of inequality.”  Once income reaches a certain level it would begin to be taxed back. The Green Party states that they recognize that this will take time to implement and intend to institute other solutions on an interim basis. 

“Many people of the B.C. lower mainland are struggling to find an appropriate place to live. In my riding of Burnaby North – Seymour, the price of low and middle-income housing is already out of reach for too many people…The leading cause of homelessness is poverty.  I believe that every Canadian deserves to have a place to call home, which is why I will be a strong advocate for the Green Party’s Guaranteed Livable Income plan in the next minority Parliament,” Green Party candidate Lynne Quarmby

5. Create an affordable housing tax credit

The Green Party supports the development of a low income housing tax credit that will be distributed through Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). They also support a dramatic increase subsidies for social housing and will “will offer dedicated funding to non-profit housing organizations and cooperatives, and subsidies, tax cuts, credits, and incentives for the construction and investment in affordable housing, including gifts of land.”

They also would like to establish “the Canadian equivalent of the American Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation to create new partnerships among government, private capital, social entrepreneurs, and the public. One outcome of such collaboration would be the provision of long-term funds for a broad range of nongovernmental agencies (like the Mental Health Commission), which deliver targeted social services.”

6. Review and expand investment in Aboriginal housing both on and off reserve

In the Green Party’s National Housing Strategy proposal they indicate that it needs to include a First Nations Plan. Responding to a follow-up question from COH, the Greens stated “We must do more to improve nation to nation relations with aboriginal communities. Housing continues to be one of the major challenges facing First Nations. On reserve there are often decade-long waiting lists, substandard housing, couch surfing and limited to no housing for singles and elders. Overcrowding is six times higher on reserve than off reserve. The Green Party supports the Assembly of First Nations’ call for over 80 000 new homes for First Nations. In addition, a housing strategy is essential for on-and-off-reserve Aboriginal people and the rapidly growing urban First Nations homeless population.

We need a comprehensive plan for First Nations housing developed by First Nations communities. As Green Candidate in Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi, former elected Chief of the Quatsino First Nation, has said: "I heard over and over again from people who are homeless that it was not necessarily the food and housing they needed most. There was a deep spiritual desire for cultural connections. It goes to the essence of who we are as Indigenous people. To feel rooted, you have to have a sense of your community and history.’” 

This aligns significantly with the COH’s recommendation on Aboriginal housing and homelessness needs. The Green Party focuses on “First Nations” communities as opposed to Aboriginal Peoples, however this is a common error made by many Canadians when talking about Indigenous issues. While First Nations communities are primarily impacted by the reservation system, other Aboriginal populations such as Inuit and Métis are also affected by the homelessness and housing crisis. 

The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness is a non-profit, non-partisan research institute that is committed to conducting research and mobilizing knowledge about evidence-based solutions to homelessness. The COH’s main source of funding is the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada.