What is National Housing Day? Where did it originate? What happens on that day? 
Zenia Castanos 
Toronto, ON

In 1998, the homelessness advocacy group Toronto Disaster Relief Committee (TDRC) declared homelessness to be a national disaster. The State of Emergency Declaration was released in October 1998 and immediately endorsed by individuals, community agencies, faith groups, labour unions and various governmental entities. The campaign included the 1% solution which called for all levels of government to invest additional funds, equally about 1% of their budgets, in building social housing.

Image of 1%

On October 28th 1998, Toronto City Council passed a motion endorsing the declaration. Two years later, the TDRC, the Church of the Holy Trinity and several concerned activists launched Toronto’s Homeless Memorial to commemorate that date and to remember all the people who have lived and died on the streets of Toronto as a direct result of homelessness (there are now over 700 names on the list).

On November 22nd, 1998, the Big City Mayor’s Caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) passed a similar motion. They followed with their own brief just a few months later. National Housing Day honours that endorsement and serves as a reminder that Canada is still the only G-8 country without a national housing strategy. Learn more from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

In the March budget, the federal government committed to spend $253 million for new affordable and social housing; and the provinces and territories are supposed to match that. It would be a great National Housing Day present for the governments to finally allocate the housing funding that they promised eight months ago. It would be an even better National Housing Day if our elected officials recognized that the $506 million on offer is less than a quarter of what is needed annually to ease Canada's affordable housing crisis - and finally agreed on a comprehensive, long-term, fully-funded national housing plan.

Michael Shapcott 
Director of Housing and Innovation
The Wellesley Institute

Beginning in 2000, Nov. 22nd was recognized as National Housing Strategy Day. Events include awareness raising about housing and homelessness and are locally designed to focus on the needs of individual communities. 13 years later the day is still going strong. Hashtag on Twitter is #NationalHousingDay.

This year there is also the “Cross Canada Week of Action for Housing” from November 22nd to November 29th.

Housing is a human right image

In 2013 events include (look for more in your own community):

There are also several housing related campaigns:

  • The Canadian Unitarian Council provides some concrete steps for action during Affordable Housing Week.
  • Habitat for Humanity Canada has a “National Platform on Affordable Housing”.
  • FCM recently launched a campaign called “Fixing Canada’s Housing Crunch” which looks not just at homelessness but housing shortages and the cost of housing. It calls on “the federal government to commit to a long-term plan for housing, working with municipalities and all orders of government to address these crucial issues.” Follow the campaign on Twitter using hashtag #housingcrunch
  • York Region has a campaign called “Make Rental Happen” (hashtag #MakeRentalHappen) which features a variety of YouTube videos.

Since 1998 when Canadians and municipalities declared homelessness a national disaster, we have yet to see a national housing strategy. So on November 22 we must show our movement muscle by rallying, speaking out and passionately insisting on a national housing program.

Cathy Crowe
Founder of TDRC

This post is part of our Friday "Ask the Hub" blog series. Have a homeless-related question you want answered? E-mail us at thehub@edu.yorku.ca and we will provide a research-based answer.