Yesterday, we joined our partners in anticipation as Finance Minister Bill Morneau of the Government of Canada announced the 2017 federal budget. We welcome the investments in housing and homelessness announced in the new budget. Below are some key highlights.

National Housing Strategy

The Government has announced $11.2 billion over 11 years allocated for the implementation of an inclusive National Housing Strategy. This announcement comes after almost 30 years of federal disinvestment in affordable housing, which has contributed to our current housing and homelessness crisis. 
The 11-year investment in a National Housing Strategy is significant. Not only does it signal the federal government is ‘back at the table', the length of the investment means this is now a permanent program. The investment also highlights the government’s commitment to flexibility and new ways of working.
The NHS investment includes:

  • $2.1 billion/11 years to expand and extend the Homelessness Partnering Strategy.
  • $5 billion/11 years to develop a new National Housing Fund to address critical housing issues and prioritize vulnerable citizens such as seniors, Indigenous Peoples, survivors fleeing domestic violence, persons with disabilities, those dealing with mental health and addiction issues, and veterans (unfortunately no mention of youth).
  • $3.2 billion/11 years devoted to a renewed multilateral investment framework devoted to building new affordable housing and renovating and repairing existing units.
  • $525 million/11 years combined to target support for northern housing and for Indigenous Peoples not living on-reserve.
  • $241 million/11 years to CMHC to improve data collection and analytics, which will strengthen the ability to report the outcomes of the National Housing Strategy and make informed policy decisions.
  • $202 million/11 years to make more federal lands available for affordable housing and to fund environmental remediation, renovations and retrofits to make the land suitable for housing.

You can read the complete budget at Budget 2017: Building a Strong Middle Class.
It should be noted that in addition to the $11.2B allocated to the NHS, the federal government announced its intention to protect the baseline funding for operating agreements, but with greater flexibility on how those funds can be used. This is significant as until now the commitment of the federal government was to let those agreements expire over the next ten years.

Homelessness Partnering Strategy

Included in the NHS (as mentioned above) is a commitment to expand and extend the Homelessness Partnering Strategy. This is the longest-term commitment to addressing homelessness ever by a federal government.  After years of diminishing spending on homelessness (when HPS was most recently renewed in 2013, the annual budget had been cut to $118M), this is an increase to an annual average of $191M. 

Going Forward

The budget signals not only an investment in housing and homelessness, but a commitment to a policy direction that is much welcomed. 
As we go forward, here are some things to consider:

  • While the announcements made in the 2017 budget are promising, ending homelessness in Canada can only be achieved through significant and sustainable investment in housing and homelessness. The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness calculated in The State of Homelessness in Canada 2016 that preventing and ending homelessness in Canada requires an investment of $43.8 billion over 10 years.
  • Much of the funding announced in the budget is ‘back loaded,’ meaning funding commitments may not kick in until several years from now.  While this will undoubtedly raise some concerns, it also creates an opportunity to ensure that programs are thoughtfully designed and funding aligns well with efforts of other orders of government.  Further, this provides an opportunity to embed a commitment to ending homelessness within the new federal strategy.
  • Absent from the new investment is a “Housing Benefit,” one of the key recommendations of the State of Homelessness in Canada 2016.
  • Details about exactly what a renewed homelessness strategy will entail will happen only after a program review is completed later this year. The COH, in partnership with A Way Home Canada and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, will press for the government to focus its investment on those in greatest need, including chronically homeless persons, youth, veterans and Indigenous Peoples, for instance.
  • It is promising that the federal budget highlights prevention as an essential component in our efforts to end homelessness. For instance, the government’s intention to champion better outcomes for youth through education, training and employment, is an important strategy in the prevention of homelessness. We will continue to encourage a focus on prevention. 

Above all, the 2017 federal budget is evidence that the government of Canada is committed to addressing homelessness, not through the status quo, but by directing resources to better, longer-term solutions; solutions that help those in need today, while preventing homelessness tomorrow.
We commit to working with you, our partners and all levels of government, to ensure we leverage today’s investments, and those of the future, to make the shift toward a new approach: one that ensures everyone in Canada has access to safe, secure, suitable and affordable housing.