'This is what we’ve been looking for': Feds commit to $40 billion national housing strategy
The funds will be rolled out over a 10-year period, to build 300,000 new housing units
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For the first time in nearly 25 years, the federal government has announced a national housing strategy to the tune of $40 billion over 10 years.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the plan, which has the ambitious goal of cutting chronic homelessness by 50 per cent. The federal government stopped funding new affordable housing units in 1993.
The government says the strategy will result in 100,000 new housing units and 300,000 repaired or renewed housing units. In total, it aims to remove 530,000 households from housing need.
On Wednesday, which was also National Housing Day, Mayor Don Iveson praised the strategy for committing to look after operating agreements for existing affordable housing, as well as new money for construction of new units, repairs and a new urban Indigenous housing initiative.
“This is what we’ve been looking for. This is a phenomenal day for cities and for housing and especially for people in need,” Iveson said.
It’s still unclear how the federal government will work with provinces and cities to implement the plan.
“I’m hopeful that as soon as money starts to flow, we‘ll be able to maybe put shovels in the ground next year for some projects,” Iveson said.
The plan includes $8.6 billion for a new Canada Community Housing Initiative in partnership with provinces and territories, as well as $4 billion for a new Canada Housing Benefit, which will pay a portion of rent for houses struggling to make ends meet.
On Thursday at a National Housing Day Luncheon, Homeward Trust CEO Susan McGee said one of the most significant strides forward is the government’s change in language.
The strategy calls housing a human right.
“There’s a level of commitment when you say housing is a right … there’s real meaning behind the words,” McGee said.
“It’s the first announcement of its kind in decades in our country and it’s really signalling a significant commitment nationally to homelessness and affordable housing,” she added, noting that it’s still unclear how agencies like hers will benefit from the strategy.
Homeward Trust programs such as Youth Housing First have made a world of difference to Edmontonians such as Sasha Gladu.
With one child already in tow, Gladu was one month away from giving birth to her second child back in September and living in an unstable living situation. After five months on a referral list, she moved into an independent housing unit in August.
“For my son to have his own room, not just a one bedroom that we’re sharing, but for him to have his own space, I felt proud. No mom wants to be couch surfing with their kids,” she said.
She said after moving into her own home she felt happy and content “for the first time in a long time”.
She’s currently pursuing a degree in psychology through an Athabasca University online program. She said having a stable home was a huge factor in her wanting to create a better life for her and her kids.
“It plays a big part in feeling like you’re capable of doing better things,” Gladu said. “I’m at a point in my life where everything is good. And it all started with housing.”