Budget 2016

Photo Source: Government of Canada

Last week, the federal government released its Budget 2016. The long-awaited announcement was the first for Liberal Party led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and was set to address several campaign promises, including the issue of housing and homelessness in Canada.

To provide some context, the Liberal Party platform released during the 2015 election campaign promised a policy for an Affordable National Housing Strategy. This, along with the recent report from the UN’s committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressing concern around Canada’s “housing crisis”, led to a growing anticipation among housing advocates around how the newly elected government would address the issue.

With the Budget 2016, we at Raising the Roof are pleased to see action on this policy promise. Below are a few highlights from the Budget that specifically address the issues of housing and homelessness in Canada.

Affordable Housing

Access to affordable housing is a core component of ending homelessness in Canada. The new Budget has allocated a total of $2.3 billion over two years for affordable housing. This includes:

  • $504 million to double the Affordable Housing Initiative
  • $200 million dedicated to improving access to affordable housing for seniors
  • $574 million to support energy and water efficiency retrofits for existing social housing

Victims of Violence Shelters

In our most recent report, Intimate Partner Violence was identified as a primary contributing factor to family homelessness in Canada. We are pleased to see the federal government address this issue, with an investment of $89.9 million to support victims of violence shelters. This includes:

  • $10.4 million over three years dedicated to the construction of new shelters in First Nations communities
  • $33.6 million over five years to “better serve victims of family violence living in First Nations communities”

First Nations Communities

First Nations peoples are dramatically overrepresented in the homeless population. Inadequate housing in First Nations communities has led to a growing number of aboriginal people experiencing homelessness in urban centres. The Budget has allocated $732 million over two years to address housing in First Nations, Inuit and northern communities, including:

  • $416.6 million to address urgent housing needs on-reserve
  • $137.7 million to support the renovation and retrofit of on-reserve housing
  • $117.7 million for affordable housing in northern and Inuit communities

Other Important Investments

While affordable housing is key to addressing the issue of homelessness in Canada, other housing supports are also needed. Significant investments in the Budget aim address the issue of homelessness outside of affordable housing. These include:

  • $111.8 million to strengthen the Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS)
  • $208 million to the newly created Affordable Rental Housing Innovation Fund which will explore innovated approaches that will result in lower costs and risks associated with rental housing development
  • $30 million to assist with the maintenance of rent-geared-to-income housing units

The Budget 2016 also acknowledges the needs of Young Canadians, specifically increasing grant funding for Post-Secondary to improve accessibility for low income families and allocating $165 million for a renewed Youth Employment Strategy.

National Housing Strategy

While not a financial commitment, the Budget also pledges to consult with provinces and territories, indigenous and other communities, as well as key stakeholders to develop a National Housing Strategy within the next year.

The full Budget 2016 can be read at: www.budget.gc.ca