Private sector housing partners figure in Canada’s newly unveiled national housing strategy, which includes targets for upgrading existing affordable accommodations and pledges to support home ownership. As envisioned, the federal and provincial/territorial governments will jointly fund the 10-year, $40-billion package of policies and programs so many details are still missing or yet to be refined through future negotiations, but, ultimately, the goal is to create stability for 1.7 million people currently deemed to be in housing need.
“Safe, affordable housing is a launch pad for better socioeconomic outcomes for our citizens, a more inclusive society where everyone has the opportunity to be well and to succeed, a stronger economy and a cleaner environment,” Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jean-Yves Duclos, states in his introduction to the Strategy. “The provinces and territories will, of course, be primary partners in the Strategy, but we will also work with municipalities, the private and non-profit sectors and others who share our goal of creating a new generation of housing in Canada.”
A proposed $15.9 billion National Housing Co-Investment Fund is one of the key instruments for that, and the likely avenue for any retrofit or development funding flowing through to the private sector. Starting in the 2018-19 budget year, it is expected to underwrite construction of 60,000 new housing units, along with repairs and upgrades of up to 240,000 “existing affordable and community” housing units.
Provincial/territorial and/or municipal governments will be given a fairly wide scope for their matching share of funds. “Contributions from other partners could include provincial, territorial and municipal lands, inclusionary zoning provisions, accelerated municipal approval processes, waiving of development charges and fees, tax rebates and other government loans,” the Strategy advises. The federal government also pledges to transfer $200 million of its surplus federal land to housing providers and to contribute funds for associated requirements for brownfield rehabilitation or building conversions.
In turn, private and not-for-profit landlords receiving funds for retrofits and repairs must ensure that: 30 per cent of units will rent for less than 80 per cent of median market rent for a minimum of 20 years; 20 per cent of units meet accessibility standards and all common areas are barrier free; and energy use and greenhouse gas emissions decrease by 25 per cent compared to the building’s performance prior to the upgrades.
“The National Housing Co-Investment Fund will prioritize projects that exceed mandatory requirements, bring more partners and additional investment to the table, and address the needs of vulnerable populations,” the Strategy affirms.
Proposed support for home ownership will largely come in the form of research and some tweaks to rules governing mortgage loan insurance. The strategy commits $241 million over 10 years to widen and improve data collection, and help underwrite demonstrations of emerging technologies and management practices.
“Demonstrations that support sustainable, energy-efficient, accessible, age-friendly and socially inclusive affordable housing will be prioritized, such as pilots testing innovative housing responses to situations of family violence,” the Strategy states.