The federal cabinet on Tuesday is expected to discuss whether to revisit the existing national housing strategy and possibly hold a national housing summit with other levels of government and the private sector in a bid to solve the growing housing crisis across the country.
The discussions underway at the cabinet retreat in Charlottetown come as the Liberals look ahead to the fall sitting of Parliament where they plan to make housing the central focus of their efforts.
Two housing experts who helped co-author a recent report on the federal government’s role in solving the housing crisis are set to present their findings to the cabinet later on Tuesday.
The report delivered a week ago warns that “Canada’s housing crisis is worsening dramatically” in large part because of an “extreme” lack of accessible and affordable rentals.
The authors say a new industrial housing strategy is required that brings together governments, private sector and non-profit agencies to address a shortage of housing overall, and a shortage of affordable housing in particular.
Housing Minister Sean Fraser says there are many options for how to proceed but at the end of the day, Canadians don’t care what it’s called as long as they see serious action that relieves some of their anxiety about the cost and availability of housing.
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The Liberals introduced a national housing strategy in 2017, promising to spend billions over a decade to restore Ottawa’s involvement in building social housing. In 2019, legislation was passed designating housing as a human right.
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But little progress has been made to improve the situation, and the post-pandemic cost-of-living crisis, rising interest rates and rapid population growth are exacerbating the problem.
While many Liberals point to the report as a to-do list of sorts for the cabinet, Fraser said they’re not ready to commit to all of the recommendations just yet.
“So there’s a number of different elements to what we want to do next,” Fraser said Monday, just before the first session in the three-day retreat.
“How we precisely frame it, and whether that is a revisitation of the national housing strategy is something that I’m sure we’re going to get into really interesting discussions on over the course of the next couple of days here in Charlottetown.
Census data suggests that in 2021, about 10 per cent of the population, or 1.5 million people, were considered to be in need of affordable housing, but social housing accounts for only about 3.5 per cent of the country’s housing stock.
The report’s authors want Canada to aim to double that proportion.
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