Two Canadian mayors’ take on how to address the housing crisis

With approximately 1.5 million people in peril due to the lack of safe, decent, and affordable homes, Toronto mayor John Tory and Edmonton mayor Don Iveson recently outlined the most effective measures that can be implemented in response to this national emergency.
In a collaboration piece published by The Globe and Mail on September 30, Tory and Iveson argued that the lack of affordability will harm Canada’s livability, productivity, and overall economic strength in the long run.
Among the most important steps that should be taken is committing a significant part of the 2017 budget to affordable housing.
“Progress starts with securing Canada’s existing 600,000 social housing units – a lifeline for people with disabilities, for newcomers, for low-income seniors,” the mayors wrote. “These homes depend on federal operating agreements that are expiring and without new investment, tens of thousands of vulnerable families could lose their homes each year.”
Improving supply is a crucial factor, as well.
“Learning from the past, construction of new affordable and social housing should be designed differently with greater flexibility to suit local realities, harness local solutions, leverage the expertise of existing social and affordable housing providers from both the private and public sectors, and utilize federal surplus lands,” the duo suggested. “We [also] need smart investment to grow the sputtering rental housing market – to serve families at a variety of income levels.”
Furthermore, capital should be provided for the development of novel approaches to the crisis.
“Using funding committed to in budget 2016 for an affordable rental housing innovation fund, enable direct funding to cities facing the greatest housing challenges, as evidenced by percentage of households in core housing need and rates of homelessness, so that they can support local innovations to test out new housing solutions based on local needs and priorities.”

Most importantly, any housing strategy at the federal level “should include a direction and timeline to examine CMHC’s mandate regarding housing policy within the federal system and the role of other federal departments in delivering on the objectives of the [national housing strategy].”
While the funding needed to “meaningfully” tackle the housing crisis clocks in at an estimated $12.6-billion, Tory and Iveson stressed that this tranche would definitely help address the worst effects of the affordability issue.
“The numbers are big, but the return on investment will be even bigger.”

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