A program aiming to reduce chronic homelessness, Canada’s National Housing Strategy includes key priorities such as renovating existing housing and investing in new affordable housing. The strategy has been formulated as a result of consultations with think tanks, stakeholders, and experts.
The housing strategy is based on 7 guiding principles outlined by the Big City Mayors’ Caucus. One is to secure urgent financing to be used for housing repairs. The reason is that social housing units have been forced to close due to lack of funding. The government already implemented two measures in 2017, one in the form of direct lending for repairs and second as temporary subsidies for families. A third measure that has been proposed is to create a grant fund for modernization, retrofits, and repairs that can be used by social housing providers. A second goal is to build social and affordable housing based on mixed-income models. This can be done with the help of different tools such as engaging cities in decision-making and establishing a dedicated fund for grants. A third goal is to ensure direct support for both providers and households by separating operating and construction costs. A combination of different NHS tools, including land, lending, and grands can help build new projects. While direct support has been referred to as a national housing benefit, portable housing allowances, and rent supplements, support should be mainly directed toward families facing serious affordability issues and those living in social housing.
A fourth goal is to ensure that CMHC has a key role to play in delivering the program so that all Canadians have access to affordable housing. As a fifth goal, it is important to ensure that other forms of federal investment help improve outcomes. One example is using green infrastructure dollars to build social and affordable housing. Supporting local solutions to reduce homelessness is a sixth goal of the program. This can be done by including the local authorities in the selection of projects. A final goal is to adopt an approach that combines multiple tools in a single federal window, including capacity and technical development, research, data, grants, land, and financing.
Tools and Programs to Build New Housing
A number of tools and programs are available, including the Federal Lands Initiative, rental construction financing, the Affordable Housing Innovation Fund, and the National Housing Co-Investment Fund. The Federal Lands Initiative, for example, aims to secure socially inclusive, accessible, sustainable, and affordable housing. The Affordable Housing Innovation Fund offers financing for implementing innovative building techniques and ideas as to reduce homelessness and ensure that communities are both accessible and inclusive. The fund supports different types of projects, including affordable rental housing, retrofit models, and affordable home ownership. Only projects that target vulnerable groups qualify provided that candidates secure investment and partners and exceed the mandatory requirements. All projects must include accessibility features such as home automation, modified bathrooms and kitchens, lifts, and ramps. Other factors that are weighed in are access to transportation, replicability, and projects aiming at social inclusion. Finally, the National Housing Co-Investment Fund offers low-cost forgivable and repayable financing to build supportive and transitional housing and new shelters. The goal is to build mixed-use, mixed-tenure, and mixed-income housing.
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