Federal Budget 2023 a missed opportunity to address the most pressing issue facing Canadians.
Yesterday, the federal government introduced the 2023 budget with an important focus on making life more affordable for Canadians. Although we welcome some very important investments in improving access to services and fighting the impacts of inflation, we are disappointed to see housing as a much lower priority. This budget fails to recognize the severity of the housing crisis and does little to directly tackle housing affordability.
While we understand the complexity of navigating a period of economic uncertainty, our national partners – the Canadian Housing Renewal Association (CHRA), the Co-op Housing Federation of Canada (CHF) and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) – advocated for investments in key areas that could empower the community housing sector to deliver more affordable housing in perpetuity. Unfortunately, most of their asks didn’t make it into the new budget.
Here’s what Budget 2023 got (partly) right:
- $4 billion over seven years (starting in 2024/25) to implement and co-develop an Urban, Rural, and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy.
This has been one of the main asks from across the sector in the last couple of years, but channeling the funds through CMHC, instead of putting it in the hands of Indigenous leaders, is disappointing. Although $4 billion represents some progress, it is a mere fraction of what the National Housing Council advised should be invested annually ($56 billion over 10 years).
- Re-allocate funds from the National Housing Co-Investment Fund’s repair stream into the new construction stream.
It has been reported that just 5% (3,400) of the 66,700 new units targeted and 7% (8,600) of the 18,600 targeted repaired units have been completed. Considering that over 39% of the announced budget for the NHCF has been executed, many groups, including the CHRA, have called for a shift in priorities within this program to ensure more affordable housing gets built. Re-allocating funding from repairs into new supply may feed the supply agenda, but at what cost to the preservation of existing homes – especially here in BC, where the supply provisions of the Co-Investment Fund have been so tough to implement.
Here are the missed opportunities:
- No new or expanded investments to accelerate the construction of affordable housing.
This is particularly concerning following last year’s housing-focused budget, which launched the $4-billion Housing Accelerator Fund. Despite increased investment in housing in recent years, the data on housing need and construction shows we are still far from achieving the goals of the National Housing Strategy. In fact, a recent study found that Canada would have to double its affordable housing stock to reach the OECD average (number of affordable housing units as a share of the total stock). This backlog is worsened by the effects of inflation, increasing land and construction costs, rising interest rates, and the financialization of housing – and it will be hardly addressed by measures that prioritize homeownership over rental and affordable housing construction.
- No funding for a property acquisition program.
BCNPHA, CHF BC, AHMA and many more in the sector have been strong advocates for a dedicated acquisition strategy both federally and provincially to slow down the loss of affordable market rentals. Early this year, the provincial government announced a $500 million investment in a Rental Housing Protection Fund – its long-term operation would benefit greatly from federal funding. We are disappointed that CHRA’s ask of starting a “dedicated property acquisition and rental preservation program” was not included in this year’s budget.
- Missed opportunity to refresh the National Housing Strategy (NHS), as recommended by CHRA.
Canada’s economic picture has changed dramatically since 2017, when the NHS was first announced, and adjustments are badly needed so the NHS can be better equipped to deal with current challenges such as high interest rates and the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
BCNPHA looks forward to finding ways to support the non-profit housing sector and our membership to take advantage of these budgetary adjustments as well as new announcements regarding the Housing Accelerator Fund.
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