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Blueprint for Housing

The Blueprint for Housing is a comprehensive policy document created in consultation with CHRA members and other leaders in the housing and homelessness sector. It was born of the realization that existing housing policies and programs are not doing enough to ensure that all who live in Canada have homes that are affordable and meet their needs.

The report identified 27 recommendations across six thematic areas:

1. Urban, Rural, and Northern Indigenous Housing: Implementing Reconciliation for Indigenous peoples
2. Community Housing Supply: Meeting the needs of the next generation
3. Existing Community Housing Stock: Repair and renewal
4. Maintaining Affordability
5. A Home for All: Eliminating homelessness and strengthening supportive housing
6. A “Team Canada” Approach to Housing

Urban, Rural, and Northern Indigenous Housing: Implementing Reconciliation for Indigenous peoples

In 2018 the CHRA Indigenous Caucus called for the implementation of a “For Indigenous, By Indigenous” housing strategy. In BC, this year we witnessed the historic release of a 10-Year Urban, Rural, and Northern Housing Strategy for off-reserve Indigenous people, created by the Aboriginal Housing Management Association. This strategy leverages the expertise of Indigenous housing and service providers across the province to set four key Objectives, nine Principles, and thirteen Strategic Actions, and identifies the funding, resources, and activities required to implement them.

Additional recommendations include:

-Supporting Indigenous self-determination, with the establishment of “a dedicated organizational structure that would be tasked with developing and implementing Indigenous housing policy” at a federal level;
-Preserving existing Indigenous community housing stock;
-Building an evidence-based approach to Indigenous community housing, with funding and resources to help bridge the gaps in data highlighted in our 2022 Civic Campaign;
-Championing an URN Indigenous housing strategy, through promotion and education by the federal government to other orders of government.

Community Housing Supply: Meeting the needs of the next generation

One of the key barriers for expanding the community housing sector is the availability of and access to land and to buildings at the end of their life cycle, as identified in the recommendations made in the Blueprint.

In BC, Housing Central has been advocating for a Provincial Acquisition strategy, which has been an unfulfilled electoral promise from the NDP. Moreover, our latest civic campaign asked candidates for mayor, council, or boards sign a pledge to “contribute public land to non-profit and co-op housing developments for new affordable homes” if elected.

It is also recommended that the overall rate of community housing development doubles by 2035. This aligns with Housing Central’s ask to the provincial government to move up $4.2 billion of the $4.6 billion planned in housing investments between 2022 and 2028 to build over 10,000 affordable homes submitted to the 2021 Community Housing Fund Call for Proposals.

Additional recommendations include:

-Making funding applications more accessible;
-Building professionalism and capacity in the housing sector;
-Maximizing the effectiveness of the Housing Accelerator Fund;
-Combatting NIMBYism, starting at the federal level.

Existing Community Housing Stock: Repair and renewal

As approximately 90% of the community housing stock in the country was built before the year 2001, investments in maintenance and repairs will be key to combat increasing operational costs associated with energy consumption, decreasing tenant satisfaction and quality of life, and rising stigma around under-repaired units.

A key recommendation presented is the expansion of funding available for renewals and repairs focused on universal design principles for accessible housing.

Other recommendations include:
Increase allowance of incremental costs associated with improved energy efficiencies;
Simplify and align funding opportunities and policies across different levels of government.

Maintaining Affordability

With the Federal Community Housing Initiative (FCHI) and the Canada Community Housing Initiative (CCHI) set to expire in 2028, and all remaining operating agreements set to expire in the mid-2030s, there is a need for a federal long-term plan for subsidies.

It is recommended that the federal government commits to a long-term permanent subsidy framework that will provide ongoing subsidies for community housing in perpetuity.

Other recommendations include:

-Improve transparency and accountability of federal rental subsidies;
-Implement regulations to ensure that portable rent supplements (introduced by the NHS) don’t serve as subsidies for private landlords, but rather prioritize units operated by non-profits.

A Home for All: Eliminating homelessness and strengthening supportive housing

The housing affordability crisis in Canada has some of its most dire impacts on the increase of homelessness, and BC is no exception. The 2020/21 Report on Homeless Counts in B.C. identified 8,665 individuals experiencing homelessness.

Inaccessibility and rigidity of supportive services is a key barrier for the expansion of supportive housing to bring solutions to those experiencing homelessness. That is why it is recommended that the federal government leverages funding from programs like the Canada Health Transfer (CHT), and Canada Social Transfer (CST), which provided a combined $8.5 billion for BC in budget 2021/22. It would incentivize the growth of supportive services, increase flexibility, and entrench the relationship between housing and health in federal policy.

Other recommendations include:

-Revise and expand the Reaching Home program to provide sufficient funding to fully eliminate chronic homelessness by 2028;
-Create the Healthier Communities Transformation Fund to develop more supportive housing.

A “Team Canada” Approach to Housing

Current federal tax policies incentivize private sector developers to erode the affordable housing stock, rather than increase it. In BC alone, the loss of 39,285 units renting below $750/month (and 97,390 units below $1,000/month) between 2016 and 2021 can be largely attributed to these forces.

A key recommendation to shift this trend is the implementation of a Canadianized Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, similar to the one used in more than 90% of American affordable housing projects. The LIHTC would help to make risks and returns on affordable housing projects comparable with their market-rate counterparts, and thus, more attractive.

The federal government issues tax credits and awards them to sponsors of affordable housing projects (non-profits or municipalities) through competition. Sponsors then sell the credits to private investors to obtain funding. After completion, investors can claim the LIHTC over a 10-year period. All LIHTC projects must comply with tests to guarantee affordability for 15 years, but most projects have an extended compliance period of 30 years imposed.

Additional recommendations include:

-Limiting the financialization of housing by exploring and enacting regulations with provinces and territories to control the impact of REITs;
-Increase housing across the housing spectrum by taking advantage of investments done through Infrastructure Canada;
-Modernizing the housing sector, providing funding for innovative practices.

For many of our members, some of these recommendations may seem familiar. This is because in the last couple of years, the experience and research on the community housing sector has landed in very consistent high-level ideas of what needs to be done to address the housing and homelessness crisis in Canada. This blueprint collects these ideas and puts them as banners for sector advocacy at the federal level.

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