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e-2826 (Social affairs and equality)

E-petition
Initiated by Tim Richter from Calgary, Alberta

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

Whereas:
  • Canada has the opportunity to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • We cannot go back to a normal where over 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness every year and 1.7 million households are living in substandard or unaffordable housing;
  • 72% of Canadians support action to end homelessness and 84% support housing investment as economic stimulus;
  • The federal government's current target to reduce chronic homelessness by 50% within 10 years is not ambitious enough;
  • The government has yet to appoint the National Housing Council and the Housing Advocate, preventing accountability and oversight; and
  • The plan in Recovery for All would end homelessness, create over 500,000 jobs and would save taxpayers $18 billion.
We, the undersigned, supporters of adequate housing in Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to adopt the Recovery for All plan put forward by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, which includes:
1. Committing to the elimination of homelessness (with timelines and targets) and expanding federal investment in community-based homelessness responses;
2. Meaningfully implementing the right to housing to resolve inequities and systemic/structural breakdowns that contribute to homelessness and housing need;
3. Building a minimum of 370,000 new units of supportive and affordable housing and developing a new Homelessness Housing Benefit;
4. Stopping the loss of affordable rental housing to financialization by limiting purchases of distressed housing by large capital funds and supporting non-profit and public sector acquisition;
5. Putting in place a national guaranteed minimum income; and
6. Implementing an Indigenous led, urban, rural and Northern Indigenous housing strategy.

Response by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): ADAM VAUGHAN

1. Reaching Home

Reaching Home is part of the National Housing Strategy (NHS) — a 10-year, $55+ billion plan to lift thousands of Canadians out of housing need. As part of the NHS, the Government of Canada announced an investment of $2.2 billion over 10 years to tackle homelessness, and support a broader NHS objective of reducing chronic homelessness by 50% by 2027-28.

On April 1, 2019, the Government of Canada launched Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy. By 2021–2022, Reaching Home annual investments will double compared to 2015–16.

Reaching Home maintains a community-based approach, delivering funding directly to municipalities and local service providers. The program provides direct financial support to Designated Communities (urban centres), as well as Indigenous and rural and remote communities across Canada to support their efforts in addressing homelessness. Following a comprehensive community planning process, communities determine their own priorities, and develop local solutions.

Under Reaching Home, the Government of Canada is working with communities to develop and deliver community plans with clear outcomes. To support the outcomes-based approach, communities have been given more flexibility to address local needs and priorities. To track the progress made by communities in their effort to prevent and reduce homelessness, communities will be asked to report publicly on community-wide outcomes.

Designated Communities are required to implement Coordinated Access by March 31, 2022. The goal of Coordinated Access is to help communities achieve community-wide outcomes by ensuring fairness, prioritizing people most in need of assistance, and matching individuals to appropriate housing and services in a more streamlined and coordinated way. Reaching Home provides dedicated funding and technical support to designated communities to implement Coordinated Access.

Reaching Home maintains three regional funding streams. Funding under each is delivered through regionally-managed contribution agreements with Community Entities:

Designated Communities: This stream funds projects in urban centres identified as having a significant problem with homelessness.

Rural and Remote Homelessness: This stream funds projects in non-designated communities in rural and remote areas of the country.

Indigenous Homelessness: This stream provides funding, primarily targeted to Indigenous service providers, to address the specific needs of Indigenous people living off-reserve who are experiencing or are at risk of homelessness.

In addition to the three streams above, Reaching Home introduced three new funding streams:

Distinctions-based and Modern Treaty Holder funding: This funding is for priorities determined in collaboration with First Nations, Inuit and Métis partners. A portion of this funding has been earmarked for modern treaty holders.

Territorial Homelessness: This stream provides funding to communities in the territories to address the unique challenges in the North.

Community Capacity and Innovation: This stream supports communities with implementation of coordinated access systems and the provision of training and technical assistance, as well as supports funding for innovative solutions to homelessness.

Recognizing that Indigenous people are overrepresented among Canada’s homelessness population, Reaching Home increased investments dedicated to addressing Indigenous homelessness. The Government of Canada is engaging with Indigenous partners to develop approaches to prevent and reduce Indigenous homelessness.

Through Reaching Home, the Government of Canada aims to place close to 160,000 people into more stable housing and achieve tangible results for Canadians at risk of or experiencing homelessness.   

In 2017, the government announced that it would reduce chronic homelessness by 50 percent. Recognizing the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed, the federal government is committed to doing more. On September 23, 2020, the Speech from the Throne committed to, “entirely eliminating chronic homelessness in Canada.”

2. COVID-19 response

Individuals and families experiencing or at risk of homelessness are at heightened risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 due to underlying health conditions, increased need for transience, and fewer opportunities to self-isolate.  

At the outset of the pandemic, the Government of Canada acted quickly to provide needed support to the homeless-serving sector. Through Reaching Home, the Government provided additional funding to help those experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

In late March 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, $15 million was provided through Reaching Home to seven communities with the largest shelter capacity: Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton and Peel Region.

Building on this immediate support, on March 18, 2020, the Government of Canada announced an additional $157.5 million for Reaching Home to support people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 outbreak. With the help of emergency funding for the homelessness sector, communities have taken urgent action to try to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among those experiencing homelessness including efforts to reduce overcrowding in shelters, establish isolation spaces and place individuals in hotels/motels.

To support communities in their efforts to continue to avoid outbreaks and prepare for future waves, the Government of Canada announced in September 2020 an additional $236.7 million through Reaching Home for 2020-21. In addition to extending emergency measures, this investment will support communities in shifting focus towards housing stability, including ensuring those who have been temporarily housed transition to more stable housing, and providing more targeted support to individuals at risk of losing housing in response to an expected increase in homelessness due to the economic downturn.

Most recently, as part of the Fall Economic Statement 2020, the Government announced that it will provide an additional funding of $299.4 million in 2021-22 through Reaching Home to enable physical distancing, enhanced cleaning and other emergency health and safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in shelters. Funding will also help prevent at-risk Canadians from becoming homeless by supporting targeted interventions that enable people to stay housed. Some examples of such interventions may include, paying rent/utility arrears, damage deposits, first/last month’s rent and rent supplements, as well as non-financial measures such as landlord mediation services and increasing the number of case managers who connect people to the supports they need to maintain their housing.

5. Putting in place a national guaranteed minimum income

It is important to acknowledge that income security is a shared jurisdiction across different orders of government. As such, the Government of Canada recognizes the importance of working with provinces and territories to find solutions to common challenges.

Some Government of Canada initiatives have many of the features of a partial basic income for specific groups such as families and seniors. This includes the Canada Child Benefit (CCB), which provides substantial income support to families raising children. The CCB is tax-free and income-based and provides more support to families who need help the most. The CCB helps almost 3.7 million families and about 6.5 million children, putting about $24 billion annually, tax-free, in the hands of families. In the November 2020 Fall Economic Statement, the Government committed to provide temporary support of up to $1,200 in 2021 for each child under the age of six for families entitled to the Canada Child Benefit to help families with young children through the pandemic.

For Canadian seniors, the Old Age Security (OAS) program plays a significant role in providing income security. OAS benefits are intended to provide partial income security for seniors in recognition of the contributions that they have made to Canadian society and the economy. OAS pensioners who receive little or no income, other than the OAS pension, are eligible for additional assistance through the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

In addition, existing programs, such as the Canada Workers Benefit and Employment Insurance, provide income supports for low-income individuals with labour market attachment or those with insurable employment. These programs exist alongside provincial and territorial social assistance programs.

The Government of Canada recently made a number of commitments that will help to address poverty. For example, the Government is laying the groundwork for a Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care System; continuing to invest in housing so that more people have a safe and affordable place to call home; carrying out a campaign to create jobs; supporting initiatives to improve food security that will help people put nutritious food on their tables; and bringing forward a new benefit and employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities. 

Response by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Adam Vaughan

The Government of Canada thanks the petitioners from Vancouver East for sharing their views on the importance of affordable housing. Canadians need and deserve housing that is safe, adequate and affordable. Affordable housing is a cornerstone of inclusive communities as it helps to strengthen the middle class and grow the economy. This is why we launched Canada’s first ever National Housing Strategy in November 2017, a $55+ billion investment over 10 years that will give more people a place to call home. The Strategy focuses on meeting the distinct housing needs of our most vulnerable populations. 

 

In the spring of 2019, our Government also passed the National Housing Strategy Act into law. The NHS Act binds future governments to developing a national housing strategy, works towards progressively advancing the right to adequate housing, and requires regular reporting on its progress. The introduction of the NHS Act is a big step forward, as it also provides important opportunities for persons in housing need or homelessness and communities affected by systemic housing issues to have their voices heard through the Federal Housing Advocate and the National Housing Council. The Advocate will monitor the implementation of the housing policy and progress against the NHS. The Notice of Opportunity for the Federal Housing Advocate position was posted on November 22, 2020 and The Advocate will be appointed in 2021. The Council will provide advice to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, including on the effectiveness of the National Housing Strategy, with the aim of improving housing outcomes. The nominations of the members were announced on November 22, 2020.

 

We are working toward this through the NHS’s many complimentary initiatives, like the National Housing Co-Investment Fund, the Rental Construction Financing initiative, the Affordable Housing Innovation Fund and the Rapid Housing Initiative. Through initiatives like this, the National Housing Strategy will create 125,000 new housing units, repair another 300,000 units, and will remove or reduce housing need for as many as 530,000 households. It will also protect 385,000 community housing units, expand the stock by another 55,000 units and reduce chronic homelessness by 50% by 2028. An overview of the results can be found here: https://www.placetocallhome.ca/progress-on-the-national-housing-strategy.

 

The Strategy supports the construction of affordable rental housing through initiatives such as the Rapid Housing Initiative and the Rental Construction Financing Initiative. This initiative encourages a stable supply of affordable rental housing across the country for families struggling in expensive housing markets. To date, the Rental Construction Financing Initiative has committed to the creation of 14 200 affordable rental units, with an additional $12 billion in funding proposed in the Government’s Fall Economic Statement of 2020. It is expected that this additional funding will create 28,500 rental units across Canada.

 

The new $1 billion Rapid Housing Initiative will rapidly create up to 3,000 new affordable homes for Canada’s most vulnerable populations, who have been particularly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes women and children fleeing violence, seniors, young adults, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, people dealing with mental health and addiction issues, veterans, LGBTQ2+, racialized groups and recent immigrants and refugees. The Rapid Housing Initiative covers the construction of modular housing, the acquisition of land, and the conversion of existing buildings to affordable housing, and is available to municipalities, provinces, territories, Indigenous governing bodies and organizations, and non-profit organizations.

 

Furthermore, the Government remains dedicated to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development’s mandate letter commitment to support the development of an urban Indigenous housing strategy. This work will require a coordinated and culturally informed approach, the scope and details of which have yet to be determined. We will work with Indigenous housing and service providers, National Indigenous organizations, other federal departments and other orders of government to help fill housing gaps in urban, rural and northern Indigenous housing.

 

Rest assured, helping Canadians find sound, suitable and sustainable housing is a priority for the federal government. Ultimately, the National Housing Strategy will promote diverse communities and create a new generation of housing that is mixed-income, mixed-use, accessible and sustainable. Safe, affordable housing is a launch-pad for better socio-economic outcomes for our citizens, a more inclusive society where everyone has the opportunity to be well and to succeed, a stronger economy and a cleaner environment.

Open for signature
September 8, 2020, at 10:14 a.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
October 8, 2020, at 10:14 a.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East)
November 20, 2020 (Petition No. 432-00254)
Government response tabled
January 25, 2021
Photo - Jenny Kwan
Vancouver East
New Democratic Party Caucus
British Columbia
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