Federal budget's $2.3B for non-profit housing welcomed by co-ops

“We need 80,000 new rental units over the next five years and 25,000 of those need to be subsidized. … And that’s a tremendous challenge,” said Thom Armstrong, executive director of the Co-op Housing Federation of B.C.

First time in 23 years federal government put new money into rental, non-profit and co-op housing

Finance Minister Bill Morneau's first budget allocated $2.3 billion for rental, non-profit and co-operative housing in Canada, the first new money the federal government has allocated to this sector in 23 years. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

The executive director of the Co-op Housing Federation of B.C. says Tuesday's budget re-engages the federal government in non-profit housing in a way not seen in two decades.

Thom Armstrong says it's been 23 years since a federal government invested new money in rental, non-profit and co-operative housing in Canada, and the $2.3 billion announced yesterday for those housing models brings the feds back in a big way.

"We've been dealing with two decades of inaction and inattention at the federal level," he told On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko. "So you can't dig your way out of a two-decade hole in one budget, but this budget certainly makes a good start at it."

B.C. alone has about 14,500 units of co-op homes, and Armstrong says at least a third of all units in any co-op complex have residents paying rent geared to income. He says this has made even upkeep of existing units a challenge without stable federal funding.

'This is a very, very welcome reassurance'

Now that the federal government has committed some cash, Armstrong says, it's time for the other levels of government to re-evaluate their spending on non-profit and co-operative housing.

Thom Armstrong is the executive director of the Co-op Housing Federation of B.C. (CBC)

"It's going to take all three levels to address this burgeoning crisis in affordable housing," he said "We need 80,000 new rental units [in B.C.] over the next five years and 25,000 of those need to be subsidized. … And that's a tremendous challenge."

Armstrong says a particular relief for him was the announcement of a $30 million bridge fund for co-op renters on rent assistance who were facing the end of their assistance.

That funding will give those on assistance an extra two years of the status quo while a new agreement is negotiated between the federal government and the province.

"If you're a single parent or someone with a disability or a new Canadian or a senior on a limited or fixed income, and you see the prospect of your home becoming unaffordable overnight, this is a very, very welcome reassurance that you're not going to become homeless when your federal program agreement expires."

With files from On The Coast


To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: After 23 years away, budget brings federal gov't back into co-op picture

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