The federal government has announced the details of its ten-year national housing strategy, which includes the introduction of a housing benefit for families that won't kick in until after the next federal election.

"[This is a] new, innovative plan that re-establishes the role the federal government must play in housing," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in announcing the plan in Toronto.

"Housing rights are human rights, everyone deserves a safe and affordable place to call home."  

The ambitious plan promises to tackle everything from homelessness, the shortage of new housing units and repairs to existing units over the next decade, including:

  • Building 100,000 new affordable housing units.
  • Repairing 300,000 affordable housing units.
  • Cutting chronic homelessness by 50 per cent.
  • Protecting 385,000 households from losing an affordable home.
  • Providing 300,000 households with financial assistance through the Canada Housing Benefit.
  • Removing 530,000 households from housing need.

Most of the funding for the plan was already announced in the 2017 budget and will therefore not have any impact on the federal government's fiscal plan.  

The exception is the $4 billion Canada Housing Benefit, which the federal government says will help families by providing an average rent subsidy of $2,500 annually beginning in April 2020 and concluding in 2028.

Trudeau defends timing of housing funding0:25

Half of the $4 billion that will be spent by 2028 will come from the provinces and territories with the other half coming from the federal government. The government says the benefit will help support 300,000 households by 2028.

The strategy was developed with a gender-based analysis and promises to provide affordable housing for senior women and women fleeing domestic abuse. Some 25 per cent of investments under the strategy will be targeted towards women and girls. 

The strategy also includes a promise to introduce new legislation that "will require the federal government to maintain a National Housing Strategy and report to Parliament on housing targets and outcomes."

A new federal housing advocate will be tasked with advising the federal government and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) of possible solutions to the affordable housing shortage. 

The federal government has revealed the details of its ten-year, multibillion-dollar national housing strategy6:52

The strategy also promises to create a national housing council to help the government keep the national housing strategy on the rails. There will also be a national communications campaign that over a "multi-year" period would help better inform "public views on different housing types and tenures."

National housing co-investment fund

The strategy includes $15.9 billion for a national housing co-investment fund that will provide $4.7 billion in financial contributions and $11.2 billion in low interest loans to developers that meet certain criteria including ensuring that: 

  • 30 per cent of units in a development will rent for less than 80 per cent of median market rents for at least 20 years.
  • At least a 25 per cent reduction in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions over national building and energy codes.
  • 20 per cent of units meet accessibility standards.

The federal government's support will not come by way of monetary commitments alone, but will include a $200 million transfer of federal lands to housing providers on condition that they meet environmental, socioeconomic and affordability standards. 

This funding envelope will, the government says, help build 60,000 of the promised 100,000 new affordable housing units, repair 240,000 of the 300,000 units in need of renovations, create 7,000 shelter places, 12,000 new affordable units for seniors and another 2,400 affordable units for people with developmental disabilities. 

'A breakthrough'

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was critical of the strategy insisting that the shortage of available housing across the country is a crisis, and pushing off spending until after the next election was not "really addressing the seriousness of this crisis." 

"At a time when we need bold action what we're seeing is basically a timid plan," said Singh.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was also critical, saying that while the plan is good to help "those who are less fortunate" it does nothing for those seeking to jump into the property market. 

Singh reacts to Liberals housing strategy0:30

"Today's announcement fails to help the growing number of Canadians who are struggling to save for their first home and keep up with Justin Trudeau's tax hikes," Scheer said in a statement. 

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, FCM, however, welcomed the plan insisting it will tackle the housing crisis at its roots. 

"The national housing strategy released this afternoon is a breakthrough for cities and communities from coast to coast to coast," said FCM president Jenny Gerbasi. "This is the kind of federal leadership that local governments have been seeking for more than 20 years."