Ottawa councillor applauds changes to national housing strategy

Changes by the federal government to its national housing strategy are being ​welcomed by the Ottawa city councillor responsible for tackling homelessness.

Cities will be able to spend money with fewer restrictions

The federal government's changes to its national housing strategy should mean more flexibility for municipalties to spend federal money to tackle homelessness. (Canadian Press)

Changes by the federal government to its national housing strategy are being ​welcomed by the Ottawa city councillor responsible for tackling homelessness. 

The new rules announced Monday give municipalities more money and more flexibility to spend federal money on local initiatives to cut the number of chronic homeless people.

"We're extremely pleased with the changes," said Diane Deans, chair of the city's community and protective services committee. "We certainly welcome the re-entry of the federal government into this important work."

Among the changes announced is the ability for cities to spend money with fewer restrictions.

"We like that they're putting emphasis on data-driven and performance-based programs. It's a strategy that aligns with what we're already doing at the City of Ottawa," said Deans.

While the federal government also announced additional funding of $2.1 billion over the next decade, Deans and other local officials will have to wait for exact details on how that money will be distributed.

"We look forward to working with the federal government over the next number of months to have a better understanding of what this means for us," said Deans.

Councillor Diane Deans fully supports the federal government's changes to its national housing strategy. (CBC)

Local non-profit happy with changes

The new rules and fewer restrictions are also being welcomed by the Multifaith Housing Initiative, an Ottawa non-profit that builds and manages affordable housing.

"I love the flexibility," said Suzanne Le, executive director of the Multifaith Housing Initiative. "This bypasses the province and comes straight from the federal government to the municipality. I think that is a wonderful thing for us."

"In Ontario specifically, we've just had a change of government, and we don't know how the change of government is going to affect affordable housing," said Le. "It gives us some security that we know that there's going to be a continued investment that we can access for affordable housing."

While she applauds the federal government for streamlining the funding process, Le would like to see the federal government attach some guidelines to funding when it comes to building housing for certain groups, namely veterans, Indigenous peoples, and victims of domestic abuse.   

Le worries these populations don't qualify for special funding, even though the federal government considers them a priority.

"If the municipality was releasing this federal money in a request for proposal, we would be ineligible to build a veterans' house, because veterans are not a municipal priority population," said Le. 

"I would like to see this money come with some kind of direction given to it."

The waiting list for an affordable housing unit in Ottawa currently has 10,000 people on it. 

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Giacomo Panico

CBC Reporter and Host

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