Liberals' $40B national housing plan to treat shelter as a human right

Canada's national housing strategy to be based on a 'right to housing.' Minister Duclos says the project will provide relief for 500,000 Canadians living in unaffordable or inadequate homes, but the NDP says the Liberals are touting 'an empty slogan.'
Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos rises in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Friday, May 6, 2016. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The federal minister in charge of a decade-long housing strategy says the plan will be based on a "right to housing" as he faces claims the Liberals are watering down the pledge.

The idea of seeing a right to housing as a human right is to provide recourse — either through tribunals or the courts — to anyone wrongfully denied an apartment or home for reasons such as ethnicity, religion, or gender identity.

It would also put pressure on governments to maintain their housing commitments and ensure a future federal government couldn't easily cancel the 10-year, multibillion-dollar national housing strategy unveiled in November.

The Liberals' first thoughts on the rights legislation are contained in a recently released discussion paper that coincided with the start of consultations.

The NDP accuses the Liberals of touting the right to housing as "an empty slogan," saying the document shows the government doesn't intend to follow through fully on the pledge.

Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says the Liberal plan rests on a human rights-based approach.

"These investments (will) reduce homelessness and take 500,000 Canadians out of housing that is either unaffordable or is inadequate, and that will be based on the right to housing," he said Monday in the House of Commons.

The strategy aims to reduce homelessness and provide better, more affordable housing nationwide. (Laura Meader/CBC)

The four pillars of the rights proposal would focus on inclusiveness by helping those in the greatest need; on accountability by requiring regular reporting to Parliament about national housing efforts; on participation through the creation of a national housing watchdog; and on non-discrimination to eliminate systemic issues that prevent people from finding a home.

Consultations on the proposal close June 1. The legislation is expected to be introduced later this year.

The national housing strategy takes $26 billion in promised new spending to go with previously promised funding and expected cash from provinces, territories and the private sector that combined to push spending over $40 billion.

All the spending is supposed to happen over the next 10 years, much of it after the 2019 election.