Federal legislation needed to declare housing a 'right,' says coalition

A coalition that includes advocates for Canada's poor is calling on the Trudeau government to enshrine the right to housing in law.

'Canada must live up to our international human rights commitments and have a legislated right to housing'

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, centre, announces the Liberal government's National Housing Strategy in Toronto on Nov. 22, 2017. (David Donnelly/CBC)

A coalition that includes advocates for Canada's poor is calling on the Trudeau government to enshrine the right to housing in law.

And if the Liberals are struggling to write such legislation, the group says it has conveniently written a bill for their consideration.

The coalition of 170 prominent Canadians and organizations says its draft legislation is consistent with international human rights law.

The prime minister announced details last fall of his government's decade-long national housing strategy, which included the introduction of a housing benefit for families that won't kick in until after the 2019 federal election.

The strategy also included a promise to introduce new legislation requiring the government to report to Parliament on housing targets and outcomes; and it promised that 100,000 new affordable housing units would be built and another 300,000 existing affordable housing units repaired.

However, there was no mention of declaring housing a "right."

An open letter from housing advocates released today says it's time the government did just that.

The letter, written by several groups including Amnesty International Canada and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, is supported by the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to housing, said alliance president Tim Richter.

Time to act

"We've come together to show the prime minister that there is broad-based support for legislated recognition of the right to housing and to offer a way forward," Richter said in a written statement, calling Canada's housing and homelessness crisis the result of a failure to protect human rights.

"If we're serious about fixing this crisis, then Canada must live up to our international human rights commitments and have a legislated right to housing as the foundation of our National Housing Strategy."

Roughly 235,000 people experience homelessness in Canada every year while over 1.7 million Canadian households are living in unsafe, unsuitable or unaffordable buildings, according to the coalition.

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