By Stephen Fuhr
Over the past year, the federal government has worked closely with the provinces and territories and engaged broadly with Canadians, municipalities, Indigenous organizations, community organizations and the private sector on the development of a National Housing Strategy.
On November 22, the new National Housing Strategy was unveiled.
Funded through new and existing programs, the Strategy ensures many more Canadians will have access to adequate and affordable housing by reducing the financial stress of rising accommodation rates, helping communities renovate their housing stock, and providing more stable housing to persons who are homeless.
Priority will be given to the most vulnerable Canadians including women and children fleeing family violence, seniors, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, those dealing with mental health and addiction issues, veterans and young adults.
Housing needs vary greatly by community. In Kelowna-Lake Country affordable housing is challenged by a rising population, high rental rates and home prices, and a lack of affordable housing options.
The strategy will help our community in a number of ways: the proposed federal/provincial Canada Housing Benefit will provide affordability support directly to families and individuals including those currently living in social housing, those on a social housing wait-list, and those housed in the private market but struggling to make ends meet.
Additionally, through partnerships with the province, our municipalities, our non-profits, co-operatives and the private-sector, the new National Housing Co-Investment Fund will provide contributions and low interest loans to repair existing rental housing and build new affordable housing.
The Fund is also expected to create more shelter spaces for survivors of violence; transitional and supportive housing for those in need, and will help to make homeownership more affordable for modest income earners.
In the meantime, current housing needs are being addressed through a number of funding arrangements including the Canada BC Affordable Housing Agreement ,and the Homelessness Partnering Strategy, which currently provides $2.7 million over 5 years to support local homelessness initiatives in Kelowna-Lake Country.
Additionally, in Budget 2016, the government committed $2.2 billion to give more Canadians access to more affordable housing. Budget 2016 also provided funding for low-cost loans and new financing tools to encourage municipalities, housing developers and non-profit housing providers to develop more affordable rental housing units.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has characterized the new National Housing Strategy as a breakthrough for cities and communities, saying that it demonstrates the kind of federal leadership that local governments have been seeking for more than 20 years.
Municipalities appreciate long-term support as it helps them plan their own long-term solutions and I’m looking forward to working with Mayors Basran and Baker, and the community, to identify our greatest need and ensure Kelowna-Lake Country benefits as much as it can from available funding.
Our Government recognizes it has a responsibility to Canadians to work with all levels of government to preserve the existing supply of community-based housing, build a more modern and sustainable community housing system, and keep housing affordable for low-income households.
1.7 million Canadians are in some form of housing need and the National Housing Strategy (www.letstalkhousing.ca) will go a long way to addressing one of the most fundamental needs and basic rights of our citizens – a place to call home.
Stephen Fuhr is the Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country.
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