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“Let’s Talk Housing” report leaves many wondering what’s next

Affordable housing in Canada is in a state of crisis. Every year, more than 150,000 Canadians stay in an emergency shelter and 35,000 people are homeless each night. Considering the housing problem across the country, what is the federal government doing about it?

On National Housing Day on Tuesday, a report was released by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), based on of four months of consultation from 7000 Canadians. The report detailed various themes including affordable housing, indigenous issues, and funding of the housing strategy from a variety of stakeholders.

Though the report discussed a variety of important issues in Canada, it didn’t describe any concrete solutions to the housing crisis currently plaguing the country. It laid out a variety of housing issues that need to be solved, and was vague in scope when providing answers. The long-awaited report from months of consultations mostly gathered data from the online survey that was provided, which also asked vague questions such as whether low-income or sustainable housing was more important. It is now clear that the report seems to be more of a tool of distraction than to actually begin the process of providing affordable and sustainable housing solutions.

The report assessed how Canadians feel about housing across the country, which is useful for research though doesn’t begin to solve concrete housing issues. Social housing renewal, which consists of paying to fix current social housing, was ranked in the top four themes in every province and territory except Yukon, where it was instead voted as the least important issue. ‘Housing that contributes to Canada’s climate changes goals’ was ranked as the least important theme across the country. Interestingly, the survey response rate in Alberta and B.C far exceeded the overall population proportion where as in Ontario and Quebec it was the opposite. This indicates that the western provinces had a more responsive population per capita than Ontario and Quebec. Finding housing for vulnerable Canadians was voted as a top issue and will be a key commitment in the coming housing strategy.

Unfortunately, in the ‘Next Steps’ section of the report, little was offered to the public as to which ideas will be adopted. Instead, the 10 year housing strategy is due to be released in 2017 in time for the federal budget. This leaves many affordable housing associations in a limbo in the meantime while they wait for the government to make final decisions on which strategies will be adopted under the housing umbrella. The #letstalkhousing campaign and the resulting report left many disappointed because of its lack of direction towards next steps for the future of the housing crisis in Canada.

As a housing and sustainability reporter, it is frustrating to see how slowly the federal housing agenda is moving in developing a 10-year strategy. Homelessness and a lack of low-income housing is a key issue and needs to be a top priority in Canada. Immediate solutions are needed such as providing the much needed $1.7 billion to begin fixing homes that are falling apart under the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) and allowing municipalities to use dedicated funding to finding new housing solutions now instead of next year.

Though consultations and public participation are important, it should be a priority to make concrete decisions alongside collecting data instead of waiting so long to start making changes for Canadians desperate to find homes. The housing crisis needs to be dealt with in a more timely fashion, and hopefully in the meantime cold Canadians on the street can keep themselves warm with the pages of the housing report.