Revisiting ONPHA’s Recommendations for the National Housing Strategy
Over the summer and fall of 2016, the federal government launched nationwide consultations on the development of Canada’s first National Housing Strategy. Relying on the perspectives of our members across the province, ONPHA submitted seven overarching recommendations related to increasing and maintaining stock, addressing the needs of specific populations, and preserving the ability of non-profit housing providers and local housing corporations to provide affordable housing.
As the sector gears up for the release of the Strategy, here is a summary of what we recommended be included:
- Preserve stock, fund new development, and increase the capacity of the community-based non-profit housing sector
In our submission we detailed the contributions that non-profit housing providers and local housing corporations have made to the sector, as well as some of the diverse challenges they are facing in today’s changing environment. ONPHA recommended that the federal government ensure that two dedicated, consistent, long-term, stable and robust funding streams are created specifically for renovation/repair of existing housing stock and for new affordable rental housing development, including new supportive housing.
- Recognize the growing need for supportive housing
We know that there is not enough supportive housing to meet increasing demand, so we recommended that the government undertake a systematic approach to identify needs and offer supports. We also recommended that the federal government engage in cross-ministerial collaboration to coordinate housing and support.
- Address the housing needs of Indigenous people
Canada’s Indigenous population has greater housing and health needs than the non-Indigenous population, but has been highly underserved by prior programs. Therefore, we recommended that the federal government create a meaningful action plan and dedicated funding stream to address the serious challenges that this population is faced with. Specifically, we recommended that: a range of housing options are made available; End of Operating Agreements (EOA) are addressed; dedicated funding for culturally appropriate supports is introduced; and Indigenous governance structures are respected.
- Define the federal interest, reflect that interest in ministerial roles, and work with provinces to connect strategies effectively
ONPHA recommended that the National Housing Strategy define the government’s interest in housing, and ensure that this interest is reflected in the mandates of federal ministers, departments and agencies. We recommended that the government ensure that federal action connect seamlessly with provincial, territorial and local strategies. ONPHA also indicated that the lack of knowledge about Canada’s housing landscape both reflects and stalls the development of housing policy and strategy, and stressed the need for improved access to relevant and current data.
- Create greater incentives for energy and climate change retrofits and initiatives that help housing providers reduce their operating costs
We recommended that the government recognize the link between housing operating costs and energy efficiency, and that the National Housing Strategy include funding and incentives for energy and climate change retrofits for the social housing sector. We stressed that this will contribute to the overall sustainability of social housing, and to Canada’s ability to achieve their broader climate change commitments.
- Preserve tax exemptions, rebates and rent subsidies
We recommended that the federal government ensure that the tax-exempt treatment of non-profit housing programs continue to ensure affordability for tenants, and that the federal government continue subsidizing rents to ensure that housing programs can continue offering affordable housing.
- Incent the private sector to develop more affordable rental housing stock in partnership with the community-based non-profit housing sector
In our submission, ONPHA raised pros and cons of both supply (i.e. private sector and non-profit housing stock) and demand (i.e. rent supplements, allowances and portable benefits) approaches. Ultimately, we recommended that both are needed in conjunction with one another, and that communities are in the best position to determine and implement the tools and measures that will be most effective for their local contexts. In terms of incenting private sector development of affordable housing, we suggested that increased affordable rental supply could be promoted through measures such as capital grants and tax credits.
What we know about the National Housing Strategy so far:
Last year on National Housing Day, the federal government released a summary report on the National Housing Strategy consultations. In this report, the government identified several themes and priorities from the consultation process, and made a commitment to exploring ways to bring what they heard into action.
Then, in their 2017 Budget, the federal government committed significant investment towards the forthcoming National Housing Strategy. ONPHA previously provided a summary of what was revealed in the Budget, and identified several unanswered questions we hope will be resolved when the Strategy is released.
The release date of the National Housing Strategy has yet to be confirmed, but we are keeping a close eye and will keep ONPHA members informed about any new developments. Be sure to stay tuned to ONPHA’s communication channels for updates as they are known.
 Our submission uses the term “Indigenous” to refer to people who lived here before European contact. It includes people who identify as First Nations, Métis or Inuit. We also use the words “Native” and “Aboriginal” as these are terms used by government to deliver various social housing programs in the past.