What the federal election results could mean for housing in Ontario
After a condensed 36-day campaign, the federal Liberal Party secured another minority government in the 2021 election. While the House of Commons composition will not be changing substantially, the Liberals made a number of housing-related commitments in their platform that could inform the federal approach to housing in the next mandate.
To help ensure the next minority Liberal government can pass confidence matters and key legislation, they will need to continue to rely on support from and negotiation with the official opposition (which will remain the Conservative Party), as well as the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Bloc Québécois. Find more on each party’s housing platform highlights here.
While ONPHA would have liked to have seen stronger commitments from all of the federal parties to invest in the renewal, growth, and sustainability of the community housing sector, we were pleased to see that housing was a central issue throughout the campaign, with each party making unprecedented commitments to tackling the housing and homelessness crises. ONPHA was proud to support the national, non-partisan Vote Housing campaign, which worked tirelessly to ensure that housing remained front and centre throughout the election campaign.
Read on to learn more about what the federal election results and campaign promises could mean for community housing in Ontario, including for urban, rural, and northern Indigenous housing, building and maintaining affordable stock, and ending chronic homelessness.
Urban, rural, and northern Indigenous housing
ONPHA was encouraged to see that four of the major federal parties recognized the need to implement a “For Indigenous, By Indigenous” national housing strategy. Under their new mandate, the Liberals have committed to work with Indigenous partners to co-develop an Urban, Rural, and Northern (URN) Indigenous housing strategy as a stand-alone companion to the National Housing Strategy, supported by dedicated investments (with $300 million initially committed). This would include the creation of a National Indigenous Housing Centre to ensure Indigenous governance and oversight of federal Indigenous housing programs, once fully realized.
For their part, the NDP committed to implementing and fully funding a co-developed Indigenous National Housing Strategy within the first 100 days in office, which may add some pressure on the new Liberal government to prioritize this commitment under their next mandate.
ONPHA’s Urban and Rural Indigenous Housing Plan for Ontario (URIHPO) identifies the need for at least 22,000 subsidized Indigenous-owned and operated units over the next 10 years to meet the growing housing needs of off-reserve Indigenous populations in Ontario alone. The initial $7.3 billion investment can save $14.3 billion in system efficiencies, through cost savings in social services, healthcare, shelter services, justice, and foster care, while significantly boosting Indigenous personal incomes through improved employment and education outcomes. The construction program will create 95,000 year-jobs in the construction sector and other industries, while adding $3.8 billion to the economy through construction multipliers.
With work underway to develop a community-led implementation strategy for the URIHPO, it is clear that significant, dedicated investments are required from federal, provincial, and municipal governments to meet the growing and diverse housing needs of Indigenous communities in URN areas. At the same time, it is critical to ensure Indigenous control, management, vision, and direction over Indigenous housing programs through a “For Indigenous, By Indigenous” approach.
For more on ONPHA’s recommendations related to URN Indigenous housing, see our submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee study.
Building and maintaining community housing
While committing to building, preserving, or revitalizing 1.4 million homes in the next four years, the Liberal platform only identifies the construction of 20,000 new affordable rentals and the repair of 130,000 units in critical disrepair. It also does not define the level of affordability of the units.
To meet these goals, the Liberals committed to permanently increase funding to the National Housing Co-Investment Fund by $2.7 billion over four years. This funding would support affordable housing providers in acquiring land and buildings to build and preserve units, accelerating critical repairs, and developing projects for marginalized groups, including women, youth, and persons with disabilities.
The Conservatives promised to build one million homes over the next three years, improve the Federal Lands Initiative (including releasing 15% of federally-held real estate for housing), and incentivize private donations to Community Land Trusts. For their part, the Bloc committed to invest in social, community, and affordable housing, improve the National Housing Strategy to support non-profits and co-ops in acquiring buildings, and prioritize federal surplus properties for deeply affordable housing.
The NDP committed to building 500,000 units of quality, affordable housing in the next 10 years, including social, community, and non-market housing. They also promised to support community housing construction with an additional $3 billion in available funding per year, along with streamlined application processes, greater access to federal resources and lands, and GST/HST exemptions on new affordable construction. This means we might expect additional pressure from the other parties to increase the number of affordable units and further support community housing construction in the next mandate.
Ontario alone needs to build at least 69,000 new affordable housing units and repair 260,000 community housing units by 2028, as demonstrated in ONPHA and the Cooperative Housing Federation of Canada’s Affordable Housing Plan for Ontario. However, the National Housing Co-Investment Fund has presented significant barriers for community housing providers, including financial restrictions, administrative burdens, and prohibitive construction requirements. We have also heard directly from members approved for Co-Investment funding that long timelines for disbursement are impacting projects on the ground.
While the Liberals promised a number of other initiatives to spur the construction of new housing (including a $4 billion Housing Accelerator Fund for large cities and $600 million to support the conversion of empty office and retail space), these initiatives are focused on market-based housing, which would not address the deep levels of affordability required to meet current needs.
Ending chronic homelessness
Beyond the additional $567 million over two years for Reaching Home: Canada’s Homeless Strategy outlined in Budget 2021, the Liberals committed to appointing a Federal Housing Advocate within the first 100 days of their new mandate to meet their goal of eliminating chronic homelessness (with a 50% reduction by 2027) and advancing the right to housing.
The Conservatives promised to implement a Housing First approach, combat veteran homelessness by exploring the expropriation of surplus military housing, and invest $325 million over the next three years for 1,000 residential drug treatment beds and 50 recovery community centres. Beyond additional federal investments for homelessness in Québec, the Bloc committed to permanently maintain the level of federal funding for homelessness provided during the pandemic. The NDP committed to fully implementing the right to housing and ending homelessness within a decade, and fast-tracking the purchase, lease, and conversion of hotels and motels for emergency housing relief until more permanent, community-based solutions are available.
Despite these significant commitments, the Green Party’s was the only platform that mentioned permanent supportive housing, committing to invest in the construction and operation of 50,000 units over 10 years. Supportive housing is widely considered to be one of the key policy responses required to address homelessness. Ontario has less than half of the supportive housing units required for mental health and addictions alone, not including persons with other disabilities nor the growing needs related to COVID-19. Waitlists range up to seven years and a minimum of 30,000 new supportive housing units are required to meet this need in Ontario alone.
While we’re glad to see strong commitments toward ending chronic homelessness, including through the appointment of a Federal Housing Advocate, sustainable investments in supportive housing are critical to ensuring those goals are met.
Curtailing the financialization of housing
The Liberal platform, while focused strongly on home ownership, also made commitments to curtail the financialization of housing, including:
- reviewing the tax treatment of large corporate landlords (such as Real Estate Investment Trusts);
- curbing excessive profits;
- deterring unfair rent increases;
- reviewing down payment requirements for investment properties;
- and expanding the upcoming non-resident vacancy tax to include foreign-owned vacant land within large urban areas.
ONPHA supports all efforts to curb the financialization of housing, and continues to recommend that housing-related revenues be reinvested in the growth, preservation, and operation of community housing. However, investment to increase the stock of non-market housing is also vitally important to combat financialization and ensure long-term affordability.
ONPHA’s next steps
ONPHA is preparing to welcome the new Liberal cabinet ministers, and will continue advocating for immediate, sustainable investment in Indigenous-led URN housing solutions, community housing renewal and growth, and an integrated approach to supportive housing with all levels of government.
If you have any questions about the election results or want to share feedback to inform ONPHA’s advocacy, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.