The recommendations the Federal Housing Advocate made over the course of 2022–2023 are included throughout this report. They are compiled here and include the following:
Recommendations I – National Housing Strategy
The Federal Housing Advocate calls on the Federal Government to make the following changes to the National Housing Strategy:
- Provide better housing for Indigenous peoples, no matter where they live. The Strategy must address Canada's legacy of colonialism that results in systemic housing inequality for Indigenous people. This includes:
- Most urgently, it must support the rapid development and delivery of an adequately funded for-Indigenous, by-Indigenous Urban, Rural and Northern Indigenous Housing strategy.
- It must ensure that distinctions-based strategies adequately equip Indigenous governments to respond to the housing crises in their communities.
- It must uphold Canada's international human rights obligations to Indigenous Peoples, in particular the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and it must respond to the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Calls to Justice of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry.
- Make programs purpose-built to address the needs of people experiencing inadequate housing and homelessness, and ensure that they show measurable results for people most in need, including the Strategy's priority groups. For example:
- The Strategy must expand the Canada Housing Benefit to reach everyone in core housing need, to help them cope with rising inflation and stay housed.
- The Strategy must establish clear targets, timelines and measurement frameworks for reducing core housing need and ending homelessness for all priority populations, and provide regular, public progress reports, using disaggregated data.
- Its programs must embed an intersectional Gender-based Analysis Plus approach to reach those who are most marginalized in the current housing system, particularly women and 2SLGBTQIA+ persons as well as people who are Black, Indigenous, racialized, disabled, low-income immigrants, refugees and refugee claimants, older adults and youth. Programs must also provide equal benefit these groups; for example, correcting the shortfall in gender-specific shelter spaces for women and gender-diverse people.
- It must apply a standard definition of affordable housing based on the incomes of households experiencing core housing need and homelessness—not average market rents or average incomes of the whole population—with a goal that low-income households should not be spending more than 30% of total income on shelter costs.
- It must build on the success of the Rapid Housing Initiative and pandemic income replacement programs—these prove that it is possible to house people experiencing homelessness and reduce core housing need.
- Prioritize the development and acquisition of housing supply that is permanently affordable and provides community value. Research shows that less than five percent of housing units produced by the largest NHS capital programs are affordable to households experiencing core housing need and homelessness. Instead of unnecessarily financing what the market is already producing, NHS investments must return community value through housing that is affordable, accessible, and suitable for people excluded from the housing system. For example:
- It must take immediate action to stop the loss of affordable housing, including an acquisition fund for the non-profit and co-op sector to preserve affordable supply and counter financialization.
- It must expand support for deeply affordable, non-market housing options to better target the needs of people experiencing inadequate housing or homelessness.
- It must streamline programs to make them more accessible for housing providers serving disadvantaged groups.
- Demonstrate the leadership role of the federal government and a coordinated approach to involve all levels of government in solving the housing crisis. The Strategy requires concerted action and leadership from the federal government as well as other orders of government to end the housing crisis. This includes:
- It must integrate a whole-of-government approach at the federal level, with all departments working alongside CMHC and Reaching Home.
- It must integrate principles of the right to housing in all government decisions including Memoranda to Cabinet, Treasury Board submissions, and drafting instructions for new laws, building on lessons from the federal government's leadership in the areas of Gender-based Analysis Plus and anti-racism.
- It must maintain the Community Based Tenant Initiative and take other measures to support the meaningful engagement of rights-holders in the design, monitoring, and evaluation of housing programs and policies.
- It must recognize the federal government's leadership role in working with other orders of government to deliver on obligations to progressively realize the right to adequate housing.
- It must amend the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Housing Partnership Framework and bilateral agreements to require that provinces and territories take a human rights-based approach to housing, and support them in meeting their human rights obligations.
- Programs such as Reaching Home and Rapid Housing Initiative must include human rights conditionalities and provide the resources municipalities need to respond to homelessness and encampments in compliance with human rights.
- It must establish a cycle of evaluation and continuous improvement in line with its triennial reporting obligations.
Recommendations II – 2023 Federal Budget
Prior to the release of the 2023 Federal Budget, the Federal Housing Advocate issued the following recommendations:
- That the Government ensure housing related budget initiatives are focused on fulfilling Canada’s commitments legislated in the National Housing Strategy Act (NHSA) to advance the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing.
- That the Government move expeditiously to address the housing crisis for Indigenous peoples from coast to coast to coast. Budget 2023 must deliver on the Government’s commitment to support the development and provide long-term funding for an urban, rural and northern (URN) Indigenous housing strategy that is for Indigenous and by Indigenous.
- That the Government undertake a thorough revision of the National Housing Strategy (NHS) to strengthen the overall Strategy and ensure programs are delivering on human rights commitments, particularly when it comes to targeting those in greatest need.
- That the Government demonstrate the leadership role of the federal government and a coordinated approach to involve all levels of government in solving the housing crisis.
Recommendations III – Housing Accelerator Fund
In order to align the Housing Accelerator Fund with the human rights obligations imposed by the National Housing Strategy Act, the Federal Housing Advocate recommends that the Fund:
- Prioritize the needs of people experiencing inadequate housing and homelessness, members of disadvantaged groups, and Indigenous peoples;
- Dedicate the maximum available resources to increasing the supply of adequate and affordable housing for these groups over the long term and to preventing the loss of affordable housing and neighbourhoods;
- Meaningfully involve affected communities, those most in need and Indigenous Peoples in the design, implementation and monitoring of the Fund;
- Adopt a human rights-based approach, with clear human rights-informed targets, timelines and indicators;
- Collect disaggregated data to understand the challenges and monitor results; and Submission to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities; and
- Ensure collaboration and coordinated action between federal, provincial, territorial, municipal and Indigenous governments on implementing a human rights-based approach to the Fund.
Recommendations IV – Financialization
The expert research commissioned by the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate identifies multiple measures to address financialization under five key areas:
- Tracking ownership and measure the impacts of financialization;
- Developing mechanisms to definancialize ownership;
- Suspending state subsidies and support to financialized landlords;
- Ensuring public pension funds promote social good through legislation; and,
- Developing enduring rent controls and tenant protections.
The Federal Housing Advocate urges decision makers to consider these options when examining solutions. At the HUMA Committee panel, the Advocate invites members to seek the views of the researchers and other witnesses about the specifics of their recommendations.
The Advocate recognizes this is a complex and technical area. The Advocate’s role is not to make specific policy prescriptions. Parliamentarians need to rely on the expertise of the public service to design policy solutions that will fulfill human rights obligations.
When determining policy responses, governments must put human rights at the centre.
The directives on financialization recommended by the international housing rights monitor The Shift also provide useful guidance for Parliamentarians.
Recommendations V – United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child
The Advocate urges the federal, provincial and territorial governments to take urgent action to follow up the Committee’s concluding observations and these two housing-related recommendations in particular:
- Clear measures and timelines needed to end homelessness among children
The Committee recommended that Canada address these gaps by strengthening its timelines and priorities to end child homelessness and guarantee all children from low-income families have stable access to adequate and affordable long-term housing.
- Revising eviction laws to protect the rights of children
The Committee recommended Canada revise provincial and territorial eviction laws to ensure that they prioritize the best interests of the child, and that all avenues to prevent evictions are pursued.
Recommendations VI – Women and gender diverse people
- Take urgent action to implement the Calls for Justice made by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action as they relate to access to safe, affordable and adequate housing for First Nations, Inuit and Métis women, girls, Two-Spirit and gender-diverse people.
- Ensure that definitions of homelessness for the purposes of defining federal, provincial, territorial and policies and programs reflect the distinct experiences of homelessness among women, girls, Two-Spirit and gender-diverse people, particularly those who are Indigenous.
Recommendations VII – Encampments
Governments and decision-makers at all levels must centre human rights and the right to housing in their approaches to encampments. The reports recommend five key areas where Canada must do better to uphold the rights of encampment residents:
- Stop the use of policing and law enforcement as a response to encampments.
- Provide funding and services at all levels of government—to support municipalities that are facing the disproportionate impact of addressing the existence of encampments, and to invest in short and long-term housing options and supports for encampment residents.
- Ensure the meaningful participation of encampment residents in decisions that affect them.
- Recognize the distinct rights of Indigenous Peoples and include them in the development of policy approaches to encampments.
- Address the conditions within encampments and provide access to basic services such as clean water, sanitation facilities, electricity and heat.
Recommendations VIII – Accessibility
- The Federal Housing Advocate recommends that all new housing units that receive government funding or incentives meet the minimum criteria of visitability (having a level entrance, and having wider doorways and hallways and a wheelchair accessible washroom on the entry-level floor).
- The Federal Housing Advocate calls for all new residential units built in Canada to meet the criteria of Universal Design as well as the minimal Building Code requirements for housing related to accessibility conversion, allowing for easy, less structurally complex, expensive and disruptive future accessibly renovations.
- The Federal Housing Advocate calls for the adoption of the Accessible Dwellings Standard by provinces and territories, ensuring the accessibility standards are legally enforceable with the aim of removing and preventing barriers in the built environment for persons with disabilities, and all people who use it.
Recommendations IX – People with disabilities
- As a matter of priority, broaden dedicated social and financial supports for people with disabilities as well as supportive housing in recognition of their unique needs and to ensure that they are able to maintain their dignity and independence. These supports must be inclusive and empower people to maintain a quality of life on par with people without disabilities. They should be more accessible geographically, including in remote and northern communities. Supports must also be reflective of inflation and interest rates.
- Take urgent steps to ensure adequate housing for people with disabilities. Adequate housing is defined as housing that is visitable, safe, accessible, habitable, culturally adequate, and affordable. Steps should include developing public policy to address the increasing cost of housing, including but not limited to the implementation of rent caps and the introduction of more non-market housing. Any new policies should be developed in collaboration with people with disabilities of diverse intersectional lived experiences and their advocates.
- Increase the percentage of fully accessible units required for new builds to receive federal funding to 100%.
- Develop a coordinated housing strategy between federal, provincial and municipal governments to clearly determine who is and is not responsible for providing housing solutions for people with disabilities. The goals of the National Housing Strategy and the National Housing Strategy Act require a collaborative effort across departments and jurisdictions to respond adequately to the needs of vulnerable populations, including people with disabilities. Jurisdictional confusion should never result in housing precarity for people with disabilities.
- Implement a clear strategy and committed timeline toward the deinstitutionalization of people with disabilities, including people with disabilities who are criminalized and institutionalized in inappropriate facilities such as hospitals, nursing or seniors’ homes and other long-term care facilities due to a lack of adequate community-based supports and services. The deinstitutionalization strategy should include a framework led by people with disabilities to ensure safe, accessible and affordable housing in the community, through public housing or rental subsidies, for persons leaving institutions.