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Canada needs a national right to housing strategy

In 2022, the National Housing Strategy passed its five year mark since the federal government released the 10-year, $72 billion National Housing Strategy in 2017 to reverse Canada's housing and homelessness crisis. That figure has now jumped to $82+ billion.

At its halfway point, the Auditor General's report adds to the growing evidence that the Strategy is far behind on its goals of halving core housing need and eliminating homelessness by 2030, and it is not meeting the needs of Indigenous peoples and disadvantaged groups.

The world is a very different place than it was when the Strategy was introduced. We have experienced an unprecedented pandemic and resulting economic crisis that have exposed the fragility of Canada's housing system. The number of people falling through the tattered safety net has grown. Those facing disadvantage are falling further behind. The number of people experiencing homelessness who are First Nations, Inuit and Métis remains disproportionate.

Housing is a fundamental human right for every person in Canada. The National Housing Strategy Act recognized this right in Canadian law for the first time in 2019, after the Strategy was released. The Act requires the government of Canada to develop and maintain a National Housing Strategy to advance this right.

It is time to update the Strategy to reflect these realities, correct its failings, and prioritize the human right to housing for those in greatest need.

The National Housing Strategy belongs to every person in Canada who is experiencing homelessness, facing eviction, living in sub-standard conditions, confronting discrimination, or struggling to afford housing costs.

It is our best chance to address persistent failings in our housing system and uphold the human right to housing for people facing housing insecurity and homelessness.

It is our housing strategy—let's make it work for us.

Recommendations I – National Housing Strategy

The Federal Housing Advocate calls on the Federal Government to make the following changes to the National Housing Strategy (NHS):

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Detailed recommendations are available in Annex A.