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Engaging Parliamentarians

Housing Accelerator Fund

In June 2022, the Federal Housing Advocate submitted evidence to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of People with Disabilities (HUMA) on the topic of the Housing Accelerator Fund.

The Housing Accelerator Fund was announced in the 2021 Federal Budget, and earmarked $4 billion to help municipalities accelerate the supply of additional housing units across the country.

Her submission underlined the need for the fund to be designed, implemented and monitored using a human rights-based approach. People experiencing inadequate housing and homelessness must be at the centre of all considerations. It must improve housing outcomes for Indigenous Peoples as well as rural, remote and northern communities.

At the same time, the Advocate’s written statement emphasized that the Fund should “do no harm,” and careful consideration must be given to ensure it does not exacerbate the financialization of housing or contribute to the erosion of existing affordable housing stock.

The Advocate spoke about the importance of applying a human rights lens in implementing the fund, which includes affordability. The Committee echoed this emphasis, as several members spoke of the necessity that the fund be made more accessible, affordable and green.

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:

  1. Prioritize the needs of people experiencing inadequate housing and homelessness, members of disadvantaged groups, and Indigenous peoples;
  2. 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;
  3. Meaningfully involve affected communities, those most in need and Indigenous Peoples in the design, implementation and monitoring of the Fund;
  4. Adopt a human rights-based approach, with clear human rights-informed targets, timelines and indicators;
  5. Collect disaggregated data to understand the challenges and monitor results; and
  6. Ensure collaboration and coordinated action between federal, provincial, territorial, municipal and Indigenous governments on implementing a human rights-based approach to the Fund.

Detailed recommendations are available in Annex A.

Study on financialization

Last year, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of People with Disabilities (HUMA) announced it would review the impacts of financialization on Canada’s housing system.

Financialization, otherwise described as corporate investment in housing, is one of the major causes of the housing crisis and lack of affordable housing in Canada. The HUMA committee announced its intention to study financialization in October 2022. The adopted motion declared that it would examine “corporate ownership of single family homes, rent gouging and renovictions, and the impact of ‘real estate investment trusts’ (REITs) on the rental housing market.”

In particular, the Committee indicated that it would dedicate a panel to discussing the financialization of housing with the Federal Housing Advocate. It also called on the authors of six research reports commissioned by the Advocate’s office to provide expert testimony and present key findings contained in their research.

The Advocate looks forward to appearing before the Committee to share more information about the devastating, ongoing impact of the financialization of housing. The Advocate will also share her conclusions about how decision-makers and federal regulation can mitigate the harmful impacts of financialization.

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:

  1. Tracking ownership and measuring the impacts of financialization;
  2. Developing mechanisms to definancialize ownership;
  3. Suspending state subsidies and support to financialized landlords;
  4. Ensuring public pension funds promote social good through legislation; and,
  5. Developing enduring rent controls and tenant protections.

Detailed recommendations are available in Annex A.

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.