There are new troubling numbers on just how much British Columbia receives in funding from the federal government for housing projects supporting the homeless compared to other provincial jurisdictions.
These findings provided to Daily Hive Urbanized, unearthed by Jenny Kwan, the federal NDP MP for the riding of Vancouver East, show BC has only received 0.5% of the funding, despite the gravity of the crisis in Victoria and Vancouver, especially the Downtown Eastside and its adjacent areas. This amounts to just $7.4 million combined for two new projects in BC.
In comparison, over 50% of the federal government’s agreements were made in Ontario, and nearly all of the funding — $1.34 billion out of the awarded $1.47 billion — went to a single application from Toronto Community Housing, an entity of the City of Toronto, for the repair and renewal of 58,861 existing units.
Altogether, Ontario received nearly $1.4 billion in funding, when 10 other projects creating 344 new units with about $51 million in federal support are also included.
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This is all part of the National Housing Co-investment Fund (NHCF) under the National Housing Strategy that was highly touted upon its initiation in 2017. Its intent is to assist not-for-profit housing operators with the cost of improving existing units or building new units.
“To say the least, this fails to recognize the housing crisis that has impacted Vancouver and communities in my riding particularly hard,” wrote Kwan in a letter to Ahmed Hussen, the federal minister of Families, Children, and Social Development, and the Liberal MP for the riding of York South-Weston in Toronto. Kwan’s riding includes the Downtown Eastside, Strathcona, Hastings-Sunrise, Mount Pleasant, and Grandview-Woodland neighbourhoods.
“In light of our dire housing situation, the extremely low uptake on the program across the country, in particular in the case of British Columbia, is indicative that the problem does not meet or address Canada’s core housing needs and crisis. Your government’s current strategy is both utterly inadequate and ineffective for British Columbia. The homelessness crisis will only escalate. If your government claims to take the housing and homelessness crisis in Canada seriously, every effort must be made to be a true partner with non-profit housing providers, municipalities, provinces and territories. The status quo is not good enough. Bold action is required, and your government’s strategy for BC must immediately change.”
Manitoba has received more than BC, with a single project creating 110 new units being allocated with $25.6 million in federal funding.
The other jurisdictions that received funding are New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nunavut. Alberta and Quebec have not received any funding to date.
Of the total 432 proposals received from non-profit housing operators across the country for the NHCF, the aforementioned represents just 23 approved funding agreements.
For this reason, Kwan is also taking issue with the lengthy processing timelines, with the approved funding agreements to date taking up to 519 days for approval and averaging 400 days.
On June 17, Kwan sought a 50-50 cost sharing agreement between the federal and BC governments for quickly acquiring housing to help address the growing homeless encampments in Vancouver, but the request was immediately rejected by the governing party in the House of Commons.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government suggested BC should use the $13.5 million in federal funding allocated to Vancouver to house the homeless population, but Kwan asserted this funding was intended for emergency measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — such as PPE, cleaning supplies, and physical barriers — in emergency shelters and existing social housing buildings, not new housing.
Kwan adds a similar trend that primarily benefits Ontario can be seen with the federal Rental Construction Financing initiative, as about 73% of the dollar value of the total loans made so far — 13 of the 28 approved projects — are located in that province, based on data ending in January 2020.
The various housing program allocations to BC compared to Ontario are deemed to be highly disproportionate based on the provincial population of both jurisdictions and the severity of the homelessness and opioid crisis on the West Coast.