The Housing Again Bulletin, sponsored by Raising the Roof as a partner in Housing Again.
A monthly electronic bulletin highlighting what people are doing to put housing back on the public agenda across Canada and around the world, sponsored by Raising the Roof as part of the Housing Again partnership.
News for February, 2003
New Report: Housing Market is a Failure
Housing tenure and poverty are becoming linked more and more closely in a rental market where demand far exceeds supply. According to David Hulchanski, director of the Centre for Urban and Community Studies at the University of Toronto, this market relies on and reinforces a mechanism that works for owners but not for renters. The result is that many households are increasingly excluded from access to housing.
The report makes the case for the government to return to its role of intervening in the market to ensure Canada has an adequate supply of affordable housing for its citizens.
For more information visit http://action.web.ca/home/housing/alerts.shtml and click on the alert posted Jan. 17.
More information provided on the failed housing market
Adequate Welfare a Constitutional Right?
When Quebec resident Louise Gosselin took her provincial government to court for not providing adequate welfare, she made it to the Supreme Court but came up short on December 19. Five of the nine judges ruled that there was insufficient evidence in her case to support the interpretation that it is a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to deny low-income people sufficient welfare.
Nonetheless, anti-poverty groups are declaring the case a ‘ray of hope’ as Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin wrote in her decision that despite previous cases in which the Court has suggested otherwise, "one day, section seven (which states the right to life, liberty and security of the person) may be interpreted to include positive obligations."
For more information, see Housing Again Alerts posted Dec. 21st and 22nd.
Forces aligned for a favourable federal budget
The signs from Ottawa are encouraging these days, according to housing advocates who have been meeting with David Collenette, the new minister responsible for housing. Collenette has repeatedly said he is in favour of more federal funds for housing on top of the $680 million the federal government has already committed.
Michael Shapcott, a member of the National Housing and Homelessness Network who met with the minister, says the forces are aligned: a willing housing minister; a Throne Speech that has promised to extend SCPI and has given a general commitment to increase money for affordable housing; reports from the Conference Board of Canada that there will be federal surpluses of $8.7 billion for 2002-3 and $11.2 billion for 2003-4; the urgent need and strong advocacy for affordable housing in virtually every part of the country.
Housing advocates still continue to push for the One Per Cent Solution, a call for all levels of government to spend one per cent more of their existing total budgets on housing. What we will be more likely to see, says Shapcott, is that the CMHC will play a greater role in funding affordable housing. Currently the CMHC has surpluses of $400-$500 million from its mortgage insurance portfolio. This money could be dedicated to affordable housing rather than going back into the general treasury. Both the standing committee on finance and Judy Sgro’s urban issues task force have recommended this solution.
For more information on the Conference Board of Canada’s federal budget surplus estimate visit http://action.web.ca/home/housing/alerts.shtml and click on the alert posted Jan 11.
More information provided on the Conference Board of Canada’s federal budget surplus estimate
SCPI community report just in time for the budget
Communities from across the country report that the federal government’s Supportive Community Partnerships Initiative (SCPI) has been successful in fostering a ‘partnership culture.’
SCPI required communities to create a plan that showed the needs of homeless people in their areas, available services, and the areas where additional supports were needed. Through this process, communities had to pull on groups from different backgrounds to collaborate on the plan. A federal government report that surveyed 10 of the 61 participating communities, says this process was successful in creating new community networks around the issue of homelessness. SCPI has been recognized internationally by the UN-Habitat 2002 Dubai International Awards for Best Practices.
For more information visit http://action.web.ca/home/housing/alerts.shtml and click on the alert posted Dec. 14th. For a copy of the report visit:
Community Spotlight: Edmonton’s SCPI in action
Just over a year ago, on the evening of Friday November 30th, Debbie Saidman received news that crystallized, for her, the fact that Edmonton’s Housing Trust Fund is an initiative that works. Ten homeless families including a total of 36 children, were scheduled to move into long-term supportive housing the next day. The housing was made possible by the trust fund.
In two years, the Edmonton Housing Trust Fund and Saidman, its executive director, have helped birth 28 new capital projects nine emergency shelters, seven transitional housing projects and 12 long-term supportive housing projects. Saidman currently has two more projects on her plate.
The trust also funds ongoing projects such as the Family Shelter Network, a pilot project that puts homeless families up in motels and helps them find appropriate housing.
In order to continue the ongoing projects and move the two new projects forward, Saidman needs the federal government to come through on its promise to extend its Supporting Community Partnerships Initiative (SCPI). SCPI is officially winding down right now but in its most recent Throne Speech, the federal government promised to extend it. By how much, we will not know until the upcoming federal budget is tabled, likely next month.
"We’ve got momentum going," she said. "I hope that the SCPI money doesn’t take too long to come through so that we can keep it going."
What makes Edmonton’s trust fund unique is that it was established by a community coalition well before SCPI was announced. It was modeled after housing trust funds in the U.S. that have been established by communities as a permanently dedicated source of public revenue to support the production and preservation of affordable housing. Housing trusts are under community, not government, control.
In Edmonton, two government representatives, one from the city and one from the province are trustees, along with representatives from the homebuilders association, the local interfaith education centre and the community coalition that founded the fund.
Saidman says she thinks the trust-fund model should be developed across the country and that Canada should follow the U.S. in dedicating a permanent, legislated, funding source that is not beholden to the whims of budget chiefs.
The momentum in Edmonton is embodied in the new relationships that that the fund has helped to foster.
One such relationship now exists between two shelters that although had similar ultimate goals, had dramatically different mandates. The Hope Mission is a clean and sober shelter while the George Spady Centre shelters people who are intoxicated. A year ago the executive directors from the two shelters didn’t know each other.
This winter the Spady Centre ran out of space forcing it to turn away up to 45 people per night. With funding from the trust, the Hope Mission leased a trailer and created an overflow unit. Spady staff trained Mission staff to work with people who are intoxicated. Now, the Mission has plans to create a new centre with a basement shelter for intoxicated people; a main floor ‘clean and sober’ shelter; second floor transitional housing units; and self-contained supportive housing units on the top floor. Spady staff will again play a role in training Mission staff to deal with intoxicated clients.
Agencies such as the George Spady Centre and the Hope Mission have the same goals, so why does it take a housing trust to get them talking? Saidman says front-line organizations are constantly in crisis-mode, stretching limited resources to deal with overwhelming demand. It can be difficult for them to step back and see the possibilities for partnerships. So, the housing trust plays a critical role in looking at the ‘big community picture’ and calling agencies and other community stakeholders together as issues arise.
The Edmonton Housing Trust Fund was initially set up to create affordable housing. But when SCPI came along, its focus shifted. SCPI funding can only be used for homelessness solutions and not for affordable housing. Saidman has to continually answer to this limitation in angry calls and at community meetings. The trust fund is currently negotiating to administer Edmonton’s portion of the national affordable housing program money. Saidman says this would give it a chance to push its formula of community relationships to a new level partnerships between private and non-profit housing developers.
"There are lessons to be learned from both sectors as long as people approach it with an open mind and clear heart," she says with a laugh. "We need to work together because the problem is so big no one sector will be able to deal with it."
For more information about the Edmonton Housing Trust visit: www.ehtf.ca.
Edmonton Housing Trust