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 November, 2003
Community Spotlight: Post-Election Newfoundland and Labrador Looking to Continue the Momentum
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador housing advocates are ‘eagerly and nervously’ awaiting a new housing minister to be appointed after its Liberal government was toppled by the Conservative Party under the leadership of Danny Williams on Oct. 21st. Before last month’s election, the province had changed governments only twice in its 54 years since joining Canada.
Jocelyn Greene, executive director of Stella Burry Community Services in St. John’s, is hoping to keep up the momentum set in place by the SCPI (Supporting Community Partnership Initiatives) process. “We are very much waiting to hear whether the new government will continue with the direction set by the Liberal government -- which was to partner with the non-profits,” said Greene.
Although the topic did not come out in the debates, Greene says she is hopeful with the language that the new government has been using that non-profits will see a full $50,000 per unit of affordable housing money to support the projects they ultimately develop. She says the new premier-elect, Danny Williams, has said he wants to continue non-profit partnerships certainly in the area of supportive housing. She says community partners will be start talks with the government as soon as the new cabinet is appointed.
Newfoundland affordable housing advocates are proud of the new web of community partnerships that came out of SCPI. When the federal fund for homelessness relief was first announced, it was designated for Canada’s 10 major cities -- not a penny was earmarked for Newfoundland and Labrador. Greene and her associates lobbied the government and successfully got $2.13 million in SCPI funding as part of a $4.29 million package to fight homelessness.
Bruce Pearce, a community development worker, was hired to bring people together. Aside from facilitating many partnerships, Pearce helped organize a conference in St. John’s and put out a slick publication that laid out the community plan to fight homelessness along with pictures and profiles of the different projects and initiatives happening in the city. The publication circulated in the city’s daily newspaper.
Among the projects that the community developed:
* A complete renovation of a rundown boardinghouse that had been the site of a murder. The project included 14 long-term self-contained units with fridges, microwaves and private bathrooms and a ground-floor office for a community development worker. Among the partners is Corrections Canada, which pays $15,000 a year to help maintain two units for troubled women coming out of prison. The project also includes a community garden.
* Six units of second stage housing for women and children fleeing from family violence to be added to a shelter for battered women.
* A facility to house a variety of youth-serving agencies that are currently scattered all over the city. The building will also be home to a nine-bed shelter for young men.
* A new building for the Native Friendship Centre, currently crammed into a storefront area. The new building will also serve as a shelter with 10 bedrooms and a kitchen.
* A retrofit to make a transitional house for people coming out of hospital or prison, wheelchair accessible.
* A Labrador shelter for women and children fleeing violence.
Housing Hopes Rise in Ontario
Housing advocates are waving an exuberant ‘good bye’ to a Conservative government that stripped legislative protections for tenants and cut funding for social housing in favour of a ‘market solution’ that didn’t materialize.
Meetings are already being arranged between housing advocates, newly appointed Liberal Party cabinet ministers and civil service staff. “We are certainly pleased the Liberals were elected with a series of promises -- to fund new affordable supply; to enhance rent regulations and tenant protection; and to provide new housing allowances for low-income households -- if they follow through, this will be a substantial step to build a new housing policy for Ontario,” said Michael Shapcott co-chair of the National Housing and Homelessness Network. So far, Shapcott says, everybody appears to be committed to moving ahead with this agenda.
But along with high hopes comes a dose of reality. Shapcott was quick to remind the Bulletin that the Liberal promises are modest when set against the backdrop of a quarter of a million tenant households in the province that can’t afford the rent. He says the situation will still be dire if the new government simply does what it says and doesn’t push ahead with new solutions to the province’s housing crisis.
Already, there is a lot of work ahead. The Liberals have begun the process to repeal the former Conservative government’s Tenant Protection Act, which allowed landlords to charge whatever the market would bear for vacant units and resulted in excessive rent increases. The Liberals have proposed a new system of rent regulation that will kick in if the vacancy rate dips below three per cent. Shapcott says advocates are telling the government that this system has the potential to be “horrendously complex” and are skeptical that this new system would work.
The Liberals have also promised to supply 20,000 new affordable housing units in the next three years -- but the money they’ve stepped forward with isn’t enough. Shapcott says the previous government’s plan to stimulate the building of new affordable housing has to be tossed out because it is unworkable.
In an effort to rally community support and creativity around these projects, the University of Toronto’s Centre for Urban and Community Studies is holding a series of policy options forums. The next forum, scheduled on Nov. 13th, will focus on rent regulation. While located in Toronto, the forum will include a live Web cast for remote participants to watch the proceedings on video, view the power point presentations and send in questions and comments to an online moderator who will share them with the rest of the forum participants. The Centre will be setting up a special Web site and participants are asked to register.
For further information contact Michael Shapcott
Quebec Decreases Number of Units in Affordable Housing Program
As the clock ticks and costs rise, the number of affordable housing units promised by Quebec under the new national affordable housing program is decreasing.
The province’s initial promise was that 13,000 housing units would be built, of which 11,500 (or 88 per cent) would be social housing units. The rest of the money would subsidize private development.
But costs have increase since that announcement several years ago. While the previous Parti Quebecois government had pledged to step forward with more money to cover the cost increases and maintain the promise, the newly elected Liberals have not contributed the extra money needed. As a result, according to figures provided by the Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU), the total has dropped to 11,845 units and the percentage of social housing units has dropped to 8,920 units (75 per cent).
Lucie Porrier, FRAPRU spokesperson says according to the group’s latest statistics, the province needs to build 23,000 units to curb its housing shortage. FRAPRU is lobbying the government to commit to 8,000 new social housing units per year.
Quebec Tenant Groups Boycott Rent Control Consultation
Quebec is reviewing its rent control regulations and changes can be expected by December, according to rental board spokesperson Pierre Marchand.
Tenant groups are protesting the process and have boycotted the consultations. The groups are protesting the fact that the study is being conducted by a private firm which will not be making its report public before presenting it to the rental board, which will then make recommendations to the province’s minister responsible for housing.
“We want a public consultation. We didn’t participate in this private consultation because we wanted to say straight away that this is much too important an issue to be dealt with behind closed doors.” said Lucie Porrier, spokesperson for FRAPRU.
FRAPRU is one of three tenant groups invited to contribute opinions on rent control. All three are boycotting the process.
The Quebec Rental Board spokesperson Pierre Marchand says the firm was chosen through the regular process with a public call for applicants published in the government’s MERX database. He says Roche was chosen because of its approach to the project and because of the experience of its project manager and team members. He said the Board decided that an outside firm would conduct the process so that feedback would be more objective.
Porrier says she understands that the firm has now given its recommendations to the Rental Board which has, in turn, given its recommendations to the minister responsible for housing. She said tenant groups have no idea what those recommendations will be. The minister, Marc Fournier, says he will tackle the issue next year. Tenant groups will continue to push for broader public discussion on the issue.
International Housing Conference to Land in Toronto in 2004
The University of Toronto’s Centre for Urban and Community Studies will host the 2004 International Housing Research Conference. The Housing and Built Environment Research Committee of the International Sociological Association, puts on the conference every two years to promote research and provide a communication forum for housing researchers.
Conference organizers have put out a call for papers.