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 June, 2004
Community Spotlight: Keys to a Successful Land Trust in Calgary
A new community land trust in Calgary is about to launch its first project. The land trust is a not-for-profit, grassroots society that seeks and manages donations of land, buildings or money to buy land. It then provides the land for perpetually affordable housing. Coordinator Matthew MacNeil is identifying the factors that are critical to the success of land trusts.
“We are finding that existing affordable housing stock is being purchased and turned into higher-end condos. Trusts can pull land out of the speculative market and prevent the loss of future affordable housing stock,” MacNeil said.
Community Land Trusts own their lands so they have the ability to establish re-sale formulas on homes built on those lands. These formulas limit re-sale value to ensure homes stay affordable.
The first Calgary project will be carried out in partnership with Habitat for Humanity-Calgary. Twenty-seven low-income families will be able to own new homes in Dover, in the southeast area of the city.
Although these will be ownership homes, they will remain affordable because when a household chooses to sell, Habitat has ‘first right of refusal.’ Habitat will buy back these houses to make them available to other qualifying low-income families.
The group that put together the Calgary community land trust started with a six-month feasibility study, funded by the Alberta Real Estate foundation with additional support from the Calgary Homeless Foundation. After the study, it took about two years to get the structure of the trust together.
Key success factors include: a paid staff member and a board with representatives from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, as well as members from the home inspections, community development, law, health, business management, communications and environmental consulting sectors.
MacNeil says that the trust also has a solid business plan that is self-sustaining without the need for ongoing grants and government support though initial government buy-in was critical to give the community land trust the credibility it needed to get started.
MacNeil cautions people about cobbling together a community land trust around the donation of a piece of land. It may not always be the appropriate solution to meet your particular housing needs, goals and capacities. The key is to have an administrative structure that is appropriate for the trust’s size and projected revenues.
“It is great to have a prospect of land, but you really need to spend time testing the feasibility and developing a sound business structure. A community land trust is not something that you can throw together overnight.”
To learn more about Calgary’s community land trust, visit the web site at http://www.cclt.ca. Also http://www.iceclt.org is a great site to find out more about community land trusts and how they work.
Winnipeg-Mayor-turned-Federal-Candidate Hopes Housing is an Issue in Upcoming Election
Recruited by Paul Martin to participate in the federal New Deal for Cities initiative, former Winnipeg Mayor Glen Murray says he hopes housing gets a lot of attention during the election.
Murray says after being Winnipeg mayor for six years, he decided to run in the next federal election because resources at the municipal level are so constrained.
“I thought it was a better use of my time to deal with the fundamentals rather than live in a system that just didn’t have the resources,” Murray said in a recent interview with The Bulletin.
Despite the contention of many affordable housing advocates that a significant amount of money from the National Affordable Housing Program is log-jammed, Murray says he thinks there is a strong commitment to housing and to continuing the program at the federal level. He says that despite the situation in places such as Ontario, where the province’s unwillingness to match federal funding has tied up housing funds, the program has worked well in other provinces, such as Manitoba.
He cites Winnipeg as a success story. The city was at the table when the federal and provincial governments negotiated the affordable housing agreement for the province.
The city delivered the program on a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood basis where people in the neighbourhoods came up with a plan. These plans were then built into the city’s overall plan for renewal. The result is that 3,500 homes have been restored in less than four years. The work has been done by both the non-profit and the private sectors. A partnership with the schools also created programs to train people to do the work and help them become more employable.
“The federal government should not just write a cheque to the province. A successful housing program is about being much more actively involved in creating partnerships,” said Murray. “If I was in any position to do so, I would be prepared to work with each community.”
Though, he added this doesn’t mean he thinks the federal government should by-pass provinces that resist participating in a housing program.
“We have to be flexible. If the cities are able to come forward and match federal dollars, than the provinces should not be able to impede partnerships. The sensitive area would be provinces such as Quebec, though there hasn’t been a problem because the Quebec government has had a very good relationship with the federal government around housing.”
Getting Active During Election Month
Toronto’s Disaster Relief Committee is planning a national e-mail and fax blitz to get voters to tell the political parties that their votes will go to those who support affordable housing.
Stay tuned to http://www.tdrc.net this month for details on how to participate.
There are also election toolkits online to help you learn more and make sure the political candidates hear your opinion.
CTV has created a nifty database that gives you each party’s stance on the issues.
Visit http://www.ctv.ca/mini/election2004. Click ‘Issues’ in the bar along the top of the page. Then click the ‘Municipalities’ button for a fairly extensive summary of each party’s housing and municipalities platform.
The Canadian Housing and Renewal Association’s toolkit gives you questions for candidates and strategies to make your voice heard.
The toolkit is available as a PDF at http://www.chra-achru.ca.
The Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada also has a site with questions for candidates, links and details about how to make sure you are registered to vote.
The Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association has a kit that includes a summary of where each party stands on housing as well as questions, a booklet about non-profit housing and a poster that you can download and print.
Check it out on the homepage at: http://www.onpha.on.ca.
In British Columbia, the Co-operative Housing Federation has postcards with facts and questions for candidates as well as links to the political parties and Elections Canada.
Ontario Budget Betrays Election Promises
Ontario’s recent budget was a disappointment to housing advocates who were looking for the new provincial government to deliver on its election promises.
“They’ve gone from a comprehensive plan that was reasonably well-balanced, to having no plan,” said David Peters, Special Advisor for the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA). “They didn’t even pick and choose among election promises. Basically, housing fell casualty to a focus on the deficit, education and health care.”
What is perhaps most discouraging is that the government fell through on its commitment to match the federal government’s $245 million contribution to the Affordable Housing Program. The federal government signed an agreement in 2001 to deliver these housing dollars if the provinces and territories agreed to match its contribution.
Instead of following through, Ontario announced only $18 million, some of which had been previously announced.
Despite the meager commitment to the program, Peters says that government staff, who are in the process of re-negotiating with the feds for the affordable housing dollars, are maintaining a positive view of the negotiations.
“We are not clear about to what extent this is based on wishful thinking or on knowing something that is not yet public,” said Peters.
Among the other promises that were abandoned in this budget were:
· 6,600 more units for supportive housing
· $100 million for 35,000 shelter allowances
· provincial lands for housing; without a viable housing program this is nominally useful
· a new Ontario Mortgage and Housing Partnership; not mentioned though there is a new promise to create the Ontario Strategic Infrastructure Financing Authority and housing is on its list of low cost loan recipients
What was included in the budget:
· a one-time allocation of $10 million for a provincial rent bank
· new funding for long-term care residents
· $2 million increase to homelessness prevention programs
· $3 million operating funds and $8 million to expand women’s shelters as well as $3.5 million to support second stage housing for victims of violence
· $8 million for non-profit projects in difficulty
· a 3 per cent increase to the basic allowance and maximum shelter allowance for people on social assistance
When asked about ‘next steps’ Peters cites economist Hugh Mackenzie, co-chair of the Ontario Alternative Budget working group. In his budget analysis, Mackenzie has said that there is a cushion built into the government’s projections. On the other hand, the budget also includes rigorous controls on spending and deficit numbers that are lower this year because of a one-time accounting change.
“It depends on how these things play out, but one of the objectives for the housing sector is to get high on the waiting list for any surpluses that appear,” said Peters.
In the meantime, says Peters, housing providers have to stand on the ground floor looking at $350 million federal housing dollars that they are unable to access because of a federal-provincial stalemate.
“There is a real question as to whether the municipal and non-profit sectors should ask Ontario to step aside and let the federal government deal directly with the municipalities to create an affordable housing program,” he said.
Tuberculosis Inquest Decision Delivered
The verdict for the TB inquest looking into the death of a homeless man is finally in. Anti-poverty and street health activists vow they will challenge it.
The jury heard evidence surrounding the death of Joseph Teigesser, a homeless man who died in 2001 of tuberculosis while in the shelter system. He was one of three homeless men who died because of the disease.
While the jury made recommendations to bolster the public health system’s ability to prevent a future TB outbreak, it failed to connect the disease to the poverty and living conditions of those who were afflicted.
Street nurse Cathy Crowe, a member of the health coalition TBAG, says she was particularly disappointed that the jury did not adopt the primary recommendations that had been agreed upon by all parties with standing at the inquest, including the crown counsel:
to ask the federal and provincial governments to fund an affordable housing strategy aimed at ending homelessness;
to increase social assistance rates to ‘liveable levels,’ particularly with respect to the housing portion of these funds.
Crowe said that within 15 minutes of the verdict her coalition decided to pursue a judicial review of the process.
She says the group will take issue with the fact that the jury was not allowed, during the inquest, to tour shelters in the area of the outbreak and that a large number of witnesses were not allowed to testify.
She also said that the inquest’s crown attorney gave directions to the jury that, in TBAG’s view, contradicted the Coroner’s Act.
National Symposium on Affordable Housing Policy this Month
The Canadian Housing and Renewal Association (CHRA) is holding a national symposium this month aimed at building a vision for national affordable housing policy in Canada.
The symposium includes not only Canadian affordable housing leaders but perspectives from other countries as well. The symposium will take place June 21-22 in Gatineau, Quebec.